FRONT CURTAINS FOR THE BOOTH

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FRONT CURTAINS FOR THE BOOTH

Postby Chris » 04 Nov 2006, 12:50

Jack Morrison writes:<br>
Here is how you might fix a set of 2 curtains that open and close inside and behind your procenium, it might be best to decide on your system before you have the final curtains made, make a prototype with a cut up bedsheet if you want to know how it will look.

I suggest you make a system from scratch, domestic cutrain tracks might be able to be converted but in my opinion would not be robust enough.
Curtain rail would probably be ok. as would brass or steel rod. you can buy fittings to hold these from most hardware stores
The secret is to keep it simple as the last thing you want is curtains that don't open after your pre-show build up.

Take a lenth of batten, this will be fixed above the procenium on the inside. If you can, use pin hinges to fit this into place, if all goes wrong and you get in a tangle you can easily pull out the pins, remove the whole mechanism and get on with the show.

I recomend a straight run of curtain rings for your velvet, use some bar or tube to run right along the batten and off beyong the edges of your procenium.
If you can, use a rail supported at either end but not in the middle, this may be impossible with the weight of your curtains but the less obstructions the better.

Make sure your curtains have enough fullness to look luxurious, I reccomend at least 15% fullness, more if you have the space and budget. essentially make them a bit too long and bunch them up a bit at the top and you get the 'Operea house' look to your drapes.
Make sure they have tape stitched across the top (like domestic curtains) as this is where all the wear and tear will happen.
A thin chain in the hem at the bottom will give them a bit of a swish and make them hang better.

Decide which side you want to operate the curtains from, right or left depending on your handedness or which hand you use for your first character entrance.

On the side you are operating from affix two double pulley blocks side by side.
At the opposite end of the batten affix two single pulley blocks side by side facing the doubles.
They should sit just inside the fittings that hold the rail.

Pulley blocks can be bought in many hardware stores or from the internet.
Try to get the 'fixed' type that can be screwed to the batten, not the 'swivel' kind as these might tangle more easily during your fit up.

Get some nylon line from a hardware shop, you could use fishing line but I would not if I were you. Some thick ish black nylon string/line would be the best, about 3mm thickness is plenty.

Now the complicated bit.
Start with the right hand curtain.
Fix the off stage end so that it cannot travel along the bar and pull the onstage end into the closed position.
Take a line and run it up through the first pulley on the first pulley block and along to the farthest onstage curtain ring.
Take another line and run it up through the first pulley on the second pulley block and run it right across to the far end of the batten and down through the first single pulley block and then back along to the onstage curtain ring.

By pulling on these two lines you should be able to open and close the curtain.
You will see that the lines droop a bit, we will come to this in a minute.

Set your next curtain in the closed position.
Take a line and run it up through the second pulley on the first pulley block and run it right across to the far end of the batten and down through the second single pulley block and then back along to the onstage curtain ring of your secoond curtain. Take another line and run it up through the second pulley on the second pulley block and along to the farthest onstage curtain ring of your second curtain.

You should now be able to open and close both curtains.

Set them and make any final changes to the look of them or the way the mecanism works now.

Close the curtains. You will see that it is possible to join the 'open' control lines together and just have a sigle pull to open. You will see that it is possible to join the 'close'' control lines together and just have a sigle pull to close.

You could colour the lines to make them easily recognisable in the heat of the moment.

To remove the line droop you will need to put some tension into the system, once you are all set then put equal weights on the ends of the control lines, they should pull the droop through and balance each other out. You can use washers or fishing weights, try some swishing to get the weighting just right.

You will need to keep these control lines out of your way when the show is on but remember to keep them accessable for the final curtain

If the curtains keep getting stuck then run some candle wax across the top and they should slide better.
Check the whole system every time you put it up, especially the control lines.<p>
Professor Panic advises:

Keep it simple....I have 3 different booths, one in NZ and two here..I did experiment with drawsting curtains etc but now I just get mr Punch to open the curtains and Dai-the-devil to close them.......works just as well and looks amusing....and you can get a bit of "business "out of it if the puppets struggle. Martin Bridle has a nice bit of business with drawstrung curtains tho....dont know if he still does it.....if you do a lot of shows things soon get simplified into less and less mechanical stuff.
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Postby Tony James » 06 Nov 2006, 01:58

It probably reflects my theatre background but there's something about smoothly opening tabs which to me is an essential of the opening of a show.

Likewise, a clean finish with the tabs closing behind Punch as he makes his farewells, backing thru the tabs and away.

Personal preference. I can see puppets doing the opening and closing bringing another dimension to the show.

Problem with tabs either side is the room they take up in the prosc opening. And the hardware above. Which is why I've used tableau opening for the last thirty years. I suspect that's what is meant by 'drawstring' - gets them up and out of the way.

What's more, you don't need any track rod or fittings. The cord travels through deadeyes screwed to the back of the showfront. Top of the tabs is fixed directly to the showfront too.

The same system can be used for an Austrian blind style raising one solid piece of fabric. A trip to the curtain department of a store will reveal all.

Whatever style you adopt, if it's operated by cord make sure it is thin and strong - nylon for preference. And tie a tight knot where you attach it, followed by a flame to the knot which will slightly melt it and ensure it never unravels.

Because when it does there's not a lot you can do about it!!! I know!!!!! That's the time you realise Eric Sharpe knew a thing or two when he preferred dummy curtains hanging either side.
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