Multi-Use curtain for 39 Steps Question

Traveller

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May 7, 2013
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Cranbrook, BC
Hey all, I did a quick search but didn't really see anything that answered what I'm looking for...hope this is the right place to ask this as it is a bit of a multi-faceted question. I am about to start rehearsals for The 39 Steps (First read-thru tonight!) and I have designed my set to look like an old deserted theatre. I plan on having a curtain about midstage that will open and close throughout allowing scene changes behind at times as well to create some other effects. My question is the best material for this curtain. At times I want it to be opaque - like a real curtain (Mr. Memory Scenes, etc) but for one of the chase scenes, I would like to be able to shine through from the back to do a shadow puppet effect (although I do have a "plan B" for this...). I am thinking of a scrim but I wonder if that would really be possible or, for the shadow puppets, would it just become transparent?

I am also considering some projection as well (like when they are on the train). Would projection work on a scrim? I saw another thread that suggested that the light from the projector would light up whatever was behind it...so is that saying you would be able to see these things clearly?

I may be trying to do effects that need multiple different curtains/tools but am trying to get it all straight in my head what I can do with the least amount.

Thanks all
 

seanandkate

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A scrim won't work very well for what you want. It won't show the shadows very well, and the source for the shadows will be REALLY apparent. And, yes, if you use a front projection, you will get a bit of image on your scrim and then it will punch through and you will get another image where it hits behind the scrim. Not ideal.. you will need something that is thin enough to be translucent--the light for the shadow play has to be able to be see or there won't be a whole lot of shadow--and light enough in colour that it can be used as a projection surface from the front. Also a consideration: a curtain with fullness will really affect the line of your shadows and projections the more off-axis your audience is from the light / projection source. What would the dimensions of the curtain be?
 

Traveller

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May 7, 2013
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Cranbrook, BC
The curtain would be, at the most about 10' tall and probably no more that 16' wide. Its a small theatre and, due to the nature of the space, we lose a lot of width from the stage as we need to build a walk-around to get from SR to SL as there is only one back stage entrance

I should add...the only reason I was considering scrim at all is that, there are a couple times when it would be nice to reveal what is behind the curtain without opening the curtain (for time sake - these are brief moments really - and there is only 2 times that I KNOW I would want to do it)
 
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seanandkate

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I am looking at this but not sure it is exactly what I need

That looks like it would fit your needs quite nicely (with the exception of having the scrim-like quality of being able to see through it). And at 10'x16' , it shouldn't be prohibitively expensive. This is something your theatre can use for years.
 
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Traveller

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May 7, 2013
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Cranbrook, BC
Thanks so much seanandkate. Very helpful indeed. With the prices here (even if they are American and I am in Canada) even if I got it and it didn't work exactly right, it wouldn't absolutely kill my budget
 

sk8rsdad

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When we did 39 Steps we bought a piece of FR muslin and strung it up on a rope so it looked like something hastily contrived for the scene. It suited the premise of a shoestring budget.