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Elegant Scene Changes

Beauty and the Beast stage revolve


Confession: I HATE scene changes. That moment when everything on stage comes to a standstill. The magic disappears, the lights go dim and you suspend your interest. People in black clothes start whooshing around the stage moving things around. I hate it even more if the tabs (curtains) close to disguise the event, cutting the audience out altogether. As if we don’t know what’s going on. Then, after the scene change, it starts up again and we try to pick up the thread. I will do almost anything to avoid that scenario.

Elegant scene changes revolve


Scenes do change though and there are times when the table will go off, the chair will move. But, there are many ways of not stopping the action while that happens. Using a revolve is one of them.
So, you’re wondering, who turns the revolve? Well, in my production of Beauty and the Beast (see pic above) the set was a curious mixture of fantasy and steampunk. I loved the whole mechanical aspect of the steampunk design, it suited the scene change. So I had my crew in steampunk costumes, acting (yep, they had to act), whilst turning the revolves. It became part of the storytelling mechanism.
My storyteller and the musicians also adopted the steampunk look. The steampunk team became the backbone of the storytelling process. They also acted as extras for odd scenes and there was no need to pretend they weren’t there at any time. No unnecessary and embarrassing breaks in the action when the revolves turned. These moments met with music and light changes, adding magic and drama. Creating an exciting part of the action and story – not a bland scene change. In fact, many people mentioned that when the revolves turned it was exciting – the magic worked.
James and the giant peach stage revolve


A few (ok, many) years ago I directed James and the Giant Peach. Now there’s a show that needs a revolve if ever I saw one! Offbeat’s Jim Rolt engineered the fantastic peach. TIt sat on an 8′ square revolve and occupied centre stage throughout. A couple of screens sat either side for projected scenery. Another elegant way of changing the set. The revolve was not only the peach, but we attached a façade to one side at the beginning to create the Aunts’ house. We removed it after the peach turned for the first time. One side was a cross section so the actors could be inside the peach. The other was the outside with ‘windows’ so they could all look out. It dominated the stage. It was magnificent. Again, the turns were always moments of magic – music, lights and action all taking place – no stopping, no pauses!


Of course you don’t need to use BIG revolves. We used 2 smaller ones in Beauty and the Beast – reminiscent of fairground waltzers. Perfect for quick changes – ‘interior scene with table and chair’ to ‘exterior stone wall with statue’. In seconds. If you’ve never considered using one before – why not give it a try?