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hooks attached. ‘Carriage buttons" may be nailed into the wooden frame, and the curtains (sewn at the top to strips of canvas) buttoned on to them. The curtains should be taken down and put away after performances, or the material will fade.
The curtains part in the middle of either side and at the back for entrances.
A little more plastic curtain stage is that shown below, with rectangular openings for the entrances, which may be left open or have shorter curtains hung in them on a wire which runs back of the curtains a few inches above the height to which the upper short curtains descend.
The location of the entrances can be changed by shifting the position of the widths of curtain which are cut short. An open entrance at the back with a screen of dark material behind it may suggest the witches' cavern in Macbeth or represent the entrance to a house; the side entrances may suggest the arched passageway of a narrow street in which other characters may be supposed to be seen approaching by those upon the stage. Shallow steps may be added in front of an entrance to suggest a porch.
A little better appearance will be lent a curtain stage if the curtains are made one third longer than the height of the stage and the upper third is folded over and allowed to hang in front down to the height of the top of the rectangular openings, giving the impression of an unbroken curtain running all the way around the
top of the stage. Several narrow strips may well be stretched across the top of the stage to break the mimic world from the reality of the ceiling of the hall.
Cut-outs of trees to suggest a forest, or vines to suggest a garden, or appropriate conventional decorative designs to suggest a royal hall, church, or tavern may be pinned on to the curtains.
A satisfactory compromise between a curtain stage and realistic scenery is to show a simple, painted scene through the back rectangular opening of a curtain stage. The picture may be changed from act to act to suggest the change of place.
The Elizabethan Stage. The curtain of the Elizabethan stage was not a front curtain as in our theatres. It divided the outer from the inner stage. The outer stage was usually used for scenes of indefinite location, which were really very numerous in Shakespeare's plays, though modern editors have given every scene a definite location now. Otherwise the outer stage might be thought of as outdoors, especially a street. The inner stage was usually used for interiors, which required furniture, or for outdoor settings that required properties or a suggestion of realistic scenery, such as boughs or trees, to localize the scene as a forest or garden."
1 An interesting study of Shakespeare's staging may be made from Shakespeare's Theater, by Ashley H. Thorndike [The Macmillan Company), or Shakespeare, the Man and his Stage, by E. A. G. Lamborn and G. B. Harrison (Oxford University Press).
To play a street scene the actors entered in front of the curtain from the doors at either side of the stage, and walked across the front section of the stage, which extended out into the auditorium. The curtains could be parted slightly in the middle to suggest the
entrance to a house. Opening the curtains revealed the inner stage, set with table, chairs, or other properties to suggest an interior. Closing the curtains hid the inner stage, and another scene could be played in front while the inner stage was being set for perhaps a different scene. Windows at both sides above the doors were used for scenes in balconies or towers. The balcony itself suggested any elevated place, like the top of a castle wall or an upper room. In the cut the inner stage is closed, and the upper curtain is partly drawn, revealing the balcony.
The simplicity of this stage for changing quickly from outer to inner scene and back again made plays of many scenes quite possible. Indeed place seems to have been shifted with almost the facility it is today in photo plays.
A Classroom Adaptation of the Elizabethan Stage. An extremely simple representation of the Elizabethan stage possible in a classroom when an audience is expected, may be produced by hanging a curtain divided down the middle on a wire about six feet out from the front of the room. Scenes to be played on the outer stage are played in front of the curtain, using the openings between the curtain and the sides of the room for entrances and exits. These side openings may be masked with screens.
When the inner stage is to be used, the curtains part in the middle, revealing a setting of a chair or two, some boughs, or a cut-out tree of compo board colored green and brown with chalk or kalsomine.
Using the Platform Stage. No curtain is required either for this or the outdoor presentation. Rather wide screens, covered with burlap, gray lining, canvas, or outing flannel, or made simply of compo board, may be placed on both sides of the platform to conceal the actors who are “off the stage” and may be utilized at the same time to help the imagination of the audience. They may represent the trellises of vines in Benedick and Beatrice. Behind either of these screens may be the room in which Malvolio is imprisoned or the witches' cavern. Shylock may see the approach of Antonio by looking into the "wings" behind them.
From in front of the screens also, Sir Toby and his compatriots may watch Malvolio as he reads the letter, etc.
COSTUMING Realistic Costuming. Realistic costuming attempts to reproduce the historical dress of a country and a time.
Greek and Roman costumes are described minutely in the Encyclopedia Britannica under Costumes.
Dion Clayton Calthrop has a work splendidly and profusely illustrated on English Costume [The Macmillan Company). Other accurate pictures of period costumes will be found in the encyclopedias, dictionaries, and in European histories.
The Bankside Costume Book for Children by. Melicent Stone [Saalfield Publishing Company) gives costumes for most of Shakespeare's plays. This is a little book devoted to Shakespearean garments and accessories. It gives simple outline drawings of the period costumes and costumes for special characters as well as directions for cutting and making the garments, and contains also a chapter on armor, weapons, jewelry, and crowns.
There are serious difficulties, however, to reproducing distinctive costumes for each of the playlets. Even professional companies find period costumes too expensive to use a different style for each Shakespearean play. None of their costumes may be made exactly right for any play; but for a group of closely related plays, all are approximately correct. The perspective of centuries of time erases for us the subtle distinctions between the times and places of these particular plays.