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Staging/Curtains for traveling black light show  (Read 11570 times)
Angel in Tx
« on: August 13, 2012, 10:52:14 am »

I hope I can explain this clearly!

We do a blacklight show every year at our church.Last year we were in the gym so we ran a cable and hung a black curtain on it with shower rings so we could open and close it between acts.  It was so great!  It made the job of switching full body puppets and life-size props on stage a breeze.  If you've done blacklight you know getting things on stage and off w/out being seen is the hardest part!

Well we have been asked to travel with this show and have done it twice now.  We can't hang a cable and stage curtain everywhere we go obviously so we just used two people and held up a big black sheet in front while the actors went on/off stage.  It doesn't work too well as you can imagine.  We would have a hard time finding the corners of the sheet each time we would lay it down (it's really dark!!!) and then have to pick it back up and keeping it taught as we moved around was hard too!  We revealed a lot that we didn't intend to!

So as I was driving home last night I was brainstorming how to solve this.  I thought of having some sort of stand made of pvc (or something) on each side of the stage with a pulley or some type of system to tie to the corners of the curtain.  Maybe the curtain would have a pvc or something light but stiff in the top of it to keep it from sagging and then you would pull it up and let it down to the floor. It would have to be over 6 feet high.

BUT I really don't know how to make it work!

Any ideas?  It would need to be travel friendly.

If I can't figure it out then we will have to come up with a "travel" show and leave some of those larger puppets behind. Sad
Shawn Sorrell
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2012, 11:33:57 am »

Do you need to cover the entire stage? The reason I ask is way back when I did a show that had a black light sequence in it and there where three "flats" covered in black velvet that stood on the stage and at the beginning of the segment behind each stood a full body black light character. At a point in the routine they stepped out from behind the flat and "appeared" on stage. Now I realize you want something a bit more mobile and my thought was that these flats could be pvc frames that had the fabric on stretched on them. To change scenery or characters you would move the frame(s) onstage by scooting them along the floor and the character or scenery would be hidden behind them. Once you are in the spot where you want them you simply have another puppeteer move the frame off stage. I think maybe you could actually put a leg/jack on the back of the frame so that it would stand on it's own if needed. It would have to lean back just a bit when standing alone but that should not be an issue. If you had a wide piece of scenery then you would place several frames side to side.

In the show we did it was a pretty cool illusion because the actors actually jumped out from behind the screens and it looked like they just appeared.

All this could break down since you could take the fabric off then disassemble the pvc frame!
Gabriel G
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2012, 11:40:19 am »

Angel, if I'm understanding you correctly, what you want is essentially a curtain for the puppeteer to hide behind until their cue? Not a stage set-up correct?

An idea I remember seeing before is using a large hula hoop with a curtain looped through maybe 3/4 of the way around. The puppeteer (or someone) could hold it above/around them and then drop at the appropriate time. Do you think this would work for you?

Otherwise, in terms of stage set-up, my team uses two "wings" on each side of the stage. It's essentially two tripods with a crossbar with a curtain. We use quite a few large puppets and simply walk out from the wings. You can get an idea of what I mean here:

Astronaut (ft. Blacklight Puppetry)

In the video the wings are set pretty close to the center, we place them farther out and just slightly ahead of the front curtain now.

I hope this helps!
Angel in Tx
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2012, 02:03:10 pm »

@Shawn, something like that might be a good idea.  We have pvc panels and 4x8 sheets of foam painted black.  I could simply use 3 or so more out front to be moved by a stage hand. I actually feel dumb for not thinking of this! It's so simple!

@Gabriel,  I've used the hoola hoops before and they work for certain applications, and we have wings already for some characters to go off like you just did, although mine are farther apart.  I need something to cover that gap between them for some other characters and a boat to be in place before the revealing of the next song and I have these 3 large birds that start out sitting on the ground but the audience isn't supposed to see them until a certain part of the song. Their legs and necks are slinkies so I don't want to reveal too much as we want it to be a surprise.  It gets the audience every time!

I wish I had some video!  Every time someone says "I'll video for you." Something doesn't work out!  I really need to film a dress rehearsal.

