Saturday, June 5, 2010

STAGE CURTAINS

Stage curtains are used to cover the performance as well as backstage areas from the audience. Plain opaque, translucent or scenic curtains and fixed curtained panels are used to divide the performance zone. Proscenium stages use many types of curtains than arena or thrust-out stages. The main or the first curtain on the audience side is called a grand drape, act curtain, house curtain, house drape or main drape. These are made of heavier fabric.

The curtains are either dropped downward or moved sideways. In smaller theatres curtains have two leaves which part away horizontally. In larger theatres the curtains are suspended from a batten or staff and dropped down. The curtains open vertically a guillotine reveal -after the execution device, by moving into the fly tower. The curtains are (flown in theatre terminology) dropped or raised up to a required height masking the upper section of the stage. The dropping is quickest way of lowering a curtain. A single curtain which moves horizontally is called a wipe. A tab or tableau curtain has two overlapping leaves which are lifted from the corners in a diagonal direction. This forms a draped effect when it is opened. Austrian, braille or contour curtain is lifted through several vertical runners attached the back of the curtain. The curtain has set of circular segmental folds. A Venetian or profile curtain is similar in appearance to the Austrian drape, but each individual pleat can be raised independently, allowing the curtain to be opened to various heights or configurations. A scrim is a curtain made of a gauze like fabric that seems to be opaque when lit from the front and transparent when backlit. A backdrop curtain is a painted or scenery curtain forming the back surface of the performance area. A cyclorama is a large white curtain that encircles the stage and provides a background.

The depth of the performance stage is divided into zones with curtains. Very often such curtains are gestural to denote a break or end of an act though most are made from black or other dark coloured, non light reflective materials. A curtain call is a curtsey or thanks call offered beyond the closed position of the curtain, but in front part of the stage. Side wings are fixed curtains to obscure side sections of a stage. Curtains or head-wings are used to hide the upper section stage properties such as the hanging gears, ropes and rolled or folded section of the curtains. Main curtains were first drop curtains but these required a heavy bottom staff. As this was hazardous, roll curtain was soon adopted. ‘Curtain was raised after the prologue and remained up throughout the performance, all scene shifting was in view of the audience. It was not until 1750 that an ‘act drop’ was used; previously, even intermezzi were performed in front of a full stage setting’.

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