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1.  Light Weight Touring Flats

Posted 08-21-2014 06:50

I really need advice for my one-act competition set (The Savage Dilemma by John Patrick). It's an interior and it has to be free standing and fit in a 10 x 10 space. I need very lightweight and very durable 4 x 8 wall (flats?) to be hinged like a fan. Does anyone know what I should buy? Thank you in advance!  

Patricia Giles
Theatre Director
Columbus GA

2.  RE: Light Weight Touring Flats

Posted 08-21-2014 11:23
We use an eighth inch wall material called luan for making flats. The frame is made of one by four. You might want to try piano hinge instead of traditional door hinges as well. They are lightweight and quite easy to line up straight. ------------------------------------------- William Jacobsen Red Deer AB -------------------------------------------

3.  RE: Light Weight Touring Flats

Posted 08-22-2014 16:48
For light-weight and easy to move, consider honeycomb core cardboard (usually 1 - 1 1/2" thick) that is treated with fire retardant / intumescent paint.  It's not long-term durable, but it is quick to make-up and doesn't break apart like styrofoam or other foam-core products that can produce toxic fumes if they burn.

If you want to make the honeycomb panels more durable (the edges are easily ding'd), then wrap them with a continuous layer of fire-retardant (FR) muslin that is attached with spray-glue or brush-on glue.

Standard white pine framed fabric-covered flats are really pretty cheap to build and light weight, and it's always good practice to have the class build them.  Of course, you have to treat the wood and muslin with fire retardant for these, too.

Too frequently I see Unit Sets pieces that are not treated with fire retardant.  C'mon folks!  It's been law to build scenery and props from non-combustible materials for over 100 years now.  No more excuses!  Just do it.  Fire-proofing treatments are readily available and affordable.  Set a good example for the students and let it be part of their understanding about how stuff is built and works in the theatre.  Ignoring / omitting this from the teaching process just promulgates bad practices.  The schools pay hundreds, ney, THOUSANDS of dollars every year for school bus safety, fire safety, and football helmets - they must understand that this is a Fire Code requirement.  It is NOT OPTIONAL.
Erich Friend
Theatre Consultant
Teqniqal Systems

4.  RE: Light Weight Touring Flats

Posted 08-23-2014 15:32
Thank you very much! I will definitely look into buying these. Just a couple more questions. What company would you recommend that I buy them from? Do you think I should buy 4 x 8 sheets or do you think that it will appear to be too short on-stage? Do you know if they come in 4 x 10 sheets? 

Patricia Giles
Theatre Director
Columbus GA

5.  RE: Light Weight Touring Flats

Posted 08-24-2014 07:56
The luan, lumber and hardware can all be found at Home Depot, Lowe's, Menard's and the like.

Mike Morris
Technical Director
Harrison OH

6.  RE: Light Weight Touring Flats

Posted 08-24-2014 14:19

If you use luan, try to get material that does not use tropical woods so the tropical rain forests aren't being deforested.

Also, I use Flamex Paint Additive for my sets.

John Perry
Drama Instructor
Atherton High School
Louisville KY

7.  RE: Light Weight Touring Flats

Posted 08-25-2014 09:21
Where can you buy the honeycomb cardboard and what does it cost now?  I used them about 20 years ago and loved them. I bought them from a company in St. Louis that went out of business.  I would love to pass along the info to our tech person.  

Ed Grooms
Fine Arts Coordinator
Webster Groves School District
Ballwin MO

8.  RE: Light Weight Touring Flats

Posted 08-24-2014 16:14
Here are some thoughts adding to what others have already suggested:
Consider a similar arrangement with even cheaper, lighter material. I toured a show with PVC pipe as the theatrical flat frame using corrugated plastic (standard 4' x 8' sheets which were fine for height on a variety of stages, and come in a range of colors from a local dealer) zip tied to the PVC top, bottom, and sides. It was portable, light-weight, and students were able to assemble and strike the set quickly. You can put elbows or connectors at any joint to make any configuration and they are hinges simply by design of how PVC works. You cannot paint or spray paint plastic without the proper type of spray paint, of course, however you also can use Sharpie (project any image on the surface and trace) or print posters of images the same size or use fabric and adhere with Spray 77 spray glue. Flats turn around for double the scenic space, or even configure as periaktoi. Any plastic flat that doesn't have the 4x8 piece can be used as entrance/exit. Both PVC and plastic can be very inexpensive (a few hundred dollars) by comparison to building a set. Then you have the frame, and can swap out the plastic per show, if you make the flat show-specific. Save the plastic so you can put it back together. Sheets store easily upright with solid surroundings so plastic doesn't bend and get a kink in it. If you need to cut shapes into it, you'd want to invest in a plastic cutting knife as box cutters are okay, but aren't as easy to manipulate for longer cuts.
Hope that's helpful as you put your project together!

Jo Strom Lane
Theatre Teacher and Director, Roosevelt HS
Portland Public Schools
Portland OR