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Theatre Talk: Fly Curtains

Choosing the right type of front of house curtains is important for both the structural integrity of your stage and the atmosphere it creates for the audience. They are synonymous with the theatre experience, creating that grand opening to the start of the performance. However, knowing what type of stage curtain you need can be tricky, so in this post we’ll explore the traditional fly curtain and what it is best suited to.

What is a fly curtain?

A fly curtain is most commonly found in larger theatres, as it requires a built-in fly system above the stage to raise and lower the fabric. It is created as one drape that moves vertically to reveal the stage behind it. They can be made out of a variety of fabrics, and are usually lined to increase the opacity and ensure no light peeps through as the audience await the start of the show start.

How does a fly curtain work?

A fly curtain works by attaching to a series of ropes and controls, often referred to as a fly tower, allowing the curtain to smoothly open and close the show. It’s raised and lowered by either a counter-weight system or directly pulling on hemp lines.

A counterweight system is the most popular fly system in theatres. The front of house curtain is counter balanced by an equal amount of steel weights backstage.  These weights are also referred to as arbors and move both up and down a vertical track along a wall off stage.

A hemp system (also referred to as rope systems) was one of the first rigging systems used in theatres. Multiple rope lines run through the system, with sandbags as counter weights. These are easier to install but are known to be more difficult to operate.

Where can a fly curtain be installed?

The best type of stage for a fly curtain is a proscenium stage, which is the most common type of stages found in theatres. The audience are seated in front of the stage in stalls, and in tiered sections that are usually known as the dress and grand circle. For a fly curtain, you need to ensure you have enough space above to install the rigging system.

To find out more information about fly curtains and whether they’re the right solution for your theatre, get in touch with one of our staging specialists.