Helen Campbell.

The American girl's home book of work and play online

. (page 6 of 28)
Online LibraryHelen CampbellThe American girl's home book of work and play → online text (page 6 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

inner and outer edges of the frame. Upon the inside of
the frame fasten several curtains of colored gauze, blue
for ghostly scenes, and rose-color for fairy scenes. Arrange
these so that they can be lowered or raised easily when
required. The frame is now ready to put up.

"If you have a pair of full, handsome crimson curtains,
they are very effective placed upon a bar inside the frame,
about one foot from it, and looped at the sides high enough
to clear the heads of the performers. The drop-curtain (to
be raised and lowered) should be hung about two feet from
the frame, on the inside.

" When your frame is up, fasten, at the sides and top, rods
with gas-jets ; or, if gas is not available, lamps should be
located at regular intervals to light the tableaux.

"The frame now being ready, stretch across the sides of
the stage and background dark gray or brown muslin, or
woollen cloth, so as to shut out all objects behind the

" The best arrangement for a background is to stretch a
strong wire down each side of the stage, and another one
across the back, from which the dark muslin or woollen cur-
tains hang down, forming a complete enclosure behind the
frame. The wires should be placed so as to leave free pas-
sage on each side of and behind the enclosure, and furnish


a space, out of sight of the audience, for putting away
furniture and properties, etc., when not in use.

" If the parlor is used as a stage, the floor should also be
covered with plain dark cloth, that can be removed when
the scene requires a parlor carpet.

" It must be remembered that carpet and background must
be of woollen material, or unglazed cotton. Any material
that will shine in a strong light will ruin the effect of a
tableau. Woollen is by far the best, as it completely ab-
sorbs the light, and hangs in uniform folds.

"In grouping, the colors must be very carefully selected to
prevent either glaring or gloomy effect. Often a piece of
gay drapery thrown over a chair will enliven a picture where
all the figures are in the dark evening-dress of a gentleman
of the present day ; but, where ladies are grouped, their own
dress is usually sufficiently bright.

"Never bring two bright colors against each other. If
they are necessary in the same group, introduce between
them some white, black, or neutral-tinted drapery. If they
are light as well as bright, use gray or brown to harmon-
ize them.

"White should always be sparingly and judiciously used in
tableaux, and should be of either very glossy fabric or very
thin material ; as tulle, book-muslin, or lace. Thick white
material, like lawn, marseilles, or pique, is not effective in

" The arrangement of color in tableaux must be governed
by the same rule as in painted pictures ; and it must be
borne in mind, that not only the personages who are grouped
for the picture are to be considered, but the accessories and
background will also strike the eye of the spectator at the
same time."



" We will now give a few plain directions by which effec-
tive scenes can be arranged in any room, with but little
trouble or expense.

" NECESSARY MATERIALS. Ten wooden boxes of various

" Two half-length picture-frames.

u Twenty feet of annealed wire.

"Two dozen curtain-rings.

" Twelve large lamps, or a gas-rod twelve feet long, with
fifteen five-foot burners inserted at regular intervals upon it.

" Six yards black tarlatan-muslin.

" Some narrow pine boards.

" THE STAGE AND FRAMES. If the room has no folding^
doors, a thick curtain or bed-quilt must be contrived to draw
across the room at one end, leaving a space about fifteen
feet deep for the stage. This space is draped with curtains
of maroon or dark-colored stuff by stretching wire across
the sides and back of the stage near the ceiling, and hang-
ing them by means of rings firmly sewed upon the upper
edge of the cloth. This will form a square room, draped all
around except in front. Then procure four upright pieces
of narrow board, just the height of the room, for posts.
Screw two of the posts, one on each side, on the back of
each frame, so that, when each frame is raised upright upon
its supporting posts, the bottom of both frames will be four
feet and a half from the floor. Set the posts, with the
frames upon them, upright, two feet and a half in front of
the back-wall, and secure them, leaving a distance of four
feet between the frames. Then nail four strips of board
five inches wide, to form a larger frame, between the two
smaller ones. The dimensions of the large frame are six


feet and a half in height between the top and bottom
strips which form the frame ; the width, four feet, the same
as the distance between the two smaller frames ; and the
bottom strip two feet and a half above the floor."

