“Using a backdrop for my show makes scenery a whole lot easier than making my own scenery. But I have no idea how to fold it back up to fit in the box.” This is a common comment that we get here at Charles H Stewart. So, I thought I would reiterate what comes with every backdrop we rent. Instructions on how to fold and package a backdrop and why we do it this way.
When you open up one of our backdrops, you will see that the box is labelled in Sharpie pen on the ends with the id number and description of the backdrop that is inside the box. Obviously, the backdrop is also marked with the same information. You will also notice that the backdrop is wrapped in a plastic bag and that there are loose pieces of cardboard on the top and bottom of the box. There is also a “How to Fold a Backdrop” instruction sheet and a “Caution: Save Plastic Bag” sheet in the box. Lastly, on the outside of the box, there will be a plastic pouch. Inside the pouch are your prepaid UPS return label(s). (In some instances, there will be no pouch with the return labels. They will be emailed to you if this is the case.)
When you open the box to unfold the backdrop, you need to save all of these pieces for repackaging when you are done. So save the box, the bag, the cardboard pieces, the instructions, and most importantly, the return labels. If any of these should be misplaced, no worries. Any box or bag will do for shipping. And, we can always send new return shipping labels via email too. It’s no big deal.
However, what is a big deal is that before you lay out the backdrops for hanging, please, SWEEP THE STAGE! This keeps the backdrops from getting dirty. Dirt is very difficult to clean off of scrims, cycloramas, and velours. Also, make sure that the stage isn’t wet. Water will also damage the backdrops.
So, you hang the backdrops and have your show. Now, it’s time to take the backdrops down and pack them up for shipping. Before you take them down, you have to do one important thing. SWEEP THE STAGE! And make sure the stage isn’t wet. Also, please lay the backdrops on the stage with the painted side up and not face down. Once again, this prevents the backdrops from getting dirty.
Here’s where those two instruction sheets come in handy. First, you have to fold a backdrop. We have a preferred way on how we like the backdrops folded, but we know that there are some very experienced stage hands that do not fold the backdrops the way we prefer. That’s OK. As long as it folded neatly and it fits in the box, we’re cool with that (just don’t roll it in a ball and stuff it in the box!). But we like the backdrops folded accordion style because when the backdrop is folded and placed in the box, we can see the id number right on top for a quick check in especially during our busy season when time isn’t our friend. Plus, our method is fast and only takes two people. Basically, while the backdrop is face up on the stage, one person goes to the top corner and one person goes to the bottom corner on the same side. While crouching down like a catcher, each person reaches out an arm length and pulls the backdrop to the corner. Repeat this until the backdrop is about two feet wide. The person at the bottom takes the bottom and folds it up to the top. Repeat until you see the backdrop taking the shape of the box.
Once you are done folding, wrap it in the plastic bag. Why? The plastic bag protects the backdrop from dirt and more importantly dampness just in case the box itself happens to get wet. If we get a backdrop back damaged due to wetness and it is not wrapped in plastic, then you will be responsible for the damage. On top of that, if another customer is waiting for the backdrop and we cannot get it to them due to your negligence, then you would be responsible for lost rental charges while the backdrop is being repaired. Now, this information isn’t meant to scare you. But it is mentioned to show the importance of packing the backdrops up appropriately.
Before you put the wrapped backdrop in the box, you need to do a couple of things. First, place one of the cardboard pieces across the bottom of the box with the two instruction sheets. Second, match up the labelled backdrop with the labelled box. If you have rented multiple backdrops from us (we’ll call them backdrop # 0001 and # 0002), you want to make sure that backdrop # 0001 is in the box labelled # 0001 and that backdrop # 0002 is in the box labelled # 0002. Third, after you put the backdrop(s) into the correct box, place the other cardboard piece across the top of the backdrop. Close and seal the box. Last, place the UPS return label on the boxes. In the lower left corner of each return shipping label will be the corresponding backdrop id number. So again, match the # 0001 label with the # 0001 box and the # 0002 label with the # 0002 box. Now, you have matched the labelled backdrop with the labelled box and placed the matching return label on the box (# 0001 backdrop is in the # 0001 box with the # 0001 shipping label). Why is this important? Because sometimes we ask that you forward our backdrops to different locations. We will make sure that your UPS return labels are addressed correctly, but if a backdrop is not coming back to Charles H Stewart, we want to make sure that you send the correct backdrop to the correct location. We do not want you to place backdrop # 0001 inside the # 0002 box and vice versa. Imagine you receive your backdrop. You’re expecting backdrop # 0002. You get the box, and it’s labelled # 0002. But, you get to the theater on Friday night, open it up, and backdrop # 0001 is in the box. Not good. Just match the three numbers even if everything is shipping back to us!
Here are the two instruction sheets that are in each of our backdrop boxes: