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Stage Design

Abraham’s Tent

This fall we have been going through a sermon series called “The Abraham Epic.” We decided to create a “tent” on the stage, a tent that looked like it belonged to a wealthy man.

I did some research on Google and found pictures of biblical tents. Most of it was drawn from people’s imaginations, I’m pretty sure! However, one thing that caught my attention was striped fabric.

Glen helped me search online (he is an online sale super sleuth) with my guidelines of “not too bright, big stripes because of the scale of our stage, 60 inches wide, and cheap!” He found some reasonably priced fabrics and I picked three that had colors that were complimentary to each other.

We had no idea how to make a tent so we did a test run the week before. It looked terrible.

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Wow. That was pretty awful.

Here’s the back. For support we used our one and only pipe and drape stand that our church owns, two podiums and a coat stand. Yup. We’re a pretty hip church and we spend the big bucks.

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Here’s another view. There are four “poles” (3 pipe and drape supports and the coat rack). We used the striped fabric and threw some burlap and old stretch panne velvet from a previous design over the top.

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We walked away knowing many ways not to construct the tent, but at least we had an idea what to do!

The week of the actual stage design, the tent supports were much wider. First we put the supports up, using various poles and rods we found around the church in addition to the pipe and drape supports. Then we tied string across the top and threw the fabric over the top. Notice the podium stand under the center 2 supports to make them a little taller than the end supports.

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When we were done, it definitely looked better than the test run. The striped fabrics were draped down the sides and pinned to the carpet.

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Meanwhile, Danielle, our architect major, masterfully scored cardboard and made us a trunk for a palm tree. She crinkled up kraft paper and glued it to the trunk.

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We put the trunk on some supports (upside down storage boxes with paper taped over the top) and I painted in the grooves to add texture to the trunk.

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Here’s a close-up of the painting.

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I did not like how the tent looked at all, and Peter had the idea to raise it up on some platforms. It definitely helped and gave the tent a grander scale. You can also see the long tree trunk drying below.

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Glen figured out that the tent looked bad because the roof was all wrong. We needed to raise the back. We used griff clips along the back of the fabric to raise the roof, and the ropes were tied to the booms that were fastened to the ceiling. That really helped a ton!

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We got some fake palm trees from IKEA. (In the end we used three.) Lovely, lush palm trees, soon to be dismembered.

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Glen and Peter helped to hack off the leaves. They use some pretty heavy-duty metal role in the base of the “trunks!” After much sweaty work, Peter discovered all he needed to do was cut through the plastic and just pull the leaf off! I love working with genius people.

Here’s how the leaf looked after being detached from the tree.

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Using green floral tape, I taped two leaves together to make a long leaf.

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Peter attached the top of the trunk to the ceiling. It was too long so he had to lop off a section. That leftover part made a perfect support for all the leaves! It looked like a dwarf palm tree.

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We put the leaves in the trunk and it looked awful! They were so short it looked like little sprouts coming out of the tree. Glen had an idea he said would blow me away. He ran to the children’s ministry area and plundered the large play leaves that were hanging there. He climbed up and put it in the tree and touted it as the best thing ever.

I laughed hysterically.

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Here’s a more clear shot of the “tree.” Glen would ask people passing by, “Don’t you think that looks great?’ The people were so polite. They all said things like, “Well, that might work.”

I said, “No, that does not work at all,” and made Glen take it down.

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I took some of the palm tree leaves and taped three leaves together to make longer leaves and finally it looked better because the leaves were more in scale.  We didn’t have the budget to buy any more palm trees, so that just had to do. We used some color lights, dim of course, to hide the fact that the palm tree was a bit bottom-heavy and lacking foliage on top.

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The set dressing made all the difference. Before all the props, the tent looked a bit blah. We found items from all over the church and used them to make the tent look more real. Peter got a leaf gobo (a plate to insert in lights to make it look like leaf shadows were on the roof) and that made it look even better! (Though, our new light slipped over time so the top of the tent is in shadow. :-()

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I am now a big believer in dressing sets. Here are the close-ups below and you can see where we got everything.

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I think the effect worked pretty well. Here’s a view a little to the side… it really looks like the tent is three-dimensional!

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And a little more to the side of the tent.

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But if you stand directly to the side, you can see that there is hardly any depth at all. The entire depth of the tent was probably 3 to 3.5 feet! It was all an illusion.

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Part of what helped the illusion was something we learned from our test run. I found that the red/darker color needed to go on the edge and the brighter fabrics in the middle. This made the middle of the tent look like it was more forward and that the sides were receding. (Compare the last photo on this post to the first photo.)

The lighting helped too. We used yellow gels that were aimed more directly. Green and red (I think, or orange) gels were aimed on the sides, making them look darker and more like they were in the shadow.

The color on the tree trunk helped bring out dimension and drama too.

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I’m pretty happy with the end result! But now that it has been up for 12 weeks, I’m really glad it’s coming down. Time for a change!

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3 Comments

  • Reply Carmen Lin

    I think this “Abraham’s Tent” is a great success. It looks like a rich man’s tent. It looks grand and real.
    This morning as I was listening to the sermon, I especially paid attention to the palm tree. I was wondering, “Is it a real, or a fake tree?”
    The tent also looks very beautiful, at least to my eyes. The colors of each piece of fabric stands out but they blend very well.
    Your team definitely did a great job!

    November 25, 2013 at 12:08 am
  • Reply Abraham’s Tent | Church Stage Design Ideas

    […] Angela Yee from University Covenant Church in Davis, California brings us this scenic element for their sermon series called “The Abraham Epic”. […]

    December 5, 2013 at 8:01 am
  • Reply Angela Yee

    Thank you for the encouraging words!

    December 14, 2013 at 10:50 pm
  • Leave a Reply