courtesy of
Dance Magazine

first published
June 1957

PREPARING THE RECITAL:  Theatre Rehearsals

     Your Stage Manager and your Lighting Designer should come to enough “run-throughs” to know each number by heart.  Your first theatre rehearsal should be a technical rehearsal with them and their assistants to work out each detail of the production.  All scenery should be placed and tried, and necessary changes made.  You should establish where the props will be located so that the dancers can pick them up themselves.  With the Lighting Designer you can work out the basic cue sheets, although they will need to be adjusted later when the dancers are present.  If the production is not complicated this technical rehearsal need not be long, but still it would be unwise to ask the dancers to attend since you will need as much calm and quiet as possible to work out details and changes.

     The second rehearsal at the theatre should be a technical and spacing rehearsal for the dancers.  Go through each number slowly two or three times, deciding on all entrances and exits, using the scenery and props, musical cues, curtain calls, and any choreographic changes that have come up.  In the meantime the Lighting Designer and the Stage Manager will be completing and practicing their phase of the production, and the costume staff can be pressing and hanging the costumes.  After two or three slow “run-throughs” you should be able to do the number once with costumes as though it were a dress rehearsal.

     The third and final rehearsal should be the dress rehearsal, with costumes and makeup.  This rehearsal should be run like the performance, with no stops.  You should sit in the audience with the Production Manager or someone else beside you to take notes on the many little things you may notice, such as the piano light that shines in the eyes of the audience, a costume that has threads hanging from it, or a dancer who persistently enters from the wrong wing.

     I’m sure I need not emphasize the necessity of adequate rehearsals in the theatre.  They make the difference between a smooth-running “professional” performance and a performance which, however smoothly it may run, will take ten years off your life.  If you can have only one rehearsal in the theatre I would suggest the same sequence of first working out the technical and spacing problems and then introducing the costumes and a “run-through.”

Question Box

     “Can you advise me on how to light a scrim?” – Skip Randall, Caldwell, N.J.

     Scrim is a gauze-like fabric available in widths from three feet to thirty-odd feet.  There are other semi-transparent materials – cheese-cloth, burlap, gauze, etc. – but these materials do not come in large enough widths for most scrim effects.

     Scrim works much the same way as an ordinary thin fabric in the window of a house.  In broad daylight, from inside, you can easily see through the curtain and into the street, but people in the street cannot see through the curtain into the room.  At night when the room is lighted, however, they can see through the curtain as though it wasn’t there.

     Scrim will appear solid and non-transparent if it is lit from the front, with no light on any object behind the scrim.  But the scrim is transparent when there is no light on the scrim itself and a great deal of light on objects behind the scrim.

     If there is an equal amount of light both behind and in front of the scrim, the image of the dancer or scenery behind the scrim will be softened in much the same way as distance softens the edges of objects.  This effect is often used in ballets where the dancer walks upstage, stepping behind one scrim, then another, and so on, until the figure is finally so blurred that it disappears.

     Here then are two ways to use a scrim effect:  One is to have the figure in place appear or disappear, simply by changing the lighting.  The other is to have the moving figure gradually vanish into the distance by adding layers of scrim between the figure and audience.

     The scrim can either be solid in color or it can have designs painted on it with dye.  It should be light in color since dark scrims are difficult to light.  It can be hung in fullness, like a drapery, or flat like a wall.  If it is hung flat it will need a board (a “batten”) or a pipe in the hem (the “pocket”) on the bottom edge to make it hang straight and tight.  A scrim of this size can be rented from any theatrical supply house, but they will not look kindly on any ideas you have of painting designs o it unless you use washable dyes and pay to have the scrim cleaned when you are through with it.

     If you want to use a scrim effect on a smaller-than-full-stage scale, simply cover a screen, flat, picture frame, or what-have-you with scrims.  Cover the part you want to appear transparent.  By lighting a figure or object behind the scrim, the scrim becomes transparent.  In this way you can make a face, body, or object in the middle of a “solid” wall or painting appear and disappear.

     There are two problems that must be kept in mind when working with scrims:  First, the scrim must be seamless, for seams will not become transparent.  If you cannot afford a seamless scrim, the seams must be incorporated into the design.  Second, the scrim will not appear opaque if there is any light at all behind the scrim, or if the light that hits the scrim is at an angle that permits it to go through the weave of the material.  But even if no light is “spilled”, it is best if there is no movement behind a front-lighted scrim; or if there are people who move behind the scrim, they should be covered in black material from head to toe.  If it is necessary to have a great deal of movement that should not be seen, such as changing a set, then you will probably have to have a “blackout drop” hung behind the scrim that is flown up and out of sight just before the transparency is to occur.  The drop is then returned behind the scrim just after the second lighting “set-up” is faded out.

(more next month)