The scrim is a key tool for creating the magic of theater, allowing directors and tech designers to mask or reveal sets and scenery in artistic ways. You have a few options when it comes to scrim fabrics.
What is a Theatrical Scrim?
The scrim is a curtain or screen made of a special fabric woven with tiny rectangