Cabaret Set Designs


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I'm the designer, Master Carpenter, and scene shop crew for a production of Cabaret under "interesting" circumstances. This is a college production for a very new theater program. This will be our last production before our theater construction is completed, so I still have no shop to build in... I'm building everything in my small driveway at home. We are renting a 700 seat proscenium theater that just had a $10 million remodel for this show, so the set needs to look good or it will be really sad in such a beautiful space. Along with the construction in my driveway, I'm only going to have about 8 hours for load in and set assembly. Oh yeah... the load in door at the theater is a double door a little over 7 feet high so no building large units and rolling them in off a truck. Back Stage there is about 5 feet of wing space on one side, 15 feet on the other, and the cyc is against the back wall.
So, the set has to be compact and highly portable. Drops are an obvious easy solution to some of my problems. I'm thinking about some platforms on wheels upstage that come down when drops are raised... although there's little space back stage to store anything that goes on a platform so they have limited usefulness.
We've also been playing around with the idea of a less realistic approach. Building a stage at center and placing all the action of the show up on that small stage with very limited sets. Then placing cafe tables down stage on both sides with actors watching the action of other scenes up on the stage... as if the scenes from the show outside the cabaret are part of the show on stage in the cabaret.
I'm curious what others have done with this show with either limited sets and/or with limited space. Thanks.


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Hi. An amateur group I am involved with did Cabaret last year. The theatre is only 120 seater with open flat floor stage. So some of these ideas might not work in your space.

At the back of the stage a tall platform was built under it was the orchestra screened from the audience with some scrim but they could be lit for numbers in the cabaret. The platform had two onstage and one off stage set of stairs. It was always set with chairs for the cabaret scenes.

Halfway downstage on each side was a moving double sided wall set up. On the normaly closed sides ( the sides the audience see when the walls are not open ) there was a fixed table and chair on each side. Then on the SR side the wall opened upto to the bedroom. The bed was done as a wall bed so it could be covered up for some scenes. SL was the living room.

The train carriage was built on a moving platform and moved into centre stage.

This worked very well in our theatre.

I am not sure how high the proscenium is in your theatre. If you don't want your walls to high you might have to lower blacks into cover the tops. Even if the door into the theatre is only seven feet high you can still build high walls. The width of each section only has to be less then seven feet. They can be as tall as will fit into your transport.

At a 10 million dollar refit does this stage have a revolve?
You could make good use of trucks to move the sets. The trucks can be built in individual sections then bolted together in the theatre.

So long as you can assemble the stuff at home then label it carefully you should be able to packin in eight hours. Just some ideas.


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The proscenium is 18-20 feet high. I can drop the teaser and boarders in down a little but I'm stuck with a lot of space above my set so I've got to go really tall.

I really like the idea of the band on stage under a scrimed in stage. That's a very interesting idea.

I've play around with the wall of doors idea as well. Unfortunately, there is only 5 feet of wing space stage left... even if I bring the legs way in there still isn't much space to slide things off on stage left.

They didn't get much for their $10 million. It was an old school with a theater originally. A lot of the money went to tearing down most of the school and turning it into a parking lot. The theater itself was in terrible condition so that's where the rest of the money went.

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