Angel in Tx
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2012, 02:06:38 pm »

OH and PS Gabriel,  I liked that video! 
No Avatar
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2012, 07:00:56 pm »

Shawn, I was thinking the same thing as far as flats.  Angel, if you're already traveling with 4x8 sheets of foam, then I'm assuming you car or van is large enough to travel with a handful of 4x8 luan flats.  If you construct them out of 1x3 or 1x4, they won't weigh much at all and are very manageable.  You can either cover them with the luan I mentioned before or soft cover them with velvet, duveytene, etc.  After than, those flats can attached to two legs each with four casters.  Basically, you're making a rolling rack like you would hang costumes on.  Once you have as many of these as you need, you can either leave them free standing or loose pin hinge them together so they can both slide (roll) or fold up into position.   One person on each side of the stage is all it would take to move these units. Something along these lines offers you a lot of options as far a scenery and entrances.  The flats can have "doors" hinged on the front so that they are simply black until the appropriate moment and then they open to reveal more UV painted scenery or an opening for another puppet, or maybe they're double sided---black on one side and then they rotate to reveal a UV something or other, or...I could go on and on.

OK, OK...I think I'm thinking a bit more like a scenic designer than I need to!  I hope my ramblings make sense.  If not, just let me know and I'll do a quick sketch and post it.  Good luck!
Shawn Sorrell
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2012, 07:18:52 am »

Oh Oh Oh oh..... Let's see if I can put this in words. Kind of getting off topic a bit but hey.

So scenery. You have a holder/rack that sits toward the back of the stage and in that rack there are a bunch of holes drilled. Then you get dowel rods that sit in the holes and turn fairly easily in it. On these you mount cut out scenery made of foamcoare or wood that is painted in blacklight paint on one side and black on the other.  Now set these in your rack on stage and you can swivel your scenery into place. Now if you set your scenes in the rack so that each one overlaps the other could you get them to reveal down the line by just turning the first one?  In my mind it seems like you could but not sure if that works in theory. Smiley  Oh wait yes it could. You would have to "stack" them one forward one back down the line.

Sorry for that I was "writing" out loud.
Angel in Tx
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2012, 02:22:40 pm »

I absolutely LOVE that idea Shawn!!! My wheels are turning now!!
Shawn Sorrell
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2012, 04:06:27 pm »

I absolutely LOVE that idea Shawn!!! My wheels are turning now!!
That was the idea.  spin
Gabriel G
« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2012, 06:33:34 pm »

Angel: Ah now I get what you mean. The surprise definitely plays a big element so I can understand that concern. It looks like Shawn has your wheels turning now though so I'm looking forward to what you end up doing Smiley

And if you want something done right... do part of it yourself then pass it on :D I always bring a camera and tripod to our programs then give it to someone to record us or set up it and leave it running. Glad you enjoyed the video, would love to see some of what you do!
« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2012, 10:11:38 pm »

Build a PVC frame with attached black curtains that you can put the items behind. If you do it like the folding stage, the curtains are attached (no taking them off and on).

We use different backdrops in our Children's Ministry skits. We have several tripod uprights (find them at a camera store/supply, used for hold up backdrops). We drilled a hole in each end of a PVC pipe and put it between the tripods (there is a small upright piece on the top of tripods that the hole in PVC slips over). If you made a black curtain, you could slide it on the PVC (paint the PVC black). 

We have prop holders (prop rails) like Shawn suggested. But sometimes our space is very limited, so we put the props, etc., in boxes (per song) and bring them out one at a time. We have also made a frame from PVC that sits on the floor, put upright pieces on it and stuck our prop handles in those.
We do either (a) use black foam core or sintra so our props are black on the back, or (b) glue black felt or posterboard to the back.

We put very small numbers (color coded) on the back of the props, so we know which song and which puppeteer the props belong to.
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2012, 10:57:11 pm »


See if that helps.
Angel in Tx
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2013, 11:03:39 am »

We are traveling on Jan 27th and I am making the "flats" out of PVC.  I like several of the ideas but I think this is the one I'm going to try first.  I will do my best to get a picture!!! I'm always so busy I forget pictures. Wink
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2013, 01:15:55 pm »

Indexing props, great idea, so organized. Good luck angel hope it works out good.
Angel in Tx
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2013, 08:21:44 am »

We practiced yesterday and just decided to use the 4x8 foam insulation boards we have that are painted black.  I may still make the pvc flats but time is of the essence right now and these will do the trick. I hope!!
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