Saws and Woodworking
Constructing wooden scenery requires some excellent carpentry skills. Woodworking in
the theatre has more in common with cabinet building than it does with most home construc-
tion like framing. Cabinet work is very exacting, and it results in freestanding units that are
transported to the work site for installation. The cabinets are assembled inside an already
existing structure, and have many moving parts. The framing structure of a house is station-
ary, and for the most part it really doesn’t matter how heavy it is, or whether it can be moved.
Scenery must be lightweight enough to at least move from the shop to the theatre, and quite
often, from one theatre to another.
Scenery is built in parts, or units, that are later assembled in the theatre. Many times
scenery must also be moved during a show—either hand-carried, rolled, or ﬂown out on a
rigging system. Moving the scenery around puts extra stress on its structure, which must be
taken into account when the units are designed.
In truth, building scenery is not like any other type of construction work. Stage carpenters
are called upon to build very complicated units within a very short time span. There are often
requirements for “magic” tricks, like an actor who gets sucked into the ﬂoor, walls that ﬂy
out on cue, or a bed that folds up into a table. If you were to ask a house carpenter for a
bridge that ﬂies out of the way for Act II, you would most likely receive a blank stare in
return. A theatre carpenter will ask how fast and how high.
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