Curtain Opening Strings set up

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Curtain Opening Strings set up

Postby martinpunch » 28 Jun 2014, 09:45

Hello Everybod
I said Hello Everybody :D

I want to have curtains that I can open with a simple single string pull so that thay form a kind of M shape when open.

I was wondering rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, if anyone had any plans/ideas/photos of how to achieve this.

I have searched for this on the forum before asking but could not find any refereance to it.

Thanks

Martin
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Martin

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Re: Curtain Opening Strings set up

Postby Chris » 28 Jun 2014, 19:58

Not worth doing Martin - they add a lot of weight (an extra batten and need very full and heavy curtain material. And you have to also use a double curtain track because it is essential that the two curtains overlap in the middle Any kind of curtain is pretty superfluous in the Punch show which has the charm of simplicity and "reduction". If you have a permanent pitch for a season, and a good use for the curtains, then it might be well worth experimenting. I wouldn't personally advocate them for a portable booth, although Martin Bridle's Punch theatre uses them to brilliant effect - but they are specifically built to be used for a comic routine.

The way they work is firstly to have lead curtain weights threaded along a cord and threaded through the bottom hem of the two curtains. Each curtain has curtain rings sewn along a diagonal from the bottom centre to the top opposite corner. A cord is stitched to the bottom centre cordner and is threaded up through the rings to the top corner, then down through screw eyes to below the playboard. The same thing happens on the other side except that cord is longer and runs across the top of the proscenium and then down parallel with the first cord. They are knotted together.

I promise you, you will spend hours and hours trying to get them right, and probably wont be happy with them in the end. One reason is that the proportions of the Punch proscenium are quite wrong for that style of curtain draping. They work best with a wide, narrow stage opening, not a squarish one. In a Punch show they take up space from what is already a very small proscenium.

If you do insist then make sure you get a material that is heavy enough to drop, otherwise the friction of the cord through the rings will just produce an uneven bunching.

The material must be very soft, to hang in small folds, stiff materials produce big, uneven folds and look terrible.

Why not spend the hours you are going spend on these curtains (of little value in entertaining kids) in practicing your show. If, after 10 years of perfecting your Punch Show then think of adding all those unnecessary bits which are so much fun.

If you really must have curtains why not go for straightforward side to side curtains which are practical. You can buy readymade fittings, and they work. You'll still have the extra weight problem but they'll look nice and do their job.
Even in the professional theatre french drapes are a bugger to get right.
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Re: Curtain Opening Strings set up

Postby martinpunch » 29 Jun 2014, 21:08

Thank you for all the time answering the question and particully for the diagram at the end. I will have to ponder hard on this. But I am pleased that I now understand how it works. So thank you for that. You probably think I am introducing things that are far too much for the very inexperianced performer that I am and you are probably right :oops: . But once I get an idea in my head, I have to see it through before I can settle. Most of my ideas get lots of attention and then if they don't please me; I drop them - I am sure you are right. I should be spending my time, getting the business right before fluffing around with the edges.
I have two shows to do on Saturday at a school fete and I will report back here on Saturday night. I have only just got my full line up of puppets ( actually the devil is being carved as we communicate), so it is will be on a wing and a prayer anyway. I think I can now run through my routine without notes, but the actual puppetary is going to be very Raw indeed. I have two kids and putting up the fit up is an allday exercise so there is not going to be a chance to have a full dress rehursal before the day.
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Re: Curtain Opening Strings set up

Postby martinpunch » 04 Jul 2014, 21:47

All done and working great at show today :D
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Re: Curtain Opening Strings set up

Postby Tony James » 24 Jul 2014, 15:51

The essence of Chris’s reply to you Martin rather hits the nail on the head. When you are starting out you have enough to contend with without adding complications. Keep it simple.

Learn how to handle your crew, learn the script your working to and learn how to cope with your props which should be the basic string of sausages, a couple or three sticks and a gallows if you are including the hanging scene.

Avoid adding extra figures, novelties and props until you can handle and present your basic show perfectly – drunk or sober. You are NOT to take drunk or sober literally! But you get my meaning.

When I first went into P&J in 1973 I was pitched in at the deep end. It was a last minute addition to a two year contract overseas . I had just two weeks and a couple of days from buying my figures to doing my first show. And I was flat out arranging some eleven and a half hours of other entertainment. I had to write my script too.

