Building A Flat

bill of materialsTCT has built a variety of flats over the years, and we've used a variety of materials in doing so. There's no one "perfect dimension" that we've discovered, but we're using what has become our standard size flat -- 11 feet high by 4 feet wide -- for this "how-to". This height, in several widths, but mainly four feet, seems to work best for our productions. However, we've also used 8, 14 and 16 foot flats over the years and you should experiment and adopt whatever size works best for your needs and space.
The flat we'll talk about building here has a muslin covering, but we've also used 1/8 inch veneer with some success. The advantage of plywood veneer is that it's easy to work with, sturdy and, if you're going to build a standard 4x8 flat, you don't have to worry about cutting and fitting to the frame. In fact, you can use the "factory edge" of the plywood sheet to square-up your frame. The disadvantages of plywood are more weight, a surface that tends to bounce light more and, if you're building taller flats, a seam that has to be dealt with (usually by covering it with gaffer's tape or a strip of muslin glued across the seam).
The advantages to muslin are that it is light-weight, cheap (when bought in bulk), and has a very nice finished surface that tends to absorb stage-lighting more. Disadvantages are that it can tear (but, on the other hand it mends nicely), and that -- until you get the knack of it -- it can be hard to work with in building flats.
Most of the materials you'll need can be found at your local hardware store. The same can be said for the tools you'll need (although you may have trouble affording or borrowing a table saw with a dado blade -- we offer an alternative to this problem, however). Muslin is the only item you may not be able to find locally. We order ours, in bulk, from Theatrical Lighting Systems, Inc. in Huntsville, Alabama. You should be able to buy your material through your own theatrical supply dealer.
Now, let's get building . . .
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Tupelo Community Theatre, P. O. Box 1094, Tupelo, MS 38802, 662-844-1935, or e-mail us