Scenery: Drops


J. Michael Gillette. Theatrical Design and Production, 4th edition. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company. 1999. Chapter 9: Scenic Production Techniques

1. What is the difference between a Flat

A flat is a 1x3 (or 1x4) wood frame covered with muslin, canvas or 1/4 inch plywood. It is generally used to form the walls of a set.


A platform is a 2x4 wood frame covered with 3/4 inch plywood. Platforms are used to change the level (or elevation) of the acting area.

    and Drop?

A drop is a large unframed sheet of muslin hung from a pipe (or batten) suspended from the ceiling of the stage. It is generally used as a backdrop at the rear of the stage.

-- Drops --

2. How should a drop be constructed?

A drop is generally made by sewing together two or more strips of muslin. The top and bottom edge is usually sandwiched between two 1x3 battens or sewn to 4" wide jute webbing.

3. In which direction should the seams of a drop run?


4. What is a sandwich batten?

A sandwich batten is used at the top and bottom of a shop built back drop. The muslin is sandwiched (hence the name) between two pieces of 1x3. A 40 foot wide drop requires a 40' (or greater) batten. For storage, the painted drop would be rolled on the top and bottom batten and would require 10 to 12 stagehands to carry it from the stage to the shop. Commercially made drops, which have a 4 inch webbing strip at the top and a 6 inch pipe pocket at the bottom can be folded into a duffel bag size package for easy transport from the theatre to the shop.

5. Why, and how, is the center of a drop marked?

The center of a back drop is usually marked with a colored tie line. Why? A painted back drop is hung starting at the center and working towards the ends of the pipe. If the drop is longer than the pipe, the excess is looped back towards the center of the stage.

6. How many yards of 80" wide muslin are in a 24x48' drop?

The drop would require 4 (actually 3.6) -- 16 yard (48') strips of muslin creating a total of 64 yards.
The process: Multiply the 24' height by 12 (inches / foot) and divide by the width of the muslin (80") = 3.6 strips. Round up to 4. Each strip needs to be 48' (16 yards) long. 16 yards * 4 strips = 64 yards.

    At $ 3.95 per yard, how much would the muslin for the drop cost?

7. What would be the cost of a pre-made 26x48' drop?

A 26'x48' seamed muslin (non-flame retardant) drop from Stage Technology costs $ 583.00 in the 2007-2008 catalogue.

    Approximately how much will this drop weigh?

At .05 pounds / square foot, this 1248 sqft (26'*48') drop will weigh about 62 pounds.

8. How much would a pre-made 31x48' scrim cost?

A black 31'x48' sharkstooth (flame retardant) scrim drop from Stage Technology costs $ 2,083.00 in the 2007-2008 catalogue.

9. What scenic studio will rent painted drops?

Tobins Lake Scene Studio

      Where is it located?

7030 Whitmore Lake Road
Brighton, Michigan 48116-8570
Near Detroit.

10. How much would it cost per week to rent a scenic drop for a production?

The rental charge for a back drop, or portal (2 legs and a border), is approximately $ 170 per week. In addition to the rental charge, each drop costs another $ 132 (again approximate) for the FedEx Standard Overnight round trip between Aberdeen and Detroit. A five drop show will cost about $ 1,510.

The backdrops for the Aberdeen Community Theatre's production of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun (July 2005) at the Capitol Theatre were rented from Tobins Lake Scene Studio. The link under each photo will take you to the "large" image of the rented drop on the Tobins Lake web page. Note how we were only able to use the center third of the Ballroom and Stone Arch drop.

Act 1, Scene 1: Wilson's Hotel, Cincinnati
#97: Hotel Tab

Act 2, Scene 2: Ballroom of the Hotel Brevoort, New York
#214: Ballroom Drop

Act 2, Scene 4: Governor's Island Near the Fort, New York
#16: Triple Stone Arch Drop

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Last updated: October 1, 2007
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