When this is completed, it will present the appearance of
a large frame between two smaller ones.

Cover all the space above and below the frames with cloti
of the same color as that upon the back-wall, so that the
frames will appear to be hanging upon the wall.

Behind the frames, erect a platform two feet and a half
above the floor, upon which the performers are to stand.

If gas is available, fasten a rod, with burners upon it, over
the top of the curtain or folding-doors. The best way is to
make for it a shelf supported upon two posts about eight
feet high. Over the burners, and behind them, tack sheets
of common tin, bent so as to throw the light down. If you
cannot get the tin conveniently, fasten behind the burners
a white sheet, which will serve the purpose very well. If
the curtain does not come to the ceiling, a shawl or thick
cloth must be put above it, so that the light cannot show
over the curtain into the darkened room where the audience
sit. When gas cannot be had, and kerosene-lamps are used,
holes must be made in the board to fasten them firmly in
their places.

Next make a veil of black tarlatan-muslin large enough
to cover the space before the folding-doors or posts which
support the curtain.

The construction of the frames will be clearly understood
by examining the diagram on the next page, in which all
the details of measurements, and the relative positions of
the frames, are very plainly exhibited in skeleton form,
previous to applying the covering, which hides all of the
construction except the three picture-frames.










v - /

















X \









FIG. 36.


A A A A, four posts set upright from floor to ceiling, two
feet and a half from back of stage, and at distances apart
marked on diagram.


Spaces marked B to be filled in with material to match
the drapery back of the stage.

Dotted line C is the raised platform behind the three
frames, upon which the performers stand.

Scenery is more easily managed than one would suppose.
For the home of the drunkard, or of the starving seamstress,
a small pine table holding a candle stuck in a porter bottle,
and a broken chair, will be all that is needed.

Flower-pots or a box of plants suggest a garden-scene.

For a nursery, a cradle and some toys.

For a prison-scene, an iron bedstead and a small table,
no chairs.

For a moonlight-scene, the light in front must be very
dim. Cut a round hole in the background curtain, and
cover it with silver lace, or white tarlatan with tinsel threads
in it. A gold-fish globe full of water, and two candles or
a lamp burning behind it, will give a good imitation of

Cambric, or highly glazed paper-muslin, will pass for satin
in a dim light, and cotton velvet answers every purpose for
richer dresses ; tissue and gold and silver paper making lace
and ornaments of all sorts.

A well can be imitated by sawing a barrel in two, cover-
ing it with gray cloth tightly tacked on, and tacking white
tape irregularly up and down to indicate the mortar which
joins the stones. Nail on three laths for uprights and a
cross-piece ; make a windlass from other pieces, and hang on
a bucket and chain, and you have a well which can be used
for a generation in historical or scriptural tableaux, and in
country scenes.

These arrangements are for tableaux on rather a large
scale, or for living statuary. Two or three tableaux are
given, illustrative of what may be done in this way.



Construct a cross of board, six inches wide, and about
seven feet high, the cross-bar being two feet six inches long.
Cover the cross with white paper or muslin, and nail the
foot of the cross against the back of a box to serve for a
pedestal, and also covered with white. The box and cross
are placed in the back centre, with another box of the same
size behind it ; so that the foot of the cross will appear to
be inserted in the centre of the pedestal.

Faith stands upon the pedestal, her right hand resting on
the bar of the cross, and her left hand around the staff, or
upright portion of the cross.

Peace lies at the foot of the cross, holding a white dove
in the right hand. The drapery of Peace and Faith can be
made of cotton sheets.

Fame stands in the foreground, on the floor, holding a
large trumpet. Her dress is made of turkey-red, plaited in
front, and falling in plain folds to the feet. For this scene
a chant may be sung.

