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How do I Choose the Best Theater Curtains?

By Kay Paddock
Updated May 17, 2024
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Choosing theater curtains is easier if there are existing drapes to help you determine the correct size. Since every stage is unique, each set of theater curtains will probably be at least a little different. In addition to size, it is necessary to choose how much fullness the curtain should have, how it will be hung, whether or not it is lined, and from which kind of fabric it should be made. The best drapes for a stage will fit properly and be the right types of curtains for the performances that will be staged there.

Most auditoriums and stages will have more than one type of curtain. A grand drape is the curtain that obscures the audience's view of the stage. This drape gets pulled aside or up when a performance starts. It is often most convenient to have a grand drape that is made of two curtains that overlap slightly in the middle. Theater curtains that meet in the center this way are called travelers. If the desire is to draw the drape straight up, then choose a curtain called a contour that is all one piece.

Other curtains for a theater include legs, borders, teasers and tormentors. When a production is performed, it is sometimes necessary to make the stage appear smaller. Occasionally the top area needs to be obscured. Teasers are curtains that go across horizontally that can be lowered as needed to do this. Borders are used in the same way farther back, to condense the space even more. Tormentors are side curtains in front that can be drawn in to make the stage smaller, while legs serve the same purpose deeper into the performance area.

The most common type of fabric used for grand drapes as well as the other auxiliary theater curtains is usually a type of velour. The inner framing curtains can be purchased in other varieties of cloth that are more budget friendly, if necessary. Velour or velvet curtains typically look best as the grand drape, because this curtain is the one the audience looks at while waiting for a performance. Heavy curtains block light better than thin ones, so a lining may be necessary to ensure the fabric is opaque.

If existing curtains need to be replaced, then look for a tag with their dimensions to make the process simple. The curtains can also be measured if no tag is found. When there aren't any curtains already in place, take a measurement from the floor to the ceiling for the proper height, and from side to side for the correct width. The next step is to choose between a flat or pleated curtain.

The fullness levels of pleated theater curtains are usually expressed in percentages. A flat curtain has a fullness of 0%. The other options are typically 50%, 75% and 100% fullness. A curtain with 50% fullness has 18 inches (about 45.7 cm) of fabric pleated into 12 inches (about 30.5 cm) of hanging space. Theater curtains with fullness levels of 75% and 100% have 21 inches (about 53.3 cm) and 24 inches (about 53.3 cm), respectively, of material in 12 inches (about 30.5 cm) of space.

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