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The Impact of Lighting Design 

Think of the last time you walked into a theater. Do you remember the initial feeling you had when the curtain rose? Were you tense, happy, scared, excited, or relaxed? Believe it or not, the lighting probably set the tone for the remainder of the theater experience you had. In fact, psychological studies have shown us that color and lighting has a huge impact on our mood and overall well-being and that lighting experts have been using this knowledge for years to enhance our theater experience. Let’s take a closer look at the impact of lighting design. 

At any given moment our senses are collecting hundreds of pieces of information about our environment. The colors, smells, sights, temperature, feel, and so many more components go into how we interact with or feel about the world around us. The same goes for our experiences in the theater. 

Imagine you walk into a theater where there are dark shadows that cover the stage, shabby furnishings scattered around, and actors that are dressed in ragged clothing. Your initial impression may be one of concern, fear, or curiosity. Imagine the same theater, this time with bright lighting, colorful backgrounds, and actors who are singing happily. Your sensory input has dramatically changed, right? That is how the theater can use colors and light to change how theatergoers experience the show. 

Direction of Light 

One aspect that lighting design experts have to consider when setting a mood on a stage is the direction of the light. For example, if the lighting team is trying to create a scene with tension they may want direct light from above to shine on the main action on the stage while darkening the rest of the area. Another example would be creating low or dim lighting to add a sense of mystery, privacy, or intimacy. Lighting the walls, ceiling, and props can give a sense of spaciousness as well as direct your attention to the portion of the stage where the action is the greatest. 

The Type of Lighting 

Theatergoers know that the lighting team can create all sorts of emotions depending upon the type of light they use. For example, a spotlight can draw your attention right to the main action during a monologue to important action that is occurring on stage. Colored filters can be used with this lamp to change the overall mood as well. 

A floodlight gives a wide area where action can occur on the stage. A strobe is a flashing light, that is used for special effects. It’s often used to give the effect of old movies. It produces a jerky effect on the movements of actors when used on its own.

Lights can be useful for defining different locations on the stage, creating mood and atmosphere, highlighting key moments of action, and directing the audience’s focus. Lighting can denote the time of year or day and can also be used in an abstract or symbolic way, such as using a red light to symbolize danger or passion. How does your theater use lighting? Give us some tips in the comments. 

 

Top 10 Broadway Musicals of 2019

Since we’re on the back stretch of the year, let’s take a look at what the top grossing shows on Broadway were in 2019.  The numerical information here is informational only and was shown on BroadwayWorld.com and provided by The Broadway League.

Show                                                                                                                                          Gross

Hamilton:  Showing at Richard Rogers                                                                       $111, 490,804

Lion King:  Showing at Minskoff                                                                                    $78,948,000

Wicked:     Showing at Gershwin                                                                                    $62,490,896

To Kill A Mockingbird:  Showing at the Shubert                                                    $62,100,280

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2:  Showing at the Lyric      $59,852,778

Aladdin:  Showing at New Amsterdam                                                                        $51,730,060

Frozen:  Showing at St James                                                                                          $45,497,898

Dear Evan Hansen:  Showing at the Music Box                                                        $45,281,312

Ain’t Too Proud:  Showing at Imperial                                                                         $38,753,669

Mean Girls:  Showing at August Wilson                                                                       $38,492,610

 

No real surprises here, I guess.  However, highest grossing doesn’t mean the most people saw the show.  When you look at the actual number of seats sold, there is some slight shifting.  Obviously, ticket prices contribute to the figures, but all of these shows performed around the same number of times, which was in the 285-290 range, with the exception of Ain’t Too Proud, which only performed 216 shows.

# Seats Sold

Wicked:                                                                                                                               516,477

Aladdin:                                                                                                                              485,734

Lion King:                                                                                                                           483,021

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2:                                                462,270

Frozen:                                                                                                                                 456,350

To Kill A Mockingbird:                                                                                                   417,959

Phantom of the Opera:  Showing at Majestic                                                        396,857

Hamilton:                                                                                                                               385,751

Mean Girls:                                                                                                                        336,557

King Kong:  Showing at Broadway                                                                             329,206

 

Interesting that  Hamilton was the highest grossing show of the year so far, but they haven’t had the largest audience.  Of course, some of this has to do with the fact that Hamilton has been running since 2015 while Harry Potter debuted in 2019.  On the flip side, Phantom first debuted in 1988 and still put more fannies in the seats than Hamilton.  The classics never get old as evidenced by King Kong having a top 10 attendance figure for the year.  Although the musical debuted in 2018, King Kong has been around since 1933.  Everyone knows the story, and like I said, the classics never get old.

