Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to Make the Scenery for a Theater Production

A backdrop depicts the setting and mood of a scene.

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Scenographers, set designers and scene painters are a vital part of a theater production, as the scenery brings the setting of the theatrical piece to life. If you are a set designer, an open communication between yourself and the director, as well as you and the scene painters and set dressers, is vital to the success of the scenery.

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Meet with the director. Discuss the show and the nature of individual scenes. These discussions should cover where and when a drop will be used and how it will be painted.


Rent or buy a drop. Whether to rent or buy boils down to how you plan to use the drop in future productions, if at all. If the drop you're painting is very specific to a single show, then it will probably be difficult to use it for other shows. In this case, renting would probably be best option, as it would be cheaper than buying a drop. If, however, the drop pattern is more generic and can hold out for future shows, such as a blue sky with clouds or a green pasture, then buying the drop might be more cost-effective.


Take note of as many details as possible regarding the drop before buying or renting -- such as the specific size and dimensions, type of fabric and the exact schedule of the show. The more thorough you are with these details, the more cost effective the delivery of the drop.


Check the drop for flame retardant properties. Read your state's guidelines on fire retardant requirements. If the drop has little or no flame retardant properties, you might have to add a layer of flame retardant spray after the drop is finished.


Sketch out in pencil the imagery of the backdrop to scale before painting it on. The preliminary sketches can be on paper before it is drawn on the drop. If the sketch is particularly complex, you can draw it on a transparency and use an overhead projector to trace the lines.


Obtain and use paints made especially for theater and drop painting, which you can buy in theater or paint supply stores. Normal hardware store paint will not work, especially if you plan on using more complex wet paint techniques such as marbling.


Refer with your director regularly throughout the planning and painting process. Make sure he is satisfied with the work and take into account any notes of changes or improvements he might have and adjust accordingly.

ReferencesCharles H Stewart: Backdrops and Scenic Design Glossary of TermsSteph Stuff: What is a Scenographer? What is Scenography?Art and Architecture: Stage DesignsStage Directions: Scenic Drop Cabbage PatchPhoto Credit Mike Powell/Lifesize/Getty ImagesRead Next:

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