PRIVATE theatricals are always good fun, and many amateurs will doubtless be interested in the following description of how a stage and its accessories may be put up in a house without injuring walls or ceilings ; then how it may be taken down again and stowed away for future use.
In most private louses, the parlor, in point of size and convenience, especially if the outside public is to be invited, makes the best room for conversion into a theatre ; a large garret, if there is sufficient head room, may also be used.
Precaution should be taken in selecting a place for a stage to see that behind it there is some method of access from other parts of the house, that the ordinary living-rooms may be made available for dressing-rooms, property-rooms, make-up rooms, etc.
A Home-Made Stage:
A raised stage is very desirable, even though it entails additional cost. It will not only add materially to the comfort of the spectators, but will conduce very much to the players’ effects. A simple way to erect a solid plat- form, that will do away with horses and expensive cross- supports, which would need the aid of a practical carpenter, is to utilize starch, soap, or canned-goods boxes of a similar size.
Taking it for granted that the width of the average room at the disposal of the actors is eighteen feet, get, say, fifteen soap-boxes, and place five of them end to. end in three rows, as shown at Fig. i . Along the side of each section of boxes nail a strip of wood to keep the three separate rows in line. Place the two outside rows about three inches from the baseboard on either side of the room.
Then take spruce boards sixteen feet long and lay them at right angles over the box supports, and fix them to the same. Screws are to be preferred, as the stage can then easily be taken up and put down again. Following out these in- strictions, a stage free from spring should be the result.
If possible, the boards should be covered with a green or brown cloth, the thicker the better, in order to deaden the sound of feet on the wood. These colors are preferable, because they represent either the earth or the greensward. For an interior they make a good groundwork, on which may be placed rugs of varying size.
The Presentism Frame:
The most important and at the same time most difficult parts of a theatre for an amateur to build are the frame- work of the proscenium and the outline of the stage by which the scenery is supported. The proscenium is the covered front of the stage which, with the curtain, shuts off the mysteries behind from the spectators in front.
Against the boxes at either side of the room, about a foot or eighteen inches from the edge of the same, nail or screw uprights two inches wide by an inch thick. These uprights should reach to within an inch of the ceiling.
Take, then, a piece of wood, just short of the width of the room, and, covering it with something soft, like Canton flannel, stretch it across the ceiling of the room, driving the ends over the uprights, making a close joint. Two similar uprights two feet from the side edges of the stage should then be placed in position. Brace them to the stage, and have them of a length that when bent under the crosspiece stretching across the ceiling they will be firm.
Braces, should be used to impart the necessary solidity to a structure which must bear the weight of the curtain. If the stage is eighteen feet deep, nine feet from its outer edge (the footlights) erect similar uprights on the outside, with a crosspiece running the width of the room, covered, as before, with Canton flannel.
At the extreme rear of the stage this arrangement should again be repeated, stays or braces being used to give it additional strength. The three uprights on either side of the stage should then be braced by a board two inches wide and an inch thick running the full depth of the stage.
By following out these instructions the entire stage will thus be outlined by a light but firm framework, capable of standing such strain as may be put upon it by scenery, draperies, hangings. It is almost impossible to stretch wires or ropes from wall to wall and get a satisfactory result. They are sure to sag, and will present a most unbusies-like effect.
The method proposed of course entails work and some carpentering skill, but really half the fun of amateur theatricals is in devising effective substitutes for the conveniences to be found in an ordinarily well-appointed theatre.