When the audience have seen enough of this, lower the
curtain. The assistants rapidly clear the stage ; draw away
the curtain which hides the picture, and in one minute the
audience behold, to their astonishment, a set of tableaux.
In one frame,


SCENE FIRST. At the left of the stage an old lady is
asleep in a high chair. She is dressed in black, or in any
plain dress ; wears a white apron ; and has a white shawl
folded across her shoulders ; also a high cap and spectacles,
which have fallen upon her nose. At the right, a girl sits
at the spinning-wheel. She has on a bright, short skirt,


white waist, red or black bodice ; on her head a cap of lace
gathered in a rosette, with very long ribbons streaming from
it ; on her arms she has three ribbons, one at two inches
above the wrist, the next below the elbow, the third near the
shoulder. A youth is kneeling at her feet, holding her left
hand. She looks archly at him, regardless of the uncon-
scious grandmother. The youth has ribbons upon his arms,
like the girl. He has no coat on, but bright suspenders
joined in front with two bars.

SCENE SECOND. The lovers remain as before, except that
the grandmother has wakened, and is just raising her broom,
with the intention of waking the young man also.

SCENE THIRD. The grandmother holds the lovers apart
at arm's-length, by grasping one ear of each. The girl is
crying at the left side ; and the youth, at the right of grand-
mother, looks sheepishly down, with his finger in his mouth.
Next, draw away the back curtain again, and show more pic-
tures, which the assistant has had time enough to prepare.

In the centre frame stands a gleaner. In one small frame,
a child with a red cape over her head, and a little basket in
her hand, personates Red Riding-Hood ; and in the other,
a marchioness.


Have no furniture upon the stage. In the centre place a
wooden stool about six or eight inches high, and behind this
have a tall, rough stick about nine feet long : a young tree
stripped of branches is the best. Around these pile fire-
wood, with the bark on, some four feet high, in a loose,
irregular pile. The Joan of Arc selected should have long
dark hair, and dark eyes, and her face well powdered, with
lines of India-ink under the eyes and in the cheeks, to give
it a ghastly, emaciated look. The hair must be parted be-


hind, and drawn forward to hang loosely over each shoulder
in front. The dress, of white woollen or linen, must hang in
long, full folds from the throat, below the feet, as like a
shroud as possible, and ungirdled.

The figure must stand upon the stool, the dress falling to
cover it ; and a rough rope must be knotted around the waist
and the tall wood behind, as if tying the Joan to the stake.

The hands should be crossed over the breast, holding a
rosary and cross, and the head thrown slightly back, the eyes
lifted, the lips a little apart, as if in prayer.

Very slow music adds to the effect, and the light should
be very dim.

This is a very good scene, as only one performer is re-
quired, the arrangement is easy, and there is no furniture

Living statuary is the most troublesome and difficult of all
parlor entertainments, yet one of the most beautiful and
satisfactory; and the directions given here are from one
who has made hundreds of experiments, and found out how
to do the work in the most comfortable as well as most effec-
tive way. If the American girl has learned a little light
carpentering, she will have no difficulty in preparing her
stage ; but, as she is more than likely to know nothing about
it, the American boy must hold himself ready with hammer
and nails to do all the rough work required.

"All who take part in living statuary must have fine
figures, large arms, and as classic features as our American
type allows ; and they must also know how to stand per
fectly still, which is the hardest part of the work.

" To whiten the face is the first thing ; and nothing is
so good for this as the round balls of ' velvet chalk,' which
must be rubbed on dry. Flour can be used, but is by nc


means as good. This chalk is sometimes mixed with glycer-
ine ; but rubbing on dry is the only successful method of
whitening smoothly, completely, and comfortably. After
using, this must be rubbed off when dry, and the face must
not be wet, but must have a good coat of gelatine or vaseline,
and no inconvenience or roughness need follow.

"For most performances the best cast consists of two very
tall ladies, one a little shorter, and one of medium height,
one large, muscular man, and one girl about ten years old.
These performers can personate all the parts, as they re-
semble each other so closely when whitened, that little is
gained by changing the performers in the various groups.
The man may wear a suit of cotton tights, or a white, close-
fitting, merino, woven shirt, with cotton gloves sewed into
the sleeves. He wears around the waist a kilted skirt reach-
ing to the knee, made of white sheeting, and a close-fitting
cap made of canton flannel. He will need two cotton sheets
to be draped from the shoulder in various ways.