It’s UDMA Trade Show Season

The end of summer not only brings a new school year for dance studios, but it also begins the dance trade show season.  We will be attending UDMA, United Dance Merchants of America, trade show in Edison NJ on the weekend of October 19-20.  UDMA has three other dates as well.  They are in Atlanta this weekend (9/28-29), Pittsburgh 10/5-6 (next weekend), and Chicago 10/12-13.  Here’s a link to their website:  https://www.udma.org/

 

The show features merchants who cover all aspects of the dance industry.  Some of the categories that are present are costume companies, dancewear, shoes, flowers, videographers, photographers, tours, flooring, dance opportunities, trophies, competitions and conventions, recital ticketing, publications, and backdrops too, of course!  Anything you can think of that has to do with the dance industry will be at these shows. Not only are there vendor exhibits but there are also presentations, give aways, and seminars.

 

It really is a great opportunity to check out new technology and new products.  The costume companies typically have live models wearing their latest costume designs so that you can see the new fashions in living, moving color.  We have an actual backdrop in our booth so that customers can see and feel what our product is like.  Each vendor will have real examples of their product so that you will know exactly what you’ll be getting.  There is no doubt that you can improve your business and productions by attending one of these shows.  We hope to see you in New Jersey for sure, but we hope that you can make it to one of the shows.

Using Backdrops

There are many ways to enhance the appearance of a scenic production such as a video shoot, stage play, theater production, or party event. Backdrops help add the ambience for the mood that you are trying to set. Because of their size, they serve the purpose of continuing the theme you are going for without being too over the top where the scenery seems out of place.

Choosing a backdrop rental company that has several different sceneries to choose from can be a difficult task, which is why you should go straight to Backdrops by Charles H Stewart!  Needless to say, one thing that you should ask about the backdrop that you have in mind would be how heavy they are and the material it is made of.  Ideally, the best backdrop should not be too heavy for convenience reasons as you will most likely be hanging and packaging the backdrops yourself.  The best material when choosing a realistic backdrop would be one that is 100% polyester cotton fabric, which is what our DreamWorld Collection is painted on, or ones painted on muslin, which is what our Stewart Collection is painted on.  These are lightweight fabrics that are easy to handle.

One type of event that would welcome a backdrop would be in an environment in which a lot of photography is going to take place in. Dances, charities, or galas are examples of events that a nice formal backdrop would be more than welcomed in pictures. For example, if you are hosting a dance that has a Hawaiian theme, there are several backdrops that you can browse such as tropical or beach scenes that would supplement your Hawaiian environment. We do have many smaller photography size backdrops in our DreamWorld Collection labelled DreamWorld Small.

As mentioned, there are many ways that you can improve or modify an area to fit your event. There are many different backdrop rentals to choose from and a few different sizes that can assure proper placement as well as appropriate background setting. Aside from party events, most backdrops from Charles H Stewart are used by production companies that are setting up a stage performance whether it’s a Broadway Musical or dance recital or play. Because of the flexibility of backdrops, they can be replaced and switched in a matter of minutes.  So using multiple backdrops can make your life a whole lot easier.  Full stage backdrops are obviously larger than photography backdrops since the area needed to cover is larger.  But with the lightweight fabric they are made with, this is not an issue.

Backdrops are easy to use, and they are the easiest way to transform your stage or event into whatever setting necessary to transport your audience to where they need to be.

The Perfect Setting for Your Show

When it is important to set the stage or the mood, backdrops are the perfect item. From the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, theater has been a way to express ideas and emotions. Theatrical renditions range from tackling the most controversial issues and historical events to depicting real life drama, fantasy or romance. The creativity involved in these endeavors is unrivaled. Great care is taken to create the most lifelike of scenes or to evoke a particular emotional response. The backdrop and the scenery are the canvas on which the drama occurs. This essential element transports the viewer to another place and time as the events unfold. Backdrop rentals can help to accentuate many functions.

Backdrops come in a variety of forms. This can range from a basic curtain to elaborate theatrical scenery. Backdrop rentals can be used for stage shows, weddings, photo shoots, and other special events. Muslin backdrops come in a variety of colors and shades. These can be hand painted or reversible for a variety of options.

