Embroidered Velvet CurtainCotton velvet is one of the most successful pile fabrics used for the theatre. It gives a greater sense of luxury with a high sheen in the folds. High-pile fabrics, such as velvet and cut mohair, should be selected only after a thorough tryout at the upper part of the stage opening. A heavy pile fabric above the eye-level will appear many shades darker than it does at or below eye-level.
The second curtain shown is the delicately detailed curtain and valance in the Curran Theatre, San Francisco (Figure 2). The color scheme of the theatre consists of putty walls with plaster relief panels of dull antique gold. The stage curtain is a lovely sea-green velvet, hung with a 30 per cent fullness. Royal purple velvet hangings are used behind the grillework of the boxes. As the boxes do not depend in design upon the proscenium arch, they are draped in a complementary color. The royal purple of the boxes accentuates the green of the stage curtain. The continuity between it and the draperies over the boxes is emphasized in the fringe of the stage curtain which is purple, and the fringe for the hangings in the boxes, which is a combination of green and purple.
The main curtain is hand-embroidered, in a large scroll design of brown and gold with leaves in several shades of green. The flowers are in harmonious combinations of color, such as gold, orange and purple, red, blue and purple, but the various shades are so softly blended that the whole effect becomes one of a fine mosaic pattern against a sea-green background. It is important that the design on the sides of the main curtain be raised above the level of the rest of the curtain, to carry the eye up to the valance and unify the design.
The valance has a large urn as a central motif, with a background of gold cloth, outlined with green and purple scrolls. The same embroidery technique is used on the valance as is employed on the curtain. However, the valance pattern is larger in detail, for it must be remembered that when the main curtain is raised the valance is the only decoration in the proscenium opening and must, therefore, appear important. The valance has a soft undulating line at the bottom, just enough to relieve it from stiffness, and is outlined with a purple and green fringe and tassels, again carrying the colors of the box curtains across the top of the opening. A wide band of tied cords in purple finishes the top with a definite line around the curve of the proscenium arch. Two 5-foot tassels as pendants for the valance are made of solid fringe with headings of cloth-of-gold.
This curtain was detailed on paper 49 inches wide, which is the finished width of the velvet. The pattern was drawn in charcoal and notes made as to the placing of the colors. This enabled the embroidery manufacturer to know the exact point at which each strip of material matched and at what height from the bottom. When this curtain was hung each seam was matched perfectly and no additional work was needed.
To introduce the gold color of the auditorium and the decoration of the proscenium arch into the main curtain, gold cloth was used as a backing for the heading of the wide bottom fringe. This fringe, which is purple, has a wide heading of purple cords knotted at intersections with green rosettes. Large and important tassels of purple, with small tassels and interlacings of green, are placed at intervals across the top of the fringe and hang down over the gold cloth, breaking the straight line across the stage. The fringe itself is 37 inches high and when compared to the opening seems very small. This, again, gives the effect of size and scale which has always to be considered in a theatre and carefully studied. The high points of decoration on either side of the main curtain are 20 feet above the stage, yet they appear low from the balcony.
Other HangingsThe Curran Theatre orchestra curtains are of purple velvet to match the hangings in the boxes. The curtains used in the lobby and entrance are of two different materials, with purple velvet on the side towards the auditorium and a combination of purple and gold figured velvet on the lobby side. The walls of the lobby are painted a verde antique green with metallic finish. The walnut chairs in the boxes are covered with purple velvet, with green and gold gimps.
The stage dressing, the curtains hung either side of the opening behind the main curtain and the valance over them, are of mouse-colored cotton velvet. This color was employed because it is the most neutral tone for "dressing-in" stage scenery and one that absorbs the color of the footlights and harmonizes with the lighting effect. A second curtain, or act curtain, is of the same mouse-colored velvet. This curtain is made in the same way as the rep curtain in Plate 63 but is not trimmed at the bottom. A wide hem of about 15 inches finishes it at the bottom. The finishing of the lower portions of stage curtains is important. When both curtains are raised the audience, from the first few rows in the orchestra, can see for a considerable distance behind their bottom edges, so that the material must be turned up at the bottom at least a foot. When canvas lining or backing is used, a band of velvet should be sewn across it, so that when the curtain is raised exceptionally high the white edge of the canvas will not show from the auditorium.