Elegant Scene Changes – Using a Revolve

Barbara —  May 23, 2013 — 4 Comments

The set for Beauty & the Beast used 3 revolves!

Confession: I HATE scene changes. That moment when everything comes to a standstill, the magic disappears, the lights go dim and people in black clothes start whoosing around the stage moving bits of the set on and off. I hate it even more if the tabs (curtains) are closed to disguise the event, cutting the audience out altogther (as if we don’t know what’s going on). Then, after the scene change break, it starts up again and we try to pick up the thread. I will do almost anything to avoid that scenario – I will not have scene changes if I’m directing. I will not have people in black infiltrating the production….

Even the sides were used - giving us 4 different scenes

Even the sides were used – giving us 4 different scenes

Scenes do change though and there are times when the table really does have to go off – 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 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 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 and 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 or have any unnecessary and embarrassing breaks in the action when the revolves were turned. Because of the magical nature of the play the turns were always marked with music and light changes (some very dramatic), creating an exciting part of the action and story – not just a scene change. In fact, many people mentioned that when the revolves turned it was really exciting – the magic worked.

You can see the revolves more clearly on our Youtube videos:
Beauty’s Home
The Castle

A gient peach built on an 8' square revolve

A gient peach built on an 8′ square revolve

A few years ago I directed James and the Giant Peach. Now there’s a show that needs a revolve if ever I saw one! The design was engineered by Offbeat’s Jim Rolt who made the most fantastic job of it. The Peach sat on an 8′ square revolve and occupied centre stage with a couple of screens either side for projections (another really elegant way of changing the scenery). The revolve was not only the peach, but we attached a façade to one side at the beginnging to create the Aunts’ house. That was removed from the back of the stage 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.

The view of the inside of the giant peach from the lighting box

The view of the inside of the giant peach from the lighting box

It worked brilliantly! We worked out a cunning design for turning the peach that involved hooks and poles and it could be carried out from behind without the crew impacting on the action. 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. The 2 smaller ones at stage right & left in Beauty and the Beast were reminiscent of fairground waltzers. They were perfect for quickly changing from ‘interior scene with table and chair’ to ‘exterior stone wall with statue’ in a matter of seconds. If you’ve never considered using one before – why not give it a try?

PS. The Giant Peach is still out there gracing many stages and enhancing many productions! If you want to HIRE the Giant Peach you can do so by emailing Rob Flowers on flowersr@adeyfieldschool.org (this is not a link! Please copy & paste into email)
If you want to hire our costumes please take a look at our Peachy costume page.

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Writer of Offbeat plays for adults, youth theatres, schools and anyone else! Loves to write, design and direct own shows (is that greedy?)

4 responses to Elegant Scene Changes – Using a Revolve

  1. I remember watching the scene changes in beauty and the beast and being really impressed with the flow and smoothness of the first few changes, but after that I stopped noticing them altogether and just saw the stage unfolding onto another place. Very effective indeed, though I still suspect some witchcraft involved- I mean, how else do you go from a cottage interior to a harbour (!) so convincingly for goodness sake?

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Offbeat Directing 4: What does the Director do? | Offbeat Blogging - May 28, 2013

    […] crew into the story if the story supports that kind of device, (I hate scene changes – see Elegant Scene Changes for my take on that). Use the talent and expertise you have available, don’t presume to know […]

  2. Me and my set | Offbeat Blogging - February 16, 2014

    […] What would I like to have? And .. very importantly for me .. how can I avoid scene changes? (See Elegant Scene Changes for my feelings about scene changes). I start my design right there and it evolves with the […]

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