Backdrops are designed to catch the eye or mask things you don’t want the audience to see. Students may be painting the backdrops to create scenery and add to the story. Other backdrops block out the people and equipment that are waiting backstage. With hot theater lighting, safety measures should have you thinking about backdrops that are flame retardant. The materials you chose is just as important as the color, size, and weight. When choosing a school theater backdrop, follow these tips.
Keep it Simple
As tempted as you may be to create grand backdrops, avoid the temptation. Elaborate school theater backdrop plans often take longer than students, teachers, and advisors imagined. Paint doesn’t have time to properly dry. Rushed construction projects fall apart. It’s always best to keep your set design as simple as possible. Fabric backdrops eliminate the need to construct backdrops using wood, cardboard, and other construction materials.
Understand What the Different Fabrics Are and How They’re Best Used
Many fabrics are useful in a theater setting, but they all have their strong points. For budget set designs, burlap, duvetyne, and muslin are three of your best theater fabrics. Here are the fabrics that are available along with a tip at what they’re best for.
Burlap – The natural look of burlap helps it add texture to backgrounds plus it absorbs sounds. It’s also one of the more economical fabrics, so it’s great for a school theater group that needs to stay on budget.
Canvas – Canvas comes in a variety of options at Chicago Canvas. For a theater backdrop, look at primed canvas. It’s already primed and ready for you to hand paint backgrounds for your theater production.
Chroma-Key – Chroma-Key is used to create green screens. If your theater production will use special effects, chroma-key is a flame retardant material that helps with visual effects.
Commando Cloth – Commando cloth is a machine washable cotton material that absorbs lighting. It can blackout the lights from backstage as your stage crew prepares for the next scene.
Duvetyne – Duvetyne is commonly used to skirt the stage. It’s a popular choice because it’s budget-friendly. It’s also a perfect solid black background that absorbs light and is fire-retardant.
Muslin – Muslin is an affordable plain cloth that can be painted. It’s perfect for inexpensive backdrops you plan to paint by hand.
Poly Silk – This lightweight, luminescent fabric allows colors to come through thanks to its translucent nature.
Rip-Stop Nylon – If a tear starts, it won’t go any farther. Rip-stop nylon is perfect for heavy use because it won’t tear easily or continue tearing if something snags it.
Scrim – Scrim is see-through when it’s lit from an angle, but when the theater lights point straight at it, it hides actors who are waiting in the wings. We offer Leno-filled, Sharkstooth, and Theatrical Gauze.
Sound Absorbing Fabric – While Commando Cloth and Duvetyne can block light, they’re not good at blocking extraneous sounds. The sound-absorbing cloth is thicker, fire retardant, and helps block sounds from the backstage action.
Velour – Velour is another choice if you want to absorb extraneous sounds from backstage. It’s flame retardant, so the heat from bright theater lighting won’t be an issue. It’s commonly used for theater/stage drapes.
Measure Multiple Times
Make sure you have the right measurements. Take the measurements for the opening you’re filling with the backdrop. Take them two more times and make sure they always match. Once you have this measurement, pay attention to the ordering guide. When you’re ordering a customized canvas backdrop or curtain, the hem will shorten each side of your curtain. As long as the measurements you give Chicago Canvas & Supply are correct, the extra fabric needed to hem the backdrop can be factored in.
Utility Rope and Backdrops Make It Easy to Change Scenes
Make sure you consider the features that will help your backstage crew. You can pick fabrics that can be primed and painted with the scenery you need. With some grommets and rope hung from a higher point, the school theater backdrop can be drawn across the stage in seconds, which makes for very quick set changes in between acts.
Chicago Canvas & Supply has 70 years of expertise in fabrics and textiles. We’ve helped many theater groups find the right materials for theater backdrops, scrims, and stage curtains. Don’t hesitate to send us an online message or call 1-866-389-2218. We’re happy to help you find the right backdrop for your theater production.