The sky is the limit when it comes to choosing the best backdrop rentals for an occasion. Beautiful scenic backdrops of locations from the US to Europe to Asia to Africa are available. Exotic scenes from the jungle, the pyramids or an enchanted forest can also be had. Backdrops from a Broadway musical or scenes simulating a dance club are also popular. Religious backdrops can enhance the depth of any religious function, lending a more spiritual energy to the occasion. There are also holiday specific backdrops that can make any day special. You can even design your own custom backdrop, but these you would have to purchase.

Backdrop rentals are just a Google search away. Many options are available online with a vast array of choices that will suit any occasion. When confirming the booking, we may require a deposit with payment in full due prior to shipping. It is possible to hold your choice until you make a final decision. Backdrops are the responsibility of the customer from the time that they are rented until they are returned. Care should be taken with backdrop rentals. A clean dry surface is required for handling. Sharp objects can rip or tear the backdrops, resulting in costly repairs, so be careful when opening the box the backdrop arrives in. The backdrop of your dreams can make your special occasional a day to remember.

Planning for Spring Productions

Though it’s still February and there may even be snow on the ground, spring is soon approaching, and it will sneak up on us before we know it. February is a great time to start considering your productions for the spring, as the choice and selection of the production is a production in itself! You’ll want to give yourself as long as possible during the consideration stage, tossing out ideas among the team, and discussing budget/feasibility. Read through this blog for tips on planning the spring production.

 

First, begin with ordering a few scripts that you’re interested in. Read through the scripts with the group, and see how everyone feels about the leads, supporting roles, duration of the play, and see what the set would take to build. Be sure the script falls within your budget and timeframe.

Then you can start seeing which of your actors would be interested in auditioning for which roles. Hold read-throughs to see who fits most naturally with which character. When you cast your group and establish your crew, you can take the time to think about budgeting, staging, different scenes, choreography, and music. Some of these elements will be worked through with your director, but during the planning stage, be sure you have everything you need before you begin.

 

As you work through each scene with your director, you’ll notice some things that don’t quite work and other things that work quite well. You’ll have to make some changes as you go, but this is all part of the process.

Many theater organizations hire an outside choreographer or someone to come in and help with direction. Depending on the size and funding available of your organization, this might be a good option for you. Drama clubs often rent backdrops, props, curtains, and more from rental companies. Sets can be difficult and timely to build, so when theater organizations don’t have all of the resources needed in-house, they can rent props to make productions look beautiful, detailed, and complete.

 

It may seem overwhelming when you dive into planning a new show for a new season. Though it is a process, don’t be overwhelmed, as there are many resources and planning tips to help you through. Take things slowly, and plan every detail so your cast and crew are ready to deliver an amazing opening night performance.

 

woods scene backdrop

 

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has been your leading edge scenic design and backdrop rental company for over 120 years! Come to us with your theatrical needs to enhance your production with well over 1,500 backdrops, drapes, lames and scrims to choose from. We are here to serve all your backdrop and scenic design needs.

Backdrops By Charles H. Stewart Acquires DreamWorld Backdrops

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Charles Stewart
(978) 682-5757
info@charlesstewart.com

BACKDROPS BY CHARLES H. STEWART ACQUIRES DREAMWORLD BACKDROPS
Now With 400 Additional Backdrops Available In Inventory

NORTH ANDOVER, Massachusetts – (February 6, 2019) – Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has been a fundamental resource to the world of backdrops and design, offering 120 years of expertise. As of January 2019, Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart acquired DreamWorld Backdrops. DreamWorld Backdrops holds an extensive collection of original, airbrushed, and digitally printed backdrops.

Now owned and operated by Charles H. Stewart, the acquisition of DreamWorld Backdrops is groundbreaking. With 400 additional backdrops now in the inventory, Stewart is ready to deliver an even wider variety of backdrops to clients. The intricate backdrops are designed to accommodate most high-quality productions for theaters, schools, dance recitals, and corporate events.

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart was opened in 1893 and operated continuously as a family-run business, first under Charles Stewart and then his son, Stanley. In 1990, the Christo family bought the business after a five-year apprenticeship under Stanley’s tutelage and has run it ever since.

The addition of DreamWorld Backdrops supports the family’s belief, and this is evident through a quote from Stanley in a 1983 Boston Globe article. He summarized the backdrop business when he said, “In our warehouse, you see 900 boxes filled with backdrops; what I see is life in those boxes—live performance, artistic expression, and background support for some of the greatest shows you’ll ever see.”