The point is that I stuck by that frame and those figures and my script for five years before I changed anything other than detailed figure movements and reactions and odd words or phrases to obtain an improved audience response.

On the other hand when you do know your show inside out, when your foundation show is solid, then you can more safely consider changes such as curtains which I will deal with separately.

Meantime, keep at it and good luck.
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Re: Curtain Opening Strings set up

Postby martinpunch » 24 Jul 2014, 22:30

Thanks Tony.
This is really a great resource. I am really pleased it is here. I have now made 17 swazzles and have gound one iI really like. The curtain thing works fine and is part of my business that I will, you suggest, kepp tofor a long time to come.
I am improving with each performance and I am concentrating on the areas of swazzling and puppet gestures. As well as gettting organisatn of puppet swaps a bit better. There is infinate room for improvement on all fronts and it will never end. I don't think I am a narual. But I am enjoying doing ghe shows
Keep the advice coming I appreciate it
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Re: Curtain Opening Strings set up

Postby Tony James » 24 Jul 2014, 23:16

Chris wrote:Not worth doing


When Chris made that opening comment to Martin I wondered what Chris had experienced to make him so negative about curtains. Clearly his experience was different to mine. Reading through his post I realised how opposite was my experience of curtains and - this is important - why it should be. And then the penny dropped. Chris reflected the approach which many others had probably made and which I hadn’t.

Chris was referring to adding curtains to an existing frame which, as he rightly says, often has a small proscenium opening. I didn’t do that. I designed and built my frame from scratch, accommodating curtains and other aspects into the design. That’s why they so work well for me.

So this is for those who are experienced and may be considering the advantages and disadvantages of adding curtains. Just remember – I didn’t. I made a frame to have curtains and with a proscenium designed to take curtains.

!977 was the year my agent approached me for outdoor P&J. You had to have an agent in those days because – with the exception of local private birthday shows and nurseries/playgroups and primary schools - all the other work at shows and events and for clubs and cabarets was booked via an agent. !977 was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and my agent booked my P&J. Frankly I didn’t want it – I wanted magic but he prevailed. He was right. It was a big celebration.

The following week I was in his office paying his commission and he told me my show was good and he could get me a lot of work BUT – I needed a big booth. Or as he put it, a proper booth. I using a small indoor sit down frame with hands above. It was designed simply to meet the indoor domestic market and I still have it though I no longer work that market. So I settled down to consider a ‘proper’ booth.

This was different. How big is big? What else did it need in addition to the simple frame I was using? All sorts – the house flat stage left and curtains were both considered.

The most important consideration is appearance. Outside working at big events is totally different for so many reasons. In my view at that time curtains were important to my work and thirty five years of using them has not changed my opinion. They fill in the proscenium opening concealing which is behind. Opening them is all part of the show. And I do not mean stealing by copying Martin Bridle’s signature opening.

But what type of opening curtains? “The curtain rises” is an oft used evocative theatrical phrase but there is no facility in a travelling P&J tent that will allow it. You need a fly tower and we don’t have room! By the way, a rising house curtain is known as a Drop Curtain.

Draw Curtains draw in from either side in similar fashion to domestic curtains which hang from a track and function by using cords. A visit to a specialist curtain shop or department store will reveal many different miniature examples you can play with. That’s when you understand what Chris meant by ‘heavy’ – in truth the tracks can be very heavy! I kept well away from them.

I loved Martin’s original description of M curtains – very visual. In the theatre they call them these days Festoon Curtains. Now that can be confusing if you talk to curtain shops or department stores. Festoons mean to them Austrian Blinds with flutings and flounces and gatherings resulting in the curtain hanging and rising probably using at least four or more separate cords. The fabric will gather and hang at the top of the proscenium opening and take up a lot of space.

Chris calls this M style of festoon French Drapes. I confess I’ve not come across that term. It’s an old – very old – Georgian style known in the early 1700s as Tableau Curtains used for set pieces, popular three hundred years ago. The name contracted to Tableaux or Tableaus and from that to shortened to Tabs. To this day in the theatre the house curtains are called Tabs and that’s where it comes from. This is the style I adopted.

Making them and making them work whilst very much as Chris described and illustrated was never a problem for me. But that is mainly because my frame was designed and sized to accommodate these curtains. I hesitate to explain what I did. After a pad and pencil of sketches I moved on to scale drawings and plans on graph paper. These were used to make a mock up using old/scarp timber and big sheets of old cardboard . That was how I was physically able to see what my frame would really look like in terms of size, ratio and proportion.

