> > > >

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 233 (209)

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition
1945 Theatre Catalog
1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 233
Page 233

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 233

Effectiveness of Fabrics in the Theatre

Needs of Sound Forced the Use of Fabrics: But They Stay as an Adiunct of Decoration

We often wonder whether Mr. and Mrs. Average Theatregoer are conscious of the changes that have taken place in recent years in their favorite theatre. It was not so long ago that the local theatre or movie house was a mighty drab affair. The side and rear walls were merely covered with a coat of fiat paint, and, as for the stage, a painted olio curtain for presentations, advertising the wares of local merchants, was the last word in decoration. For the movies, all that was used on the stage was a black masking around the screen.


We hate to think so, but this could have gone on indefinitely if it had not been for the advent of talking pictures. That revolutionized everything, as the installation of sound equipment in theatres throughout the country gave both the sound engineers and the theatre owners plenty of headaches. The motion picture industry discovered that, although a modern miracle had been achieved in projecting sound, synchronized with the action on the screen, still left plenty of kinks to be ironed out. The biggest problem was the unexpected behavior of the sound waves. They cam e out of the loud speaker, located just under the picture screen, right on schedule, but then all semblance of law and order seemed to cease. Some waves sneaked across the stage and out of the back door. Most of them zoomed into space, danced off the side walls and kept on going until they crashed into the rear of the theatre at which point they were thrown back at the patrons, causing echoes and speech distortions. However, Hollywoodls sound engineers quickly solved the problem. Acoustical changes, by the use of fabrics in the theatre, were the answer, and here is how it worked.


Experiments proved that the hanging of a large semi-circular curtain immediately behind and around the screen, prevented the sound waves from going every which way, and kept them on a straight and narrow path. This large curtain, called a cyclorama, is usually made of a soft absorbent fabric, such as velour plush, heavy crash, rep, or similar fabric, which, by virtue of construction and texture, have become standard materials in acoustical treatment.


Working away from the screen, the next was to drape the entire stage. A deep valance, in lavish fullness, was hung from the proscenium arch, giving the decorator ample leeway to utilize his talents. To complete the project from a decorative angle, a front curtain, usually




President, Maharam Fabric Corporation

a traveler, was hung from a track running above and behind the proscenium arch supplemented on either side by a pair of legs and a border across the top. Here again the architect and consulting decorator really went to town, making use of their art and ability to create beautiful effects. The front curtain, in use only when the house lights were turned on, was the piece de resistance of the decorative scheme. High-pile silk and rayon velvets, plushes, damasks, and satins, in both plain and beautiful patterns, were chosen for their richness and luster. These lush fabrics, their natural richness enhanced by beautiful lighting effects, transformed the old timovief into a place of glamour and beauty.


Further liquidation of acoustical gremlins eliminated the echoes and speech distortions by covering the side and rear bare walls of the theatre with a material which absorbed the sound waves, just as a blotter absorbs ink. The most successful method was the use of rock wool, which possesses wonderful insulating properties. Cotton felt was also used

where the acoustic condition was not too acute. To cover the unsightly rock wool or felt, it was necessary to use a dece orative fabric which would further the absorbent treatment and, at the same time, beautify the theatre. These are not just ordinary, prosaic, everyday fabe rics which, even in the half-light of the theatre, stood out in bold relief. Patterns which were strictly theatrical in design and coloring, which no one but a highly specialized theatrical textile designer could have the vision to create and execute.


In recent years, lobbies have been considered almost as important as the interiors, bearing the same relation to a theatre as a foyer does to a home. If the lobby is unattractive, the desire of the public to patronize the theatre is, to a great extent, destroyed. A beautiful lobby, decorated with interesting fabrics, will create a considerable passer-by interest.

In many cases, the lobbies have been given the same treatment as the interior theatre walls; namely, a large or small motif damask, dependent on the size of the house, or a plain drapery fabric of a rich texture, either drawn taut or draped in pleats.

THE COMING OF SOUND mode theatre operators acoustic-conscious and, that patrons might hear, as well as see, as well as possible, draperies came into their own. Seen in this Maharam Fabric Corporation photograph of a theatre in southern Illinois is the use of hangings for the purpose of improving the acoustic characteristics of the auditorium, as well as to cover up stage boxes and organ grilles which were no longer needed.
1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 233