Building a Model Theater

Per Brink Abrahamsen (Autor) und Ole Wagner (Übersetzung ins Englische) haben uns für unseren Blog freundlicherweise die Erlaubnis gegeben, diese Bauanleitung für ein Papiertheater online zu stellen. Dafür möchten wir den beiden an dieser Stelle ganz herzlich danken, Benno Mitschka und Christine Schenk.

BUILDING A MODEL THEATER

 By Per Brink Abrahamsen

(Translation: Ole Wagner)

 Why a new model theater construction?

At the moment there seems to be a great interest in trying new ways in building model theaters (something very positive); they are, however, all of them either very complicated or expensive – or both. This is true about practically all suggested constructions ever since the first one offered in “Soufflören” in 1880 which practically requires you to be a skilled craftsman. But what can one do, if one is a novice without much experience, having a new interest but not knowing if it will last, and consequently if one’s new interest in the model theater is something you really want to invest in?

Description of the construction

The construction described below has been developed in connection with a course for new starters. It can be hammered together in half an afternoon; will only need a few meters of lists, a piece of cardboard, some plywood, a hammer, saw, drill, nails and bolts. Then you will have a theater in which you can put up your decorations, rig up your lighting – and see if it is something for you. You do not even have to buy a proscenium: with a ruler and a pair of compasses you can draw and paint one that might just look all right. The construction consists of a front-piece with the proscenium and a back-piece held together by four pieces of strong plywood. When the theater is taken apart the back-piece can lie inside the front-piece together with the stage floor, and the whole theater only takes up a minimum of space.

Dimensions and size of theater

All dimensions and measurements are given in millimeter (mm). The dimensions of the materials are not very important as long as they are not too delicate. For a theater in the C-size wooden strips 25 x 25 mm would be appropriate and plywood or board of a thickness of 10 mm is fine. The measurements given here are based on these dimensions. For a theater in A/B-size 30 x 30 mm for the lists but the size for the plywood parts is the same.

The proscenium

The starting point is the proscenium. The standard size of a C-proscenium is approx. 850 x 650 mm. If the proscenium has other dimensions, e.g. the “Barbara Theater” or the “Pegasus”, the measurements must be adjusted accordingly. So when you have decided which size your proscenium should be, and maybe have pasted it on cardboard (remember to paste paper on the back in order to balance the tension of the proscenium-paper), let it dry under a heavy weight for at least two days. Cut it out and check the dimensions as the paper may have become longer and broader than before.

The front-piece

With nails and/or screws you assemble the front-piece to fit the size of the proscenium (take a look at the drawing). The proscenium is now glued or fastened to the front-piece, but before gluing or fastening it, it might be a good to place the screw eyes for the curtain(s) and the top-curtain in the upper strip. One might also screw a strip or molding across the backside of the front-piece as a guide for the side-curtains.

The back-piece

The back-piece should not be broader than it can easily be placed inside the lists of the front-piece – without forcing it! So, if the front-piece is, say, 650 mm broad and 850 mm high, the back-piece should be assembled to be as broad as the front-piece minus the two side-lists and the thickness of the two plywood pieces connecting the front-piece with the back-piece (you better take a look at the drawing now and then) which means – taking the given measurements:

650 mm minus 2 x 25 mm minus 2 x 10 mm = 580 mm.

So you make the back-piece 580 mm broad. The height of the back-piece will be only 800 mm in order to make room for the screw eyes and for the strings holding the curtains. So you nail and glue together the back-piece as shown in/on the drawing.

 The stage floor

In order that it can be placed inside the back-piece, the stage floor can be made no more than 530/525 mm deep and 650 mm broad (=the breadth of the proscenium/front-piece). You must saw a notch in the floor 25 x 25 mm at either side at the front and 25 x 60 mm at either side at the back: check that you get the notches right at the back (drawing!).

 Assembling the pieces

The front-piece and back-piece can now be assembled by means of the four plywood connecting pieces measuring 90 x 525 mm, one at the top and one at the bottom in either side, each of them with four bolts and wing nuts in order that the theater can be taken apart easily. OBS: The connecting pieces are fastened inside the front-piece and on the outer side of the back-piece (check drawing!). The stage floor is put in place and you have a theater.

Note:

To keep things as simple as possible, no footlights or protruding front stage/basement has been described. Such things can be made later. Lamps with clamp holders can be placed on the upper connecting pieces, and you can make string systems for flying figures etc., but the basic idea is that here you have a speedily built theater on which a newly found interest can be tested without much work or great expenses.

 Materials needed for a C-size theater (measurements in millimeter (mm):

Wooden lists for front- and back-pieces: 4 pieces 25 x 25 x 800 mm; 2 pieces 25 x 25 x 650 mm

Plywood board pieces:

  •  for the 4 loose connections: 4 pieces 10 x 90 x 580 mm
  • 2 for the back-piece: 2 pieces 10 x 90 x 580 mm
  • and 1 for the stage floor: 650 x 525 mm

Cardboard (3 mm) for proscenium, top curtains and side curtains: The cardboard must be a bit larger than the paper sizes.

16 bolts (40 mm long) with wing nuts Small nails or screws (20 mm long)

Small screw eyes (for curtain strings)

Glue for wooden construction

Wallpaper paste for pasting paper parts on cardboard

 

The theatre seen from the side (DS=Danish: ”Damesiden” i.e. the Lady’s side). Note how the front- and back-piece are held together.

 

Same side: We see the top-side of the stage floor with its front to the left in the photo. Note the different cuts of the corners in front and back.

 

Here we see all the pieces displayed:

 

Standing:

to the left the back-piece, seen from its front-side (NB).

To the right the proscenium-piece, also seen from the back.

Lying down:

To the left the four connecting pieces.

To the right the stage floor seen from the back. The stage floor has been consolidated by two optional lists, screwed to its underside.