The idea of ‘Life In Backdrops’ is the epitome of this new life and new growth for Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart. Busier than ever with the acquisition, the Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart inventory is now home to roughly 2,000 hand-painted backdrops. This allowed Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart to continue the dream of supporting theater, the arts, and communities alike.

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DreamWorld Backdrops has been a dynamic force in the airbrushed, hand painted, and digitally printed backdrop business in the U.S. since its inception in 1999. Its reputation for superior quality Backdrops along with personalized service has made it a leader in its field. Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart is a family-owned business supporting theatrical needs to enhance productions. With over 2,000 backdrops, drapes, lames, and scrims to choose from, they have over 120 years of experience to provide you with the expertise you need. For more information regarding the acquisition, please call Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart at (978) 682-5757.

 

London’s 8th Annual Horror Theatre Festival

spooky scene

For the 8th year, London’s Horror Festival has finally been announced. Hosted at the Red Lion Theatre with over 30 productions, this Halloween season will have theatergoers and horror lovers chilling with fright, and extremely impressed.

London’s Horror Film will be offering dramas, comedies, musicals, and spoken word about all things spooky starting October 7th. Each year there is a theme for their annual playwright competition, and this year they are honoring Mary Shelley for the competition of “Women in Horror.” Her most renowned creation, Frankenstein, has its 200th year anniversary in 2018.

Catch tons of theater productions that truly push the limits of live production and performance. You are bound to find something you love, and something to make you really think when you attend a festival like this.

Scary ghost scene

Theater festivals are an awesome time for people to come together and bond over a common interest. When it’s a special reason for celebration, like a themed or holiday theater festival like this one, it can be even more interesting. Though this festival is in London, we can tune in and see what this annual horror fest will bring theater-goers and thespians.

If you’re REALLY into festivals, even horror fests, this might be something you want to follow on social media, inquire about, and maybe even travel to see.

Jackolanterns

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has been your leading edge scenic design and backdrop rental company for over 120 years! Come to us with your theatrical needs to enhance your production with well over 1,500 backdrops, drapes, lames and scrims to choose from. Call us at (978) 682-5757 today!

Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat Part II

With the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals all wrapped up, here are some more sports themed stage productions.

 

Rocky (Boxing)

Rocky the Musical (originally Rocky: Das Musical) is a 2012 musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, with a book by Thomas Meehan, adapted from a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone. The show held its world premiere in Hamburg in 2012 and opened on Broadway on March 4, 2014 at the Winter Garden Theatre and closed on August 17, 2014 after 28 previews and 188 performances. The show roughly follows the plot of the 1976 film Rocky.  The show featured 20 original songs, with additional music taken from the original film series including “Eye of the Tiger” and “Gonna Fly Now”.

The show’s set, which for Broadway cost $4.3 million, is set around a mostly bare stage which represents the Gym that Rocky trains in. The production uses sliding box like sets to represent the homes of the characters and the sliding element goes onto include a full sized regulation boxing ring.  Audience members seated within the front stalls Golden Circle seating section, are escorted onto the stage for the final 20 minutes to sit on bleacher style seats, in doing so this allows the boxing ring to enter the auditorium and sit in rows A-F, bringing the audience close to the final fight scene.  The production did win a Tony Award for Set Design.

 

Lombardi (Football)

Lombardi is a play by Eric Simonson, based on the book When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss.  I’ve read the book.  Unbelievable life.

The play follows Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi through a week in the 1965 NFL season as he attempts to lead his team to the championship. (The Packers won the NFL championship that year, which would be the last season before the introduction of the Super Bowl.) A “Look Magazine” reporter, Michael McCormick, wants to “find out what makes Lombardi win”. However, players on the team refuse to be interviewed, wary of giving up information. He goes instead to Lombardi’s wife, Marie, for answers. Meanwhile, in a flashback, Lombardi frets over his lack of promotion and contemplates quitting football. His wife reveals that the family had an emotional move to Green Bay, Wisconsin when Lombardi joined the Packers.

Lombardi ends up yelling at Michael in front of the team, prompting both to storm off. Linebacker and place kicker Dave Robinson comforts Michael at a local bar, sharing stories about his initial impressions of the coach, the “honor of being barked at” by Lombardi, and the equality established on the team. After more positive insight from running back, option quarterback and kicker Paul Hornung and fullback Jim Taylor, Michael decides to attend the next game. As he narrates what happened at the game, the Packers win.

