Curtains are one of those accessories which can be found in almost every house these days. Be it something as simple as a plain window screen or something as complex as an elaborately designed luxury drape adorning a master bedroom, we all are definitely acquainted with their beauty and charm. And the interesting fact is that their saga doesn’t end within the four walls of our homes, but extends way beyond into the streets as well. Confused? Then you may better take a little stroll into some of those nearby restaurants and supermarkets downtown. You’ll find charming veils beaming at you, everywhere. And if you aren’t convinced yet, purchase a ticket for the evening show in any of those theatres in town. You will realize that they are an important part of theatres as well. In fact, no performance can happen without their presence. So what are the things which make them such an inseparable part of theatre performances? Well, let’s take a look.
Primarily, they are used to mask the stage from the view of the audience, when the show is not in progress. Behind the veil, actors can warm up before the show and shed their nervousness. They are also used to show the separation and transition between various acts. Unlike as in the case of movie shootings, you can’t cut the scene and begin the next one with the help of cameras and post production editing. So it becomes very important to depend upon curtains to cut between the scenes and let the audience know, when a particular one begins and when it ends. This is done by dropping them down to hide the arena at the end of a scene and later on raising it to reveal the arena, as a new one begins. They are also used at the beginning and the end of a play to intimate the spectators. They are usually lowered and raised with the help of ropes which can be pulled to adjust their height as well.
Another purpose which they serve is to cover the back area from the view of the viewers. It is a place where the actors do make up, rehearse the act and store the props. So it becomes very necessary to conceal this area from the spectators. For this purpose, thick black ones which can prevent the visibility to the maximum are usually preferred. They are kept static and are never raised in front of the viewers.
There is an important terminology associated with theatre drapes called curtain call. It is all about the cast and crew appearing in front of the viewers to thank them, at the end of the play. The actors appear individually from behind the veil covering the backstage, and thank the spectators as they applaud. This is a system which originated sometime during 1880 and 1885.
Out of the many types of drapes used on stage, the most important one is called grand drape. It is the front curtain which is opened and closed at the beginning and the end of the plays. Another important one is the false proscenium which is located just upstage of the grand drape. It is used to hide the ropes and other paraphernalia used to raise and drop the other curtains. There is also a type of pair called legs and borders. They are usually used in combination. Legs are used to cover or mask the wings on either sides of the arena. Borders are used to cover the lighting on the ceiling as well as the backdrops which has been raised to the ceiling after the end of a particular scene. They are both made of heavy light absorbing materials. And last but not the least; there is a very important purpose which veils serve. They are used as backdrops for different scenes. The scenery images for the background are painted on them. Well, now you know why no theatre performance ever happens without the presence of drapes.