How to make a cinder block back wall look like part of the set?

Painterspoon

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Nov 27, 2011
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Near Peterborough, Ontario
I need all of my precious stage space for our production of Cabaret, as the pit will be on stage. So I'm going to keep our back curtain open (we are at a school), and expose the back (black) cinder block wall and music room door. I want the back wall to look like old brick wall with a top edge that looks like it has crumbled away (a way to blend it into the high cinder block walls), and the door to look old as well. I thought cardboard sheets might be the lightest and most economical solution (correct me if I'm wrong), but I need a way to fix the cardboard to the wall so that it does not leave anything behind, but so that it will be permanent enough so as not to come off during the show's run. Any creative solutions?
 

josh88

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If that's the way you're going, I'd prefer to paint directly on it or (since you're at a school and that may not be an option) lauan. If you need every last inch of space, carpet tape the back of them to the wall, or some of that 3M foam mounting tape. I don't like cardboard because its a decent fire hazard and just generally try to avoid it because it never really looks good unless you're going for a painted cardboard look.

You could maybe also get some muslin, or a large enough drop cloth and paint it like a drop and maybe still find a way to double stick or hang it directly in front of the wall. Thats how I would go about it. any kind of adhesive option may pull some paint off the wall, so keep that in mind if touching up the black isn't an option.
 

Painterspoon

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Near Peterborough, Ontario
Yeah - cardboard warps with varying humidity too...that could be terrible...
I like the direct painting option, as it's the most certain. Maybe I can get permission to re-paint afterwards.
I might wrap the door completely with canvas.
Thanks for helping me think through this!
 

derekleffew

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What is it about that show and back walls? Some years before I got there, my college did Cabaret, and spent a near fortune having Buildings and Grounds paint the back wall, which contained a full stage-wide paint frame, flat back. For many years after, this meant not being able to use the paint frame for its intended purpose. Now one could argue, rightly so, that even then, paint frames were pretty much obsolete. But I digress.

Don't use cardboard. Perhaps 1/2" or 1/4" foam core, affixed with double-sided tape.
 

Painterspoon

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Nov 27, 2011
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Near Peterborough, Ontario
What is it about that show and back walls? Some years before I got there, my college did Cabaret, and spent a near fortune having Buildings and Grounds paint the back wall, which contained a full stage-wide paint frame, flat back. For many years after, this meant not being able to use the paint frame for its intended purpose. Now one could argue, rightly so, that even then, paint frames were pretty much obsolete. But I digress.

Don't use cardboard. Perhaps 1/2" or 1/4" foam core, affixed with double-sided tape.
It's just that I need all the space I can get. If I close my back curtain, I lose 4 feet by 28 feet of usable space. And the pit - a course for instrumental students - will have about 20 people in it, eating up precious real estate. I also don't have the advantage of having a shop at my school, so elaborate sets are out of the question. I like the foamcore option - thanks!
 

josh88

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Maybe I can get permission to re-paint afterwards.
Not the best advice, but I stopped asking permission ages ago and started running my space how I wanted since the people I'd be asking didn't know a thing about the space or facility. I'd just paint what I wanted, and then paint it back afterwards and all I ever got was, that looked great! Doesn't work for everybody, but its just paint. It's easy to change.
 

Painterspoon

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Near Peterborough, Ontario
Not the best advice, but I stopped asking permission ages ago and started running my space how I wanted since the people I'd be asking didn't know a thing about the space or facility. I'd just paint what I wanted, and then paint it back afterwards and all I ever got was, that looked great! Doesn't work for everybody, but its just paint. It's easy to change.
Yes - I have a very controlling head custodian who recently threw out a massive thousand dollar staircase of ours, among other things. I now take pictures of everything in case he goes postal again over the summer when I'm not there. I'm trying to stay on his good side by making him think he has some control over "his" school. But you're right - in general, asking permission just gives others permission to say no, when maybe they wouldn't have minded in the first place. Maybe I will just mention to him that I would like to do that, and then get the kids to paint it black again afterwards.
 

josh88

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Yes - I have a very controlling head custodian.
By the time I left I was working on the favorite beer method of payment. Maintenance and I often got stuck setting up or working various events and often were in the same boat. I helped them out, and often if I needed something big I'd drop off a 6 pack of beer and a day later they'd make my problem go away or take care of whatever it was I didn't want to do. Always good to have maintenance or custodians or AHJ's on your good side.
 

JonCarter

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Apr 18, 2011
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Meridian, Idaho, US
I'm with Josh88 on this one. Just make yourself a stencil and paint the wall over the weekend. When somebody says, "YOU CAN'T DO THAT!!!" Just say, "Gee, sorry, we didn't know, and we'll paint it black when we're done." And the 6-pack solution solves a lot of ruffled feathers.

Crew show bit from 1955: We were building "Sing Out, Sweet Land" and one scene called for the Big Rock Candy Mountain. "How shall we build it?" "Why, build it out of stone and paint it to look like rock!"
 

venuetech

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Apr 14, 2008
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AK,
This is easy, make your set out of cinder blocks. Bink, problem solved. (Sorry, bad joke)
As far as the lead custodian you have to look at it from his point of view, he must keep the school in good condition and do annual care throughto the school. So when he finds a large staircase sitting on the floor he needs to wax he is going to move it once to get it out of the way. And he is very familiar with the power of the dumpster. Your best bet would be to walk through with the principal and detail things to be kept.
Beer sounds nice but most k12 schools have policy against alcohol. Best to stay away from that suggestion.
 

kicknargel

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Aug 10, 2009
Location
Denver, CO
If you don't paint directly, I think the muslin drop and foamcore suggestions are good. You could affix them with 3M command velcro, which is quite strong and comes away cleanly when done (but a bit spendy).

Another idea: maybe the custodian could be persuaded to install one or more wooden nailer strips to the wall, which you could then attach the backdrop or foamcore to. And if that seems like a lot of work to him, maybe the direct painting method would become HIS idea.