Restoring the Stage Backdrops

This picture was probably taken when the Stewart Library Building in Corinna, Maine opened in 1898.

Auditorium and Stage in 1898

Auditorium and Stage in 1898

There were folding wooden seats for 300 people in the auditorium. On the stage we can see elegant front curtains, intricately decorated side pieces, and a beautifully hand painted backdrop.

Originally there were probably five cloth backdrops that rolled up on round battens using a system of ropes and pulleys. It was customary to have city street scenes, nature scenes and domestic interior scenes. We still have four of the backdrops. Sadly, only one of the original scenes has survived. The others were painted over many years ago.

Recently the Levi Stewart Community Theater restored the four existing backdrops to working order. The original ropes and pulleys are in place both on the stage and up in the attic.

Pulleys and ropes in the attic

Pulleys and ropes in the attic

Rolled backdrops and ropes overhead on stage

Rolled backdrops and ropes overhead on stage

We plan to use two backdrops in the Christmas Show this year on December 5 and 6.

Here is a photograph of the surviving original scene. The material is sewn together to make a roll 12 feet tall and 21 feet wide.

Surviving backdrop scene

Surviving backdrop scene

The colors are still bright and the paint is in fair shape. Notice the wear that is visible at the seams. To help protect it from exposure to light and wear, this backdrop will be kept rolled up over the stage. It will be lowered only for special occasions.

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