Take a look here. http://www.punchandjudy.com/prosceniums.htm

I wish this had been around in 1977. The whole frame has to be proportionate. A full height, hands above frame is actually easier to get proportionate in its ratios. The higher it is the easier it is for it to be wider.

The lower it is the narrower it needs to be otherwise it can easily look too short and stocky for the height. In fact it can look top heavy.

When curtains come into the equation, ratios and available space are of prime importance.

If you are starting from scratch how do you establish the structural proscenium opening?

You begin not with the frame but with Punch and then work backwards.

Height
Figures vary according to maker so first measure how much of YOUR Punch is above the playboard when both sitting down and standing up. Make allowance for your handling. Remember when you make cartoon style leaps and bounces that these can add to the figure’s height. Establish that maximum area the figure requires in which to operate.

Width
In a Traditional set of figures remember that Judy, whilst a little smaller than Punch, is usually also a little larger than the other human figures. This balances Punch & Judy when they are working together. The other human figures are smaller but of a size.

To established the width in my show I lined up, side by side, the figures for the counting routine. All the counting activity in my routine takes place initially left of centre. So from that I could calculate the width I needed right across.

Working proscenium opening.

With the height and width known you now have the bare minimum requirements for establishing the working proscenium opening.

Proscenium opening.

This is the total opening in your showfront which has to accommodate the working opening and any intrusions by curtains etc.

You can now design and establish the size of the proscenium opening itself – the opening of your showfront. To the known height and width of the working opening you must add allowances for any curtain or extra decorative- materials to either side of the width and to above the height. The last thing you need is Punch snagging the drawn up curtains with his hat or brushing the curtains drawn back and bunched either side, specially in the counting.

Knowing these calculations allows you to establish the overall size of your Showfront. It all has to be in proportion to the rest of the frame. So check carefully with the link above.

Structural Proscenium Opening.

Now you can calculate how big the frame opening needs to be.

Isn’t it easier to adopt some standard dimension frame and save all this bother? Of course it is. Frankly, if my market had been birthdays and indoors with low ceilings I wouldn’t have bothered.

But I repeat, I was designing a one off to meet my specific needs and those of the markets I would be serving. It could not possibly be all things to all markets – the markets have such different requirements.

BACK TO CURTAINS
For the Tableau Curtains the plan and layout by Chris tells it all. Well, nearly.

Material

It needs to be pre-shrunk, colourfast and capable of draining and drying after a torrential downpour ready for the next day. Believe me, it’s going to get hellish wet some days. Crease resistance is also important with a travelling show.

Heavy or Light.

I’ve used both types of fabric and I prefer a lighter fabric to one that is heavier. I don’t mean thin and cheap looking. But heavy fabrics haven’t shown me any advantage. Soft, certainly so that it folds upwards into an attractive drape.

One Curtain or two?

Both – but made into one. First cut and sew two curtains so they can overlap centrally by say 3 inches. This means a narrow side hem each side of both curtains. Then a top hem and bottom hem to both. Next overlap the curtains centrally and sew together both curtains at the top hem. The two curtains become one which is divided.

Suspension

Tracks are not required. Instead, to fix your curtain in place, sew female press-studs (also known as snap-fasteners) to the hem at the top of the front (audience)side of the curtains. one each end and perhaps every four inches or so between.

Mix epoxy adhesive (I find Araldite is still as good as any) and put plenty on the underside of the matching male half. Stick these in position along the lower edge of the Showfront in line, the position determined by the female halves already sewn in position on the curtains.

Couple of tips. The adhesive should press through the sewing holes in the male half thus holding it well secured to the showfront. These fasteners have a pinhole through both the male dimple and the female receiver which can help in lining up. And finally, bond the male to an unpainted area of the showfront. If it is painted, scrape back the paint. You need to glue to raw material and not paint.

Lead Weights

I don’t need or use them anymore. The first fabric I used was light and didn’t need weights. It fell easily. Later fabrics were heavier and they did not fall at all well, hanging short of a full fall. I used lead weights which improved matters but it still was not as good as using the lighter materials. And it added noticeable weight as you’d expect.

Fourteen years ago I switched to a much lighter fabric and once again it works well and with no weights involved.

In the theatre they don’t use lead weights in curtains or drapes. Instead they use chain in the bottom hem as it is more effective and it falls and settles like the fabric it is within..

