The Proper Name for Stage Curtains
Curtains and other material are used for Masking, which is hiding the backstage area and creating a box that the universe of the show is contained in.
The Proscenium is the primary masking, creating the "frame."
Directly upstage of the Pro, the Grand Curtain or Main Rag (or Guillotine) masks the sides of the stage.
A Tormentor (torm) is another framing curtain that can be set upstage of the proscenium or grand for narrowing the playing field.
The Teaser or Valance provides masking overhead, hiding the downstage-most fly system or other overhead objects.
Upstage of these, a varying number of Legs continue to mask the side stage and create wings, and Borders mask more of the battens, set pieces and electrics above.
A Portal is a border and a pair of legs combined on the same batten. Sometimes a portal is a single piece.
Typically, near the upstage walls is a Cyclorama or Cyc. This is a flat white surface that can be bathed in various colors of light.
Sometimes there will be a Scrim which is a thin mesh material that can create effects with different lighting tricks. It can appear opaque if hit with light from the front, or it can make a semi-transparent barrier for the cyc if lit from behind.
Sometimes there is still too much light coming from backstage. Side Tabs are curtains that run downstage to upstage and provide even more side-stage masking.
Backdrops or Drops are canvas or muslin soft goods that are painted as scenery.
A Kabuki Drop is a drop that rigged to fall to the deck during the show and be removed. This can be done mechanically with ropes. Most commonly these days, the Kabuki is done electronically using devices called solenoids.
A Full Stage Black is a black curtain that covers the entire field of vision, but does not travel from side to side, only in or out. They can be anywhere, upstage or downstage, where a black backing is useful.
An Austrian is a traveling curtain that is pulled up and outward for a specific revealing effect.
Pipe and Drape
Masking we typically run into in a variety of venues is Pipe and Drape, a simple, light-weight system for setting up a curtain anywhere.
Check out this video on how Pipe and Drape works.
More about Curtains
Materials for curtains include:
* Velour - Most common for hanging curtains, a dull finished fabric. Excellent for light masking and sound absorption, but also the heaviest and most expensive.
* Duvetine - light-weight and cheap. Most commonly used for masking the sides of risers, set pieces or other on-deck purposes.
* Corduroy- another substitute for velour, cheaper and lighter weight, but has a directional light effect.
Most commonly these curtains will all be black with the exception of the Teaser and the Grand, which are color coordinated with either the theater design or the show.
Many Grand Curtains are pleated for aesthetic appeal, and some are on traveler tracks to be moved on and offstage during a performance.
For more on traveler tracks, see
We typically hang curtains for temporary purposes with tie-line. The curtain will have small metal holes called Grommets, and the tie-line will be run through them.
We tie up the curtain to the batten using a Drop Knot, a bow knot like the one you use to tie your shoes. Sometimes the head carpenter will ask for an "opera-knot". An opera knot simply means running the tie around that batten an extra time before doing your shoe-tie knot.
If the head carpenter wants a "soft-edge", he/she is asking that the onstage side of the soft good be tied back by a foot or so. If he/she asks for a "hard-edge", there is no tie back.
During load-out, the first thing we do when a soft good comes in to the deck is "save face". Saving face refers to pulling the bottom of the good downstage so that the "pretty side" doesn't fall on the floor and get dirty.
There are a variety of ways to fold a drop.
A "west-coast" means that the hands spread out along the good and catch a portion of it in their arms. They then untie it, and use the ties to wrap it up (shoe-tie knots again) and it runs into a hamper or case like a big caterpillar.
Drops normally come down to the floor and get folded up ("east-coasted"); half and half and half until they will fit into the hamper or box.
ALWAYS ask the head carpenter how they prefer it.