Typical load on a batten is usually some form of softgoods, e.g. curtains.

Curtains: a cloth that fills the stage opening. Generally opaque, usually in dark or subdued colors, made from heavy cloth. The best are made from velour, as this fabric is best at light absorption and has the lowest reflection. Curtains are usually hung with fullness, or pleating. Pleating may be sewn in, or created by hanging a long curtain on a shorter pipe, with the fullness tied in. 50% fullness if common, meaning the curtain when stretched is half again as long as when tied on the batten.

Legs: narrow curtains used as masking at sides of stage to hide wings.

Tormentors: furthest downstage legs, the "torms". Used to reduce the size of the proscenium opening. Often hard, with a frame and hard subsurface beneath a velour covering.

Borders: short curtains used to mask the top of stage, to mask the loft.

Teaser: furthest downstage border also used to reshape proscenium opening. The teaser is sometimes called the grand drape or the Valence.

Portal: a border and legs combined into a single piece with a large opening.

Velour- Best cloth for curtains, a dull finished knapped fabric, really a form of velvet. Best at light and sound absorption and blocking, but also heaviest most expensive fabric for curtains.

Duvetine- lighter, cheaper substitute, a heavy fabric with brushed rather than woven knap. Looks almost like velour and weighs less, but doesn't work as well.

Wool Serge- another high quality drapery fabric, Serge is a popular choice in Europe, but will occasionally be encountered on road shows. Heavy, dense, and with good acoustic properties, Wool Serge is inherently flame retardant.


    | o    o     o     o    o      o     o
    |     ||    ||    ||    ||    ||    ||
    |     ||    ||    ||    ||    ||    ||
    |         Fullness
    |___________Pipe or Chain Pocket_________

Curtains come in several forms and arrangements:

curtain types

Guillotine curtain: flies straight up and down. One of the most common curtain riggings.

Travelers or draw curtains: split in the middle into two panels and pulled open and shut on tracks, generally with an "endless" operating line. Usually hand operated, but may be run with a winch, especially with remote control systems.

More curtain types

Braille curtain, or Austrian drape: a curtain raised from the bottom using vertical parallel lift lines.

Tab or Tableau curtains, also known as Opera drapes: two overlapping panels pulled upward and outward on the diagonal. Main drape travelers are sometimes also rigged with opera draping built in for alternate use.

Contour or profile curtains, also known as Venetian drapes: rigged similarly to braille curtains, but can be raised in various configurations because each lift line can be individually adjusted.


Curtains, borders, legs may all be hung stretched flat, or may be hung with fullness.
Fullness is a gathering of the material of the soft goods to make it thicker and make it disappear in light even more.
Looks more attractive and finished than when hung flat.

Fullness is expressed in percentage of fabric folded back on itself, or how much longer material is than pipe length it takes up. Therefore: a curtain half again as long as the pipe it is hung on with the excess distributed as gathers or pleats, has 50% fullness. If it is twice the length of its batten, it has 100% fullness.

Fullness can be sewn in using any desired pleating system.

Sewn fullness easier to put up, only need to stretch the top out and tie to batten. Also, works well with traveller system; top can be pulled flat by the carriers but the fullness will stay evenly distributed.

However, if fullness is sewn in, can't hang piece without fullness.

An alternative: use tied fullness. In this system, curtains are sewn flat but made longer than pipe. Piece is tied on with gathers.

Tied in fullness will not work well with travellers, as the carriers pull the fullness out as they extend. You CAN tie a sort of pinched pleat in by tieing two grommets to each carrier, but that is all, an it doesn't work as well as a sewn fullness.

Other Softgoods

Scrims: curtain made of an open weave fabric becomes transparent when lit from behind, but which appears opaque when lit from the front.
Usually woven in one piece to avoid seams. Most scrims are of sharkstooth scrim, good compromise between transparency and opacity. Where almost complete transparency is desired there is bobbinette scrim. For high opacity, there is leno filled scrim. Filled scrim is often used for:

Cycloramas or cycs: large scrims used for simulating sky. Rigged far upstage, often on curved pipes to wrap around back of the scene. Usually hung with a Bounce, a white canvas curtain just upstage of the scrim cyc. The cyc gives effect of distance and the bounce gives opacity.

Transparency: scrims "painted" with dyes to create a drop that is opaque and visible when front lit but which disappears to reveal a scene behind when back lit.

Drops, or backdrops: large pieces of canvas which are painted to be scenery. To look natural as possible, must be stretched to get rid of wrinkles. Simplest way to do this is to sew a long tube called a pipe pocket into the bottom edge of the drop and insert a water pipe for weight. Wooden battens sandwiching the drop, or chain in a chain pocket are also used.

Full drop: a solid piece of canvas, usually as large as the stage picture.

Cut drop: a drop with holes cut into it for scenic effect. Often used for foliage drops, with leaf shapes cut into the edge and through the drop. Cut drops are often made using netting to hold the irregular edges and shapes of the cuttings in position.

Roll drop: a method of rigging full drops in a theatre without a fly loft. The drop is tied to the batten above. The bottom is fastened to a round tube 4 to 6 inches in diameter. The ends of the tube sticks out beyond both ends of the drop by several feet. Ropes are wrapped around each end of the tube in opposite direction from the curtain wrap. When the ropes are pulled up, they upwrap from the tube and cause the drop to wrap around the tube, When the drop is let in, the ropes wrap up around the tube as the curtain unwraps. The tubes were once made of wooden strips, but today are usually plastic or aluminum tubing. Cardboard rug cores also work for smaller drops.

Tripped drops: Another method of flying out a long drop in a short fly house. Lift lines are attached to the bottom pipe (or to a pipe in a special pocket one-third of the way up the drop) and are raised to lift the bottom of the drop out of sight.

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Copyright © 2002 Mick Alderson