After he writes his news story, Michael reveals to Lombardi that he is quitting “Look Magazine” to form his own publishing company. Lombardi congratulates him on his move to independence and celebrates the win with Michael and Marie. Michael realizes that Lombardi is “the most imperfect, perfect man” he ever met.

Lombardi officially premiered on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre on October 21, 2010, after previews beginning on September 23. The creative team includes direction by Thomas Kail, sets by David Korins, costumes by Paul Tazewell, and lighting by Howell Binkley. This production is being produced by Tony Ponturo and Fran Kirmser. Lombardi closed on May 22, 2011, after 30 previews and 244 performances.

Due to the Packers winning Super Bowl XLV in 2011, their fourth Super Bowl but their second since Lombardi was head coach, the show’s producers were “hoping for a halo effect at the box office.”  Patrick Healy wrote in The New York Times: “The Packers’ victory on Sunday lent “Lombardi” plenty of visibility before and after the Fox broadcast of the game. One FOX commentator, Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long, who had seen the play, talked up the play before kickoff and during the postgame show he said, ‘I think Lombardi the play just got an extension on Broadway.’ ” Healy also wrote that the show had not recouped its $3 million investment, and while producer Tony Ponturo said that the show was scheduled to run until June 19, 2011, it ended its run early. Producers would not comment on whether or not the play had earned back its production budget.

The original Broadway cast included Dan Lauria as Vince Lombardi, Judith Light as Marie Lombardi, Keith Nobbs as Michael McCormick, Bill Dawes as Paul Hornung, Robert Christopher Riley as Dave Robinson, and Chris Sullivan as Jim Taylor. Light was nominated for a 2011 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play for her performance in Lombardi.

 

 

The Changing Room (Rugby)

The Changing Room is a 1971 play by David Storey, set in a men’s changing room before, during and after a rugby league football game. It premiered at the Royal Court Theatre on 9 November 1971, directed by Lindsay Anderson. The 1973 Broadway production, directed by Michael Rudman, won several awards including the New York Drama Critics’ Circle award for Best Play and the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor for John Lithgow.  After three previews, the Broadway production, directed by Michael Rudman, opened on 6 March 1973 at the Morosco Theatre, where it ran for 192 performances.

At the play’s core is a semi-pro Northern England rugby league team. During the week, its members are peaceable men toiling away at mindless, working class jobs. On Saturday, they prepare for gory combat on the playing field. The changing room is where they perform their pre-game initiation rites, strip down, loosen muscles, and get into their uniforms. After the match they return, often broken, muddy, and bloody, regretting their loss or giddy with victory in the communal shower. There is little in the way of plot, but Storey engages his audience with his ability to dissect his characters’ hurts, hopes, desires, and fighting instincts.

Choosing Your Next Production

Cast on Stage

If you have a theater group and you’re constantly putting on productions, read on for inspiration in choosing your next production. We’ve put together a guide to choosing your next production for your theater community. Here are a few things we think are important to think about when brainstorming your possibilities:

Anastasia

Deciding on the Type of Production
Do you want to do a musical? Do you want to do a situational comedy or a dramatic play? Do you want to perform a greek tragedy? A historical play or a romantic play? There are many subsets of plays and types of productions. When you narrow down your goal, you can then choose a script.

Thinking of your Actors
Deciding on a play depends on your strengths and weaknesses as a theater community. Sometimes the tell-tale signs of your next production can be evident through your actors’ strong suits. Make sure you have the right type of actors available to be matched with the right roles.

Spider-Man

Accessing a Script
Be sure you have access to ordering scripts for your community. Are there enough scripts available for the production of your choice? Be sure that you’re choosing from plays that are accessible, and that you have the rights to get ahold of the script.

Look to your Inventory
Looking at the props you already have and the props you need to buy can help you decide on your next production. If you have a smaller budget, and it’s always helpful for theater communities to spend as little as possible, you can look at what you already own. You may not need to buy much if you have a good selection and you use a little creativity.

Tarzan

Time and Duration
Think about how much time each production will take to rehearse and choreograph. You need to think about time from the beginning of your first rehearsal to your last dress rehearsal. Be sure that the plays you’re considering all fall within your time frame for preparation.  

Set Hands and Available Crew
Some productions take more help behind the scenes and backstage. Other productions require less stage help and more actors on stage. Every production is different, so being sure you have enough set hands and available help is something you’ll definitely want to think through before choosing a play.

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart can provide you with the best quality backdrops for your productions. Visit our website to check out our inventory, and reach out to our staff with any questions.