" For a Roman costume make a slit ten inches long in the
middle of the sheet, through which the head is placed. The
sheet is then drawn around until the corner is in front ;
the two sides are then looped up to each shoulder, and
fastened with a round piece of pasteboard by tapes.

"The child wears a short frock or night-dress thrown over
a tape around the waist, long white cotton stockings, cotton
gloves sewe"d into the sleeves of the frock, and a tight cap of
cotton flannel.

" The ladies wear white plain tight-fitting waists very high
in the neck, fastened behind, the sleeves of which are made
of the legs of white cotton stockings, to which white cotton
gloves are firmly sewed after they have been adjusted to the
arms by sewing on the under side. No other method of
whitening the arms is of use, and it was by this discovery



that the success was first insured, for these sleeves show the
muscles to great advantage, and still preserve the needed
whiteness when in tension.

" The caps are made of canton flannel, large enough to
cover the hair, which is drawn into a bunch at the back of the
head, like the knot of Diana. Braids, bands, and waves are
made of cotton wadding, to put on with pins, when it is de-
sirable to alter the coiffure. They wear white stockings and
white slippers, or sandals made of a cork sole, and scant skirts.
In draping, the first sheet is tied around the waist with tape,
so that the end which has the hem touches the ground, the
rest of the sheet hanging over in front. The lower portion of
this sheet thus forms a close skirt, and is drawn close behind,
and fastened. The left-hand corner of the front part of the
sheet is taken to the right shoulder, and fastened ; and the
right-hand corner of the sheet is brought to the waist, and
fastened there. Beautiful folds will result, which can be
much improved by stroking them down with the hand. A
large knot is then tied in the corner of another sheet, which
is pinned on the right shoulder ; and the sheet is then drawn
around the knees, and fastened to the waist behind, thus
surrounding the figure, and forming long, graceful, straight
folds, like those on the ancient Greek statues. A little study
of drapery, and careful attempts to imitate that of statues, will
soon enable persons of taste to arrange beautiful groups, as,
when the figures take their positions, the drapery assumes
new and graceful folds of itself ; which is another reason why
the same persons can so successfully fill so many varied

" Statuary is very effective in all performances as a grand
contrast to the glittering scenes which it should follow ; and
it is also useful in connection with other pieces, as it may be
used for the ornaments in court-scenes, as well as in the


studios, and may be utilized for the adjuncts to thrones, as
well as for objects of interest in the garden-scenes. Abun-
dance of good subjects may be found in any book of plates
of statuary : so it will be only needful to give a few examples
here of various styles, prefaced by some general directions."

THE PEDESTAL. Two tables four feet long stanc in centre
of the stage, with another table of the same size placed upon
them in the centre : a box two feet and a half long stands on
top of this table, and another box stands on the floor, in front
and in the centre of the two tables which stand together.
The pedestals thus formed, draped with cotton sheets, serve
for all groups.

LIGHT AND BACKGROUND. The best light is a very light
blue ; and a beautiful effect may be produced with common
gaslight by showing them on a dark stage, and slowly turn-
ing up the light. They must always be shown against a
background of black curtain or of any plain cloth. A plain
black shawl serves very well, if prepared in a parlor, as is
often the case. Well carried out, there is no more charming
study, or attractive performance, than that of living statuary.

PROPERTIES. The smaller properties may be cut from
pasteboard or thin wood, and covered with white cloth or
paper : those used in the above scene are as follows,

Rake, hat, chain (made of loops of canton flannel), scales
and olive-branch (cut from white pasteboard) ; cross, eight
feet high, five inches wide ; crossbar, two feet and a half
long ; tablet, a board two feet and a half long, one foot wide,
covered with white cloth ; pencil ; basket of flowers ; three
tables and two boxes draped with cotton sheets. Old sheets
free from starch and ironing-folds are best for statuary.