I think I may have an answer to this ‘weight’ problem and why weighting a fabric doesn’t always overcome the problem.


Cords and deadeyes.

First the cords. Don’t be tempted to use thick strong cords in the belief they will wear better and be more reliable. Thick cord doesn’t run as fast as fine cord. I think that is part of the problem when weights are used to overcome the lack of fast fall.

Try a fine synthetic line as used by the Austrian Blinds mentioned earlier. If you are concerned by length of trouble free life replace the cord every season.

Now the deadeyes. They don’t need to be big in eye diameter but they must be made of THICK metal, not thin. Cord will drag on thin deadeyes. It travels faster over thick smooth deadeyes.

When you screw them into place be very careful about position and angle relative to the cord passage and ensure that the ‘gap’ – the space where the eye metal turns and meets the threaded shank – is tightly closed and that the join is positioned so that the cord doesn’t have to pass over the gap as it travels.

It is thick cord and/or thin deadeyes which create the friction causing the curtains not fall as they should and must.

Take a look at Chris’s illustration. You need several deadeyes. And rather more than the drawing might suggest. The first is top left . The angle is important if the curtain is to drop smoothly.

1. As the cord leaves the curtain and passes through the deadeye angle it so as to avoid too abrupt a turn downwards. Then ensure the cord passes down through deadeyes used exclusively for this cord.
2. The second deadeye is top right. Again, avoid an abrupt turn as the cord travels across the showfront. Add several deadeyes across the showfront ensuring the free passage of the cord. Continue this above and beyond the left side cord.
3. Bring the right cord through a further deadeye angling it so the cord turns and runs down parallel to the left cord BUT in its own exclusive run of deadeyes. If you run both cords through the same single set of deadeyes you should not notice any problem when opening the curtains. But you will when you unhook the cords and trust to gravity and the curtains themselves for a smooth drop. You get friction between the cords which can slow or even stop the fall.


Positioning and adjustments.

Really – it is not difficult. I’ve been using them for thirty five years! Play with the two separate cords until you have them aligned. Tie them together just below the final pair of deadeyes on the left to prevent the cords pulling back.

Then find a position beloe on your frame where you can loop the cords when opened to keep the curtains open throughout the show. If you are able to hook the cord over something using the loop of cord formed by the knot, all the better.

Otherwise form a second knot and loop lower down. Leave the resultant tails as two separate tails. Don’t knot them together. If you do you can bet that long final loop will catch on something at some stage during your pull down. The tails are useful for location purposes but a nightmare when they catch and hook onto anything. So leave them separate and they shouldn’t.

Where you tie the two other ends to the bottom rings of the curtains apply a flame to melt the synthetic cord and roll it to bond the end and the knot. Otherwise, being synthetic the cord may on occasion become untied. Then only one curtain will rise and you will end up with a poor man’s version of Martin Bridle’s wonderful routine! You doubt me? Wait till it happens to you one day unexpectedly!!

Alternatively, use hot melt glue to seal the end and the knot.

I have never found any difficulty adjusting the hang and drape of these curtains nor cording them and adjusting the cord. But remember to use fine cord.

Using Curtains

The art of opening and closing curtains is a steady smooth glide.

We have all been at sometime to a village hall production where the draw curtains are opened and closed in a spluttering series of jerks.

I daresay you have seen P&J videos where draw curtains have either travelled similarly or otherwise opened and closed at the speed of light. Enough to cause the departing Punch to fall off his perch!

P&J curtains are small and need a slow and steady, smooth glide to be effective. The sight of tableau curtains opening, parting and rising at the same time projects an elegance not always associated with puppets. Up and in place forming their M shape with their tails descending provides another visual form of elegance.

The lower legs of the proscenium are clear of any intrusions allowing for plenty of activity space.

Handled to achieve that steady smooth glide and at the end, the descent and coming together of the curtains is in my view worth the effort for the elegance and finality of the performance.

Not everyone will agree and I am confident Chris won’t agree. That doesn’t mean that either of us is wrong. We are both right in our views regarding our own shows. That’s what makes our shows different and it’s the differences which matter. Otherwise P&J would be a dull old clone of itself.

Like a pantomime, Punch is always different whilst being happily familiar and long may he remain so.
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Re: Curtain Opening Strings set up

Postby Tony James » 24 Jul 2014, 23:34

Whoops! I didn't realise my post would occupy so much space. I had dinner during writing it!

