56 Illustrated Theatre Production Guide 2 ed
Hanging drops and curtains on a batten involves tying
hundreds of bow knots. Like any task in the theatre (or
elsewhere, I would imagine), there are a few tricks that
make the job a bit easier. After you have determined
which lineset to use, you will need to know where to
locate the curtain on the batten. If you are hanging legs,
the designers ground plan can be consulted to find the
distance of the onstage side of the leg from the centerline
of the stage. In most theatres, the center of the battens is
marked with red tape. If not, there is generally some
architectural feature that will give you a clue. Measure
along the batten from the center to the appropriate point
and mark the pipe. Always measure distances from the
center of the batten, never from the end. Plans are notori-
ously inaccurate about the length of battens. If you are
moving from theatre to theatre, there is no way to draw
a plan that is accurate for all of them, but the center of
the stage is always an easily defined starting point. The
intersection of the centerline and the plaster line is often
considered to be something like the origin of a graph
when it comes to laying out points on the stage.
Tie on the leg beginning at the point you measured,
and then work your way toward the offstage end of the
pipe. It is helpful to begin the first tie with a double
wrap around the pipe and then the regular bow knot so
that the tie line is choked onto the pipe. This keeps the
onstage edge from creeping offstage along the batten as
you stretch the goods out tight. Double only the first
tie, not all of them. The extra tie doesnt make anything
work better and can be a real time-waster during a load
out. Often, the leg will be too wide for the batten and
will need to be tied back by folding it to the rear and
continuing to tie it to the pipe. The other choice is to
accordion-pleat the goods at the end of the batten. This
approach can sometimes be a better choice when a
bottom pipe is involved.
Most drops are hung with the center of the drop
aligned with the center of the batten, so there is no need
to measure anything. The drop should have a center-
line marked on the webbing and/or have a different
colored tie that marks the center.
When a folded drop comes out of a hamper and is
laid out on the stage, it may not be obvious which way
to turn it before unfolding. Quite often there is a lot of
confusion, with ten stagehands arguing about which way
the thing should go, but I have found that this strategy
always works: lay it out on the floor facing up and with
the webbing pointing upstage. The goods will always be
in the proper position to face toward the audience.
Begin tying the drop by double-wrapping the center
tie, which can often be found by searching for the lone
white tie, or for CL (centerline) marked on the webbing
with a Sharpie. If the drop is heavy, it is often best to
skip along and tie every fifth or sixth tie, stretching the
goods each time. Then come back and fill in the open
spots. This technique prevents having to pick up the full
weight of the drop with every tie. If there is a group
working, be sure to reach over the pipe each time or
your arm will be in the way of the others. It is important
to stretch the drop as you tie it on the batten so that it
doesnt get wrinkles in it.
Curtains sewn with fullness often have a chain sewn
into the hem, which adds a bit of weight to the bottom
and encourages the goods to hang straight. A better
solution when possible is to use a bottom pipe, but of
course it wont fit on a drape with fullness. A bottom
pipe works well on any drop or curtain that is sewn flat.
When a pipe is used, the weight in the bottom is greater
and tends to do a better job of straightening out any
horizontal wrinkles. Also, the goods can be stretched
along the length of the pipe, thus removing a great
many of the vertical wrinkles along the bottom. Drops
must be sewn with a pipe pocket installed in order to use
a bottom pipe. The pipe itself is usually 3/8 black steel
water pipe, cut into lengths about 10 feet long that are
connected together with threaded couplings.
Bottom pipe should be installed after the drop has
been flown out, with the bottom of the drop about

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