The milticolored stairs with candy decorations shortly before the day of production

Willie Wonka Set by Dare To Dream Theater group

Many of you have probably sat at a theater and watched a play at sometime in your life.  You’ve seen the curtain go up and watched the new world behind the curtain take shape.  The characters on the stage are dressed perfectly as if they were in the world the stage decorations put them in.  The props and flats (the large backdrops that set the scene in a barn or a field or a ballroom) all work together to create the illusion that the play is occurring somewhere other than on a stage in a theater in front of tens or thousands of people.  Have you ever wondered what goes into creating a play and all the props and flats and costumes and makeup?  Everything works together so well that most people don’t realize it takes months to put together a convincing setting for a good play.

My sister has been in theater since high school.  Although she loved to act, and still does when she gets the chance, Rachel fell in love with doing the behind-the-scenes things as well.  By the time she left high school to pursue theater in college, she had redone the makeup area in the school and raised the expectations of the drama teacher a lot.  In college she had wanted to act in plays but the director usually cast her as assistant director or some other important position backstage.  The director was trying to groom Rachel to get hired by the college as her assistant director.  Not surprisingly, Rachel never tried for that position, instead following her dream of acting in community theater.  It wasn’t long before Rachel found another dream of teaching children to love theater as much as she does.  It started out as a two week class that ended in a small play and grew into the Dare To Dream organization which teaches theater classes to children and sets up performances for children with some adult parts played by adults so parents can be in plays with their children if they want.

On of the fascinating things about having a father who worked backstage in a popular professional theater years ago and a sister who directs children’s theater as well as acting when she can has been learning about the crafts that go into creating a play.  Creating costumes can take a month or two before they are all prepared by volunteers, the backdrops get created by hobby carpenters before they get painted, the makeup is practiced a few times before the day of the show (the children do most of their own makeup with the help of their parents and the older children in the cast and crew), and props are searched for months ahead of time.  It’s amazing listening to all the work that goes on behind the curtain and helping with it every once in a while.

Next time you sit down to watch a play, whether it’s your child’s grade school play or a professional play on Broadway, keep in mind how much work and how many crafts go into your hour or two of enjoyment.

Filed under: Crafts