(Close Window)
Topic: Anyone have experience with Lycra/ Spandex?
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Feb 7, 2007 03:21PM)
I'm working on a production of Woody Allen's [i]Play it Again Sam[/i] and looking for a bit of help...

Basically, we want to have a character vanish through a wall. This is [i]not[/i] a magic trick, but just a way to get the character offstage without walking off or going thru a doorway. The vanish will occur during a crossfade of the stage lights, which may involve a momentary blackout or a bit of misdirection on the other side of the stage. We don't want to cover him or otherwise call attention to the vanish. So it's really not a "vanish" as we know it.

I'm thinking of using Spandex for a wall panel and having him just walk thru it. Painting and so forth are not a problem -- we have scenic artists who can do wonders. But I'd love to get some pointers on how to use the material (especially painting it) from any of you who have used it for something like this.

Thanks very much.
Message: Posted by: The Drake (Feb 7, 2007 03:26PM)

Of course you would paint it only after it is stretched tight. Keep in mind that Spandex will stretch width-wise and Lycra will stretch in both directions and therefore give you a flatter canvas to paint on.


Message: Posted by: Cliffg37 (Feb 7, 2007 04:00PM)
If yo take a wooden frame, and stretch two pieces of spandex over it, they will over lap. As long as they are tight and do not sag, the audience should not be able to see a slit at all. An actor need only walk with confidence to go through it. It will seal up behind him.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Feb 7, 2007 04:19PM)
Thanks, guys. That's exactly what I was looking for, especially the part about the direction of stretch. I guess a run to a fabric store is in order now... :)
Message: Posted by: Dave Dorsett (Feb 7, 2007 06:13PM)
That might not be as easy as you think... there are many "weights" of these materials. The one widely available at mart stores tends to be fairly light. For scenic use you need what is called "jumbo" spandex which holds up better.

Also, when stretching for an opening there is a tendency for a long piece to curve from top attachment point to bottom attachment point. The seam ends up looking like an old-fashioned longbow. Backing your long edge opening with a fairly taut elastic may take care of this.
Message: Posted by: Michael Baker (Feb 7, 2007 07:21PM)
You may also want to make the overlap absolutely minimal to avoid having the actor getting hung up during his journey through the wall.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Feb 7, 2007 07:27PM)
On 2007-02-07 19:13, Dave Dorsett wrote:
Also, when stretching for an opening there is a tendency for a long piece to curve from top attachment point to bottom attachment point. The seam ends up looking like an old-fashioned longbow. Backing your long edge opening with a fairly taut elastic may take care of this.
Yep, I suspected this. I'll keep you all posted :) , but I'm thinking the trick will be to stretch it as little as possible from top to bottom, and to do a minimal overlap as Michael suggested.

Thanks again!
Message: Posted by: Chris Stolz (Feb 7, 2007 07:59PM)
Hi George,

If this doesn't work for you, drop me a line. I did a trick exit on either side of the stage for a production of Dracula that worked quite well.

Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Feb 8, 2007 02:49PM)
Thanks, Chris... I may just take you up on that!
Message: Posted by: magicjohn2278 (Feb 8, 2007 05:54PM)
Maybe not quite what you are looking for, but wouldn't a simple self closing door panel built into the set be easier? (or pair of narrow doors) Depending on what your set is, I'm sure that it could be disguised to look like something innocent? (i.e. not a door!) - You will need a backing to to opening whichever way you go.
Message: Posted by: JR-mobile1 (Feb 8, 2007 08:47PM)
Years ago at Universal Studios The Pendragons did a similar vanish. I agree with Magicjohn. I'd go for secret doors. The ones used at Universal were built in to the "rock wall of the castle set" so the joints were invisible. You might build yours in to a "bookcase". This way the entire secret doors and frame could be one unit easily moved in to position with no alignment problems. Since a bookcase normally has a frame, it would be perfect for your project. The double doors are weak spring loaded so as to close as the person walks through them. I fear the elastic cloth idea will present too many headaches and not wear well.
Message: Posted by: George Ledo (Feb 9, 2007 11:49AM)
Actually, a "secret panel" is Plan B at this point. We will have three others on the set, disguised via the wall treatment and moldings. The biggest problem with this set is that it will be totally realistic, so some stuff we could do on other, more "stylized" sets wouldn't work here. We were originally thinking about a bookcase :) , but the director and I decided it would call too much attention to itself (reminds me of the rotating wall scene in [i]Young Frankenstein[/i]). I'm going to give the fabric a try this coming week, but I have a feeling we may fall back on Plan B.

Thanks so much for your input!
Message: Posted by: Stuart Coyle (Feb 9, 2007 06:01PM)
I used a lycra covered trap in a wall right downstage for the production "Lawn" last year at he Sydney and Perth festivals. The set was somewhat stylized but we didn't want the trap t be seen. We had the advantage that the wall the performer was disappearing through was covered in wallpaper up until near the cue. Then most of the wallpaper was torn down off the wall by one of the performers. We used a layer of wallpaper then the lycra behind it coloured to look like bare wall. The lycra was broken down a bit with a light touch of paint.

The effect worked well even though it happened only two metres from the front edge of stage but the lighting state at the time of disappearance had to be carefully considered.

In summary, if done carefully you shouldn't have to use plan 'B'.