Stage Design

Colored Criss-Cross Stage Design

Since I moved away from my previous church a year and a half ago, I have not had a chance to work on an original stage design until a few months ago. I was really happy to have the opportunity to create a stage design for our campus, Saddleback Church Irvine South.

We needed to tear down our Christmas stage set and replace it. At the same time, we received word that we would be hosting the traveling tapestry made by Saddleback’s Ex Creatis ministry of artists. Each of these fabric strips represents one life that was changed. I believe there were something like 20,000 or 40,000 fabric strips.


I wanted to create a stage design that would complement this tapestry, even though the tapestry would be located in another part of the room. The tapestry served as inspiration and I went with a design of fabric strips, which I drew up in Illustrator. I had created the stage set in Google SketchUp and took a screen shot. Then I added the fabric strips in Illustrator to create a design concept.


This concept was a favorite among the couple I made, so I returned to SketchUp and created a 3D mockup using rectangles to represent the strips. I wanted to calculate how much fabric we would need.


The rectangles were rotated at different angles and I played with overlapping to problem solve what would look best and how the fabric strips could overlap.


Since this was only my fourth or so project in SketchUp, it was a little tricky rotating these rectangles. (There is probably an easier way to do this too, but I don’t know the program all that well.) But in the end, it was really helpful because we saved tons of time during the installation.


The top view gave me the ability to measure how far the base of the strips needed to be from the back curtain and also the distance left and right of the drum cage. The tape measure tool also allowed me to measure the length of the strips so I could calculate the amount of fabric needed.


I added the measurements into the diagram so I could use this diagram during the installation:


Measurements above:

1) On pipe above the stage, distance between the fabric strips (pink numbers)
2) Length of each fabric strip (white numbers)
3. Distance of depth from back curtain (where we would put the sand bag to weight the fabric down) (yellow numbers)
4. Distance of width from drum cage (green numbers)

We bought two kinds of fabric: a translucent voile, and a transparent poly cloth. We had no idea which one would work better. In hindsight, the voile was better.

We tied one end on the pipe above the stage, pulled the fabric to the yellow/green measurement on the stage, and cut the fabric. Then we weighted it down with sandbags. Like, literally. Bags of sand straight from Home Depot. Our ordered black sand bags did not arrive in time.


We started from the center and worked stage left, then went back to the center and went stage right.


We had two people cutting and working on the floor and two people on ladders bringing up the fabric and tying it on the pipe with griff clips and black tie line. The installation went fairly quickly. All in all it took about 5 hours start to finish (just the fabric part, not including lights). The pre-modeling on SketchUp saved so much time!

This is how it looked when we were done. Totally unimpressive, with sagging fabric everywhere.


Once we got our real sand bags, we were able to stretch the fabric taught and it looked way better.


I drew up a lighting plot in Illustrator and we used this to install lights. Here’s a partial view.


We put lamps on the top shining down the length of the fabric, and some on the bottom shining up.  Due to limited budget, we were able to purchase most on the top (most PAR40’s) but the bottom was a mishmash of all sorts of fixtures we already had, from strip lights to small PARs to whatever we could find.


This was my first time programming the lighting board (Marting M1) with moving lights and it was so much fun. I tried to make different looks with varying color palettes — spring colors…


Vibrant reds and pinks…

Cool blues…


And, even though I am not a big fan of yellow, this gold set is one of my favorites.

PSWC Annual Celebration 2016

And a matching look for the Easter slides. (One down side I have realized is one of our sand bags is not heavy enough so once in a while the fabric sags. Notice the wrinkled in the orange fabric strip on the right. Every couple of Sundays I have to go there and pull it taught again. I really need to get another sand bag!)


The design is 3D so it looks different from the varying angles.


I love how it looks like the fabric is glowing!


Ironically, in the end the tapestry fell through and never came to our campus! It was great for inspiration though.

This project was a dream come true for me, after taking a theater lighting class last year for the first time. I struggled with the opportunity to work at this campus when I first heard about it, because I was supposed to be the volunteer lighting designer for another campus. It was an act of surrender to give up that opportunity and decide to work at this campus. But in the end, I discovered God brought me to the campus that had even more lights and a stage perfectly set up to create a wide variety of stage designs. Not only that, but I got to work with an amazing crew of people in putting this stage design together. (Thank you, Rob, Caroline, Heidi, Eliud, and Daniel!!) We never know how God leads, but when we trust Him, He does so many things we would never dream of. So grateful to the Lord for providing this opportunity!

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