Fabrics & Drapes

Whether you’re producing Swan Lake at the Sydney Opera House, or The Pirates of Penzance at your local school, what is the first and last thing your audience will see? Your drapes!

Theatrical drapes are an essential element of any stage production and speak volumes to your audience about your venue and the show they’re about to see. At the start of a show they help to build the sense of mystique and anticipation that makes theatre so exciting, while during a production they cloak the movement of actors, technicians and scenery that assists in creating the magic of theatre.

On stage there are several different drapes. There is a front drape (also called a grand drape, house curtain, main drape) which hangs upstage of the proscenium arch. It is usually made from heavyweight material as its purpose is to hide the stage and muffle sounds. Often there is a border or valence of the same colour just in front of the main drape. Depending on the size of the stage there may be a series of legs, borders & intermediate drapes. The legs are narrow vertical panels on each side of the stage that obscure portions of the stage, while borders are horizontal panels above the stage to mask lighting, tracks, and pipes. Usually there is a backdrop curtain at the rear of the stage as well as a cyclorama (cyc).

There are a lot of options in theatrical drapery, especially when it comes to curtain types and fabrics. However, a key factor when choosing the fabric for your drapes is to ensure it meets flame retardant regulations, requirements and standards. In any performance venue fire is a constant threat: hot lights; sets made of painted wood and canvas; electrical wiring running everywhere. Consequently, all drapes in places of public entertainment must comply with Building Code Australia (BCA) Specification C1.10. It’s your responsibility to ensure your drapes meet these specifications.

Compliance with these specifications can be a very complicated area. Trust the experts that deal with these issues on a daily basis. If you have any questions regarding Australian fire regulation requirements please contact our experienced Staging Department directly on (+61) 2 9582 0909.

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