We mostly attribute memorable and emotional theatrical moments to the hard work of dedicated actors. But they can’t act out a scene at whim. Actors also rely on a level of immersion that only a high-level production can give.
That’s because professional theatrical productions possess excellent backdrops, drapery, costumes, props, and lighting. Put together, these five elements don’t just highlight a story’s plot, mood, and theme for the audience’s sake. They also put actors in the best frame of mind to provide us with gipping and spellbinding feats of drama. And this begins near the back of the stage.
At its best, the entire set helps the actors by providing them an appropriate atmosphere to encourage the best performances. But as one of the largest and most visible parts of the production, the backdrop serves as the biggest clue to a scene’s setting and mood.
Most commonly painted, backdrops can be as simple as a muslin curtain with an illustrated scene on one side. Depending on the production’s needs, painted backdrops can hang near the rear of the stage for rich landscapes or hang near the middle for a more claustrophobic urban environment.
Curtains and Drapes
Those multiple large pieces of fabric you see onstage are actually different groups of various fabrics. Together, they are simply there to obscure our view of parts of the stage during crucial scene changes.
Most importantly, they act as a frame for the acting space, hiding parts of the rigging that would otherwise ruin an audience’s immersion and minimise unwanted distractions.
The wardrobe department generally takes care of a production’s costume design and fabrication (or procurement). This crucial section of a production can locate the historical period and even the theme of a play.
But it’s not enough for costumes to be unified with a production’s overall visual motif. In truth, they also reflect the mental state and individual traits of each character. This is another element that allows an actor to personally feel what their character is thinking. Whether it’s a costume piece’s colour scheme or state of wear, what an actor wears greatly affects how he acts.
Whether it’s a sword that will be swung into a rival or a bench that a member of the chorus will sit on, props are an important part of the entire theatrical experience.
Short for “properties,” these are furnishings, set dressings, and other objects that can’t be grouped into electrics, scenery, or wardrobe. They provide actors a more tangible anchor for their performance, letting them better “feel” the situation and internalize the emotions needed for the scene.
A theatre productions lights aren’t just there to put a spotlight on the star or whoever’s turn it is to speak. Together with the backdrops and props, lighting decisions can hint at time of day, weather conditions, and overall mood. Lights can even cue in mood changes in the middle of the scene.
But most importantly, how a scene is lit can heighten its appearance and mood. Indeed, you can creatively light up your backdrops to create dazzling and breathtaking scenes. In the right occasions, both the audience and the performers will find themselves caught up in the heat of the moment—both as the artists and as the viewers.
A Perfect Combination
Aside from playing off of each other, actors also rely on the alignment of multiple elements—all contributing to a rousing and unforgettable performance. When put together in the best circumstances, even an updated performance of a classic play will feel just as refreshing and enthralling as when it was new.