Anyway, I hope somebody sometime finds it useful.
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Re: Curtain Opening Strings set up

Postby Chris » 25 Jul 2014, 00:21

I don't know why you think I will disagree with you Tony. Not a lot to disagree with and my advice wasn't to you, it was to someone who hasn't mastered the show and yet was launching himself on the public yet wasting time faffing with curtains which won't improve his performance one iota. By all means add curtains if you have a purpose for them, and a fit-up designed for them. Personally I think them a waste of time for a show where you are in a different locale every day with a multitude of performing conditions. The only time I use them is somewhere like Tatton Park where I am there for several days with a semi permanent booth, and then it is nice to have them closed between shows. Also it allows me to change scenery in private if I am alternating some other show with Punch.
I assure you theatres do use weights for their curtains - often short lozenges of lead threaded on thin cord - and purchased by the yard from theatrical suppliers - and yes, chain is also often used as an economical substitute - but it is still being used as a weight.
You are quite right in describing curtains that are pulled simultaneously up and to side as tabs. I was quite mistaken to describe them as french drapes - there is a form of tabs used in the cinema (not now I imagine) in the days of holophane lighting displays but these were different in that they were pleated. I think to be french drapes they have to be pleated. As far as I know french drapes were not used in the theatre proper.
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Re: Curtain Opening Strings set up

Postby johnstoate » 25 Jul 2014, 03:20

Ohh, My! Aren't we having fun? - Curtains are simply the 'Theatrical' side of the show... We are using a form of miniature theatre, and therefore tend to 'ape' our posh counterpart. The easiest way to do curtains is with a standard 4ft chorded set as sold for the average bathroom window, with the addition of bottom weights to stop the curtains 'flying' in the wind. Alternatively use something similar to my 'Mayfest' rig, where the curtains don't work, and collapse onto Punch's head. (Although I do agree with Tony here that you shouldn't attempt things like this without sufficient experience), otherwise what do you do iffen the damn things work like they're supposed to????? - (From the audience perspective)- suddenly you need to 'ad lib! - Another idea is to use the roller blind principle, (Which also works for scenery) Which simply winds your curtains /Backdrop around a length of dowel and pulls them up as you either pull the string or drop the weight.

Oops, quick edit - I use a weight to operate My curtains, a fairly hefty lump of lead with a hook in the top, it hangs at the prosenium top on a hook when they are closed, you unhook it to open them, and hook up again to close- simples....EEk!
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Re: Curtain Opening Strings set up

Postby lesclarke » 25 Jul 2014, 09:57

Actually John, the easiest way to 'do curtains' is by using a dowel rod across top and use curtain rings to attach the curtains, use something like velvet to give curtains some body and possibly weight the bottom edge, and attach thin slats of wood, which extend below full height of curtains, to each leading edge of curtains to help when opening and closing.

Light in weight and no cords to get tangled, and lots of potential to vary their operation.

This method takes seconds to put in place and is almost foolproof, and one advantage is that you can have a puppet character be seen to operate them, and interact with them as part of a piece of business.
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Re: Curtain Opening Strings set up

Postby Chris » 25 Jul 2014, 12:35

Exactly what I have on my semi-permanent fit-up Les. (I call it "the garden shed"). Only problem with rings ona dowel rod is no central overlap. I shall refrain from commenting on John's idea of "easiest". I've got a headache already.
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Re: Curtain Opening Strings set up

Postby johnstoate » 25 Jul 2014, 19:22

Oooh, dear, ....I see nothing much has altered in my abscence.....I do apologise for being more 'visual' than 'written' - if I could only write on here in pictures there would be no opportunity to be ridiculed on practical matters - I have always maintained thatI will be 100% honest in the 'Workshop' section of this board.And I know from experience that the chorded set I refer to works practically in the show, especially if you use a weight as I described. Btb - I know that you 'Geeky' types can probably do amazin' things with pictures, BUT I'm still usin a computey built out of bits from skips with XP as an operatin' system!!!-Luckily you can (almost) fix it wiv a big 'Ammer, so I still manage to get on here and upset the 'Status quo' but in fairness, THEY do spend the money to make this mischief possible, so perhaps should be allowed a little superiority!! :lol: :lol:
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Re: Curtain Opening Strings set up

Postby lesclarke » 28 Jul 2014, 18:05

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.
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