How'd They Do That? Kabuki Drop

Today I'm continuing our series of posts describing some of the more fun elements from our recent Christmas production, Gunch!. Last time we looked at how we created a silent film effect. This time, we're going to reveal and drop a 10'x24' "flat."

Another favorite element from the show was our Kabuki drop of Toy Tower. During the show, Toy Tower is the result of the greed and selfishness of the U’s, instigated by Gunch himself. However, after Gunch encounters Jesus, he tries to undo what he’s done. In the climax of the show, he sacrifices himself to save the heroine, Lindy. Toy Tower collapses on him, which in turn, spurs the town to change as well.

Last year, we created Toy Tower out of boxes that were shock-corded together and tipped over by my toy tipper contraption. It worked reasonably well, except it wasn’t big enough. This year, we created Toy Tower out of a 10’x24’ sheet of muslin that our artists painted. All the other flats and props were painted in a similar style so it looked right in place.

The fabric was dropped between scenes during a blackout, so it looked like it simply appeared from nowhere. At the right moment, we fired the second drop which caused the entire “flat” to collapse on top of Gunch. Here’s how we did it.

How'd They Do That? Kabuki Drop from Mike Sessler on Vimeo.

The Kabuki's were rented from our drapery supplier, Rent What? in LA. For the week, 10 Kabukis, a dual channel controller and a bunch of extension cord cost us $350. That may sound like a lot, but it was totally worth it. I did a bunch of research and checking to see if I could build my own, and every solution would have cost at least that much, and taken hours to design, build and install. As you can see from the video, the Kabukis came with pipe clamps on them, so it took us about 20 minutes to build the rigging and hang them. They also worked every single time, without any issue. We liked them so much, next year we want to do a 70' wide drop...