The man stands in the top box (marked 3 in the illustra-
tion), in an attitude of making an address ; his right hand









FIG. 37-

extended, his left held in a curve, over which drapery is
hung loosely. On the table at the left (2) a female figure
sits, representing history, writing on a flat table at his right.
In the lower table (i) a tall figure stands at a high cross,
with her left arm behind it, and her right hand on the cross-
bar. At the other end of the long table (5) the shorter of
the ladies is scattering flowers from a basket which she holds
in her left hand. On the lower box in front (6) a lady bends
over a child, who nestles against her side.


The tall statue lady stands on the high box, which is
pushed backward to allow a second lady to sit at the left end
of it, on the upper table, holding the child in her arm, as if


asleep. The angel at the top is provided with wings, made
by sewing the sheet to her extended arms, which are curved,
the right held higher than the left.


The blind girl of Pompeii leans forward, grasping her staff
with the left hand, while the right is held near the ear, in a
listening attitude. This may be copied from Rogers's cele-
brated statue.


The taller lady stands on the high box in the centre ; an
other leans her head upon her side, standing on the table at
her right ; while the shorter one kneels on the left side, the
left hand of the centre figure resting on her left shoulder.
This group has the appearance of being cut from one block,
as the ladies stand very close together.


The man statue stands with extended hands, which are
fastened together with a long chain ; and he afterward may
be shown in a kneeling position. In the first position he
has a very proud expression ; and in the second he must look
humble and depressed, with bowed head.


The tall lady stands on the high box, holding in her left
hand a pair of scales, and leaning with her right hand on a
sword. Mercy lies at her feet, and with an olive-branch in
her right hand extended. Peace stands at the left, on the
lower table.



The shorter lady stands alone, leaning on a tall rake with
both hands, looking modestly down, and wearing a broad
sun-hat covered with white cloth. The rake is a common
garden-rake, also covered with white cloth. A short kilted
skirt of white cotton, reaching to the ankles, will modernize
the suit from the antique drapery described above, over
which it may be worn.

These examples will doubtless suggest numberless single,
double, and larger groups, which may be copied from the art
journals and photographs.




ILLUSTRATED ballads sound difficult, but are really one of
the easiest forms of amusement for a winter evening, as very
little rehearsing or scenery is needed. Children of any age
above seven can be trained to perform them, but they are
most successful when the actors are old enough to catch the
spirit of the verse. A good ear for time is also necessary,
as the pantomime must give the appropriate action in exact
time with the melody, which is to be sung very distinctly by
some one with a clear, full voice, hidden from the audience,
or in full view, as may be preferred. Two or three are given
here which have already been tried, and always with ap-




AULD ROBIN GRAY. Gray suit, knee-breeches, long vest, plaid, white wig, or powdered


JAMIE. Kilt, plaid, pea-jacket, sailor-hat.

JEANNIE. Plaid skirt tucked iip over white, white waist, black bodice, plaid scarf .
MOTHER. Black or brown dress, white kerchief, white apron.
FATHER. Gray or brown suit, wrapped in plaid, left arm in sling.
PROPERTIES. ist SCENE. Silver dollar for JAMIE. 2d SCENE. Two chairs, R.; small

chair, C., at small spinning-wheel. 30! SCENE. Box for door-stone, C. 4th SCENE.

Great chair, with pillows, quilt, etc., for ROBIN, C.; small table, cup, medicine.

SCENE I. JAMIE, R., and JEANNIE, L., discovered in attitude of parting lovers, C.

Young Jamie .oved me well, and sought me for JAMIE kneels on left knee.

his bride,

But, saving a crown, he hath nothing else beside. JAMIE shows silver-piece; both sadly skake

their heads.



lb make the crown a pound, my Jamie ga'ed JAMIE points off, L., and exit, L., at the

to sea, word " sea."

And the crown and the pound were a' baith for JEANNIE follows him three steps, parts,

me. comes forward sadly with clasped hands.

[Curtain falls.

SCENE II. FATHER and MOTHER in chairs, L.; JEANNIE, C., at wheel, hands clasped in


He had na' been gone a year and a day JEANNIE in attitude of despair, hands

When my father brake his arm, and our cow Looks sadly at her FATHER.

Online LibraryHelen CampbellThe American girl's home book of work and play → online text (page 6 of 28)