I would begin involving students by researching stage design and asking them to
submit models or color sketches. Use "Hockney Paints the Stage" by Martin
Friedman or other Artist/theatre connections -- I have a book at home of Chagall's
designs for the ballet. I feel certain there are others. Select the "winning
design/designs" by looking for big elements.
Are these for flats or are they to be hung? If they are to be hung, will they be
draped or taut? The mechanics of stretching and priming ought to keep some
students busy and involved: For flats, start stretched on the frames, and prime
thickly to make light from behind disappear. Even pinpricks need to be masked.
For drapes, use tons of newsprint underneath, keep the material as squared as
possible and thin the primer.
Then draw the cartoon in charcoal on the primed surface, hang it up to see how it
looks -- you might be surprised!
Plan to use the largest brushes you can find or rollers. Detail will be lost --
Depending on how far away the audience is.
-- colors need to be coordinated with costumes and lights, sometimes background
colors disappear because of lighting, and have to be greatly enhanced -- even
There are great books on stagecraft -- when searching use subject
headings/keywords like: theatre setting and scenery. I like Paul Carter's
Good luck -
> I have been given an assignment to paint a 40'x12' backdrop and 2, 20'x12'
> backdrops for a production that the school is doing in May. . . . Any ideas?
PS - I produce children's plays - that is theatre for and with children, and
write study guides for them so that teachers from my area can enrich and expand
the performance aspect of going to a play. Currently working on "The world's
favorite fairy tale" by Lowell Swortzell -- a multicultural approach to
"Cinderella" -- great stuff. Later this spring will work with a junior high on an
updated ecological version of Robin Hood.
-- Karen Hurt
Grafton Library Mary Baldwin College Staunton, Virginia 24401