I have a lovely little theatre in my home and I really appreciate the luxury of having a permanent theatrical space to rehearse! The project was inspired by Jeff McBride who has his own home theatre and who teaches his Masterclass students that this is a sure-fire method to improve one’s magic performance. It’s the easiest way to try out new stage material to a friendly audience and the best way to avoid rehearsal procrastination caused by HATING the idea of having to find and set up your props and costume from scratch each time — you too?
My theatre is set up with the video camera in place; costumes and props ready to put on/load and music system ready to go. It’s warm, cosy and beautiful and a pleasure to work in. Before I bought this house and created the theatre, I had to rehearse in my one room, in a tiny space behind the bed with a video camera precariously placed in the doorway…no wonder I never got round to it! So if you’d like to create your own luxury rehearsal/theatre space, this is how you do it!
Firstly, I accept no responsibility for the scorn and wrath you’re going to get from your wife / significant other the moment you mention that you’d erm… quite like to create a magic theatre in your living room! We might as well assume right now that she who must be obeyed might not explode with joy at the concept of velvet drapes and silver spotlights… But in a magical fantasy world, let’s imagine that she warbles, “Oh darling, how marvellous, do whatever you like, here’s all the housekeeping cash, I can’t wait to see what you create!!”
First, I had to search for the right house. I told the estate agent that I would need a huge living room that I could turn into a theatre. He obviously thought I was either eccentric or deluded but nevertheless showed me lots of houses with massive living rooms and I bought the Sequin Starship. You can see from the rather blurry picture that the original house had a classic family living room with a Horrendous (capital H!) flowery wallpaper and a nasty, nasty green carpet. Decorators came the day I moved in and painted every wall white; the hideous purple flowers had to go! I tore up the vile green carpet and stripped and varnished the floor to make a beautiful pine floor for the auditorium and hard wood base for the stage.
The room is L-shaped so the long part is the half stage/half auditorium and the side part a workshop/mirrored practice space. I ordered full-length mirrors for the far wall and had a large workbench built with lots of storage space underneath for tools, sewing machine and storage boxes of material. Shelves on the opposite side hold props, tricks in the making and smaller boxes of screws etc. I have a large wardrobe rack for costumes and a cups/balls table that I used to keep my current act on, ready to rehearse, again one of Jeff’s teachings.
The walls of the theatre are hung with good quality black velvet. Simple to do, we made wooden brackets on the walls that hold 2 x 4 lengths of wood. The velvet is staple gunned to the wood and the whole panel can be easily taken down if not needed. The back and sidewalls are solid velvet panels with the side opening on to ‘backstage’ having 2 panels for easy access.
I bought the new LED types of spotlight because they have the advantage of keeping cool. They hang on a simple curtain pole put up in the inside of the theatre wall and plug straight into the standard electrical sockets on the wall. The final touch was some vintage ruby red theatre curtains with a touch of gold fringing with I found on e-bay and altered to fit.
That’s it! Very simple! How you design the auditorium is up to you. Mine is rather like an old fashioned parlour with a Chesterfield sofa, antiques, Moroccan lights and cushions. You can bring as many chairs in as necessary but I usually keep the room quite empty so that I can leave the video camera ready to record my rehearsals.
So there you are, home theatre, a great pleasure and a really valuable performance tool. Hoorah!!!