Where do I begin?
What types of drapes will you need, and what will they do? There are three main categories of stage draperies.
1. Proscenium Draperies: Main Drape (a.k.a. Grand Drape, Front Drape) & Valance
These drapes dress up the proscenium and hide the stage before revealing it to the audience. The main drape is an overlapping pair of drapes, which open to each side of the proscenium. The valance hides the track, and can be used to reduce the height of the proscenium opening.
2. Masking Draperies: "Blacks" Legs and Borders (a.k.a. tormentors and teasers), Mid Stage and/or Rear Stage Drapes
Masking draperies hide off-stage areas and lighting equipment above the stage and function as stage dividers. They are usually black for maximum absorption of light, and they provide a neutral surrounding for the scenery and actors. Legs and borders are narrow and frame the stage. A mid-stage or rear-stage drape closes the stage across its full width. Masking drapes are called "travelers" when they are hung from track.
3. Drops: Painted backdrops, Sky drops, Cycloramas
Drops provide the stage with a sky-like vista or a painted scene. For more information on drops, see the Drapery section of the PNTA Dogalog.
How will your drapes be hung?
Most masking draperies are tied to pipe battens hung from the structure overhead. Main drapes, mid-stage drapes, and sometimes rear-stage drapes are hung from wheeled carriers, which ride on a track. If the carriers are rigged with an operating cord, the system is called a traveller or "cord-op." If there is no cord, the system is a "walk-draw." If you need consultation on installing new battens or track, give us a call.
In order to choose the best track to fit your needs, tell us the following:
Curved or Straight? If curved, what will the layout be like?
How heavy duty? By noting the height of your drapes and the weight of the fabric, we can determine how sturdy the track needs to be.
How mounted? Will the track be mounted directly to the ceiling, or to the back of the proscenium, or suspended from the ceiling structure?
"Cord Op" or "Walk Draw"? See above for more info.
Let's talk about fullness.
Drapes may be sewn as flat panels, but very often they have extra fabric, called fullness, which is sewn in as pleats. The more fabric, the larger the pleats, and the richer the look of the drape. The amount of fullness is expressed by the percentage of fabric that has been added to the finished width of the drape.
- 0% fullness = flat. A flat black drape will be the most neutral.
- 50% fullness = standard. This gives a drape the rich appearance of pleats, and enhances sound absorbency.
- 100% fullness = double the width. Sometimes used to give front drapes an additional richness.
Special Note: A drape sewn "flat" can still be given any degree of fullness by "pleating it on the pipe." This means folding in pleats as you tie the drape on the pipe.
How do I choose a fabric?
Velour, a velvet-like material, comes in a wide variety of colors. At nearly all performance spaces, the main drape and valance are made with velour. Often used for the onstage "blacks" (masking curtains), velour's heavy-pile weave and rich texture absorb light beautifully. Its ability to hang and drape well makes velour a theatrical favorite; it's available in several weights:
- 32 oz. velour is rarely used. Its rich appearance parallels its rich price.
- 25 oz. is the industry standard for stage draperies. This weight is plush and absorbs sound and light well.
- 20 oz. has the same backing as 25 oz., but with shorter nap (and less absorption).
- 16 oz. is very light weight and is not recommended for permanent installations.
For masking draperies there are several additional fabrics (all 100% cotton) to choose from:
- Super Commando Cloth, a heavy 100% cotton fabric, has a tight weave for opacity and a light-absorbing "brushed" surface. Use as an inexpensive alternative to velour for stage draperies and masking. Available in black and limited colors.
- Duvetyne, similar to Super Commando Cloth, is lighter weight and does not block out light completely. Available in black only.
- Oxford is patterned and tightly woven, and does not blcok out light completely. Available in black and limited colors.
- Denim is used to line velour drapes for better wear. Can also be used as an inexpensive masking fabric.
The final details.
Here are standard construction details, which ensure the function, durability and look of our drapes.
The top of any drape is finished with webbing and with grommets spaced 12" apart. If you are hanging from carriers in a track, we provide S-hooks. If you are tying to a pipe, we provide tie lines.
Any drape 8' high or taller will be chain-weighted, which adds weight so the fabric will hang nicely. The chain is placed inside a canvas pocket that is sewn into the bottom hem, clear of the bottom edge, so that it does not wear through from contact with the floor.
A 2" side hem is standard. The panels of the main drape may have a bigger side hem, known as a "turnback." The drape fabric is carried from the edge of the drape around the back 6, 12 or more inches. This keeps the audience from seeing the back of the fabric when the drape is in motion. Main Drape panels can be lined with denim to increase their durability.
How soon do you need them?
The amount of time needed to complete your particular project will depend on what fabric we have in stock, fabric mills, ship time and our stitch schedule. Sometimes, drops can be turned around in a few days and sometimes a large, colored velour job may take up to 12 weeks. If you plan on purchasing track and traveller rigging, please allow sufficient lead-time so we can include planning discussions and a potential site visit.
The more lead time you give us, the better the price we can give you, so please plan ahead!
How to Measure for Replacement Drapes
Curtain Width: Measure the track or pipe from which the drapery will hang, or lay a steel measure along the floor under the pipe. Note if the drapery panels overlap.
Added Fullness: Measure the bottom edge of the drapery, and subtract the length of the track or pipe. Note if the drapery has sewn-in pleats, or is gathered on the pipe, or is hung flat.
Curtain Height: Measure the existing drapery from its top edge to the bottom of the hem. Do not include carriers, hooks, or chains at the top of the drape.
Other Info: If you can get to the top edge of the drape, count the number of grommets in each panel. Note whether the drape is attached with s-hooks, snap hooks, or ties. Also note whether you want the drape lined and whether it should be chain-weighted. Drapes over 8' high have a chain pocket and chain sewn into the hem to help the drape hang well.
New Drapes: Follow a similar procedure to determine approximate widths. For approximate height when using existing track or pipes, measure from underside to floor and subtract 4" for track-mount or 2" for pipe-mount.