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Theater Curtains: Setting The Stage

Published on: December 22, 2023

Last Updated on: February 13, 2024


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There is a lot that goes into setting the atmosphere in a theater. You need the right lighting, great acoustics, and good theater curtains. That last element matters more than you may realize. 

Curtains (or drapes) aren’t just decorations, they can play a role in setting the mood of the play and helping the narrative. Today, we will be reading about the importance of drapes in theaters and some of their different kinds. So, keep reading. 

Drapes: Part Of The Story

Most people go to a play and expect to get the entire story from the script, listening to the dialogue to see how the plot progresses. Some may not realize that the set and drapes may also play a part in conveying the message and tone of the play.

The First Act Without Actors

Before the first words are spoken, the stage curtains can start to present the audience with important clues about the performance ahead. More ornate and embellished curtains may put people in the mood for a more formal play or a dramatic epic, while simpler drapes may indicate the story will take place in a more humble setting or deal with very relatable themes.

The Power of Color

You can also express parts of your story through the color of the curtains. Colors have different emotional connotations. Red tones can make people feel excited and powerful, perfect for an energetic play with lots of action. Deep blues and purples can represent mystery and sadness, while lighter tones can symbolize innocence and peace. Using different colored drapes can tell a lot about the story before a line is ever spoken.

Patterns Speak Volumes

Theater curtains also offer a chance to add patterns to the set and enhance the ambiance. Gold embroidery on a lush velvet curtain hints at a classic and luxurious theater experience, perfect when a classical play is being performed. Abstract and avant-garde designs might be found in theaters that offer more modern productions, giving a contemporary feeling to the set.

Design And Flow

The style and design of drape curtains also factor into the feel of the story. Sleek and straight curtains give a more modern play experience, while heavy drapes with lots of gathering that pool on the floor are more traditional.

The way curtains are moved on the set also adds to the audience’s experience. Curtains that can be swept to the side, moved up and down, or parted down the middle, can be used for transitions between scenes.

Types Of Theater Curtains Found On Stage

The possibilities for theatre curtains are endless. You can choose anyone who simply takes the theater performance to the next level. Furthermore, the theatre drapes are designed for multiple uses on the stage. So, let’s check out the different types of stage curtains:

Proscenium Curtains

These refer to the primary valance and key curtains in theatres. They act as a decorative barrier between the stage and the audience. Before the audience can see a performance, they have their first look at this curtain, which is why the proscenium curtain is a crucial design element.

Grand Drape

Grand drapes are also called front curtains, house curtains, or main curtains. This closed drape is considered ideal for the audience before the beginning of the show, at intermission, and after the show stops. Generally, it hangs just up of the proscenium line and has close proximities to the acting area. Thus, it is easily visible to the audience. 


Again, a common moving drape found on a theatre stage is called travelers. These curtains are popular with other names too, like bi-parting or draw curtains, and are constructed in two different halves. They can either operate manually or with motorized features. Traveler curtains can either come in rigged figures or without any operating line. 

Masking Curtains

Masking drapes are helpful for concealing rigging, hardware, and lighting tools from the target audience. Side borders, legs, and side curtains all belong to the category of masking drapes. Masking drapes are usually made up of velour or velvet, which is heavy enough to act as a barrier. Further, it has a luxurious feel and noise-absorption capabilities. 

Side Curtains, Borders 

Side curtains, rear setting drapes, or back curtains define any drape that is more than the grand drapes. These theater curtains have a different style and might differ from layers of travelers, borders, and legs. Secondly, borders refer to the short and wide drapes that block the lights and scenery.


These refer to side theatre curtains that are both tall and narrow. They lie on either side of the stage and lie alongside the grand drape. The leg curtain is made to block the view of the backstage audience. In several performances, three legs are present on both the left and right sides. 

Cyclorama Backdrops 

Cyclorama refers to an enormous fabric piece lying at the back of the stage. If it is used correctly, it can help in representing open space or even the sky. Also called cycs, the cyclorama backdrop helps in projecting additional effects. If you want to achieve the best cycs result, use seamless white canvas or filled cloth at the time of manufacturing. 


Last but not least, the “scrim” type of curtain comprises open netting and thin material. It is also known as the shark’s tooth scrim and is helpful in creating tons of special effects. Scrims appear opaque when some light is put from the front and if the back portion is not lit at all. This setup eventually creates a dreamy effect which brings down the audience’s attention in one place. 

Concluding Words: Invest In Curtains

In the world of theater, every element plays its part in telling the story happening on stage. That includes curtains. They can be easy to overlook, but the right pair can add layers of nuance to a play. Conversely, the wrong kind of curtains can be a distraction for people trying to enjoy the show.

As you build your next set, spend a bit more time thinking about the curtains and what you need. You can add color and pattern to enhance your show and give theater lovers a signature experience.

So, what are you waiting for? If this article helped you gain the necessary insights, comment below and share your thoughts on this!

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Temp Outlook December 27, 2023 at 11:39 pm

Pretty! This has been a really wonderful post. Many thanks for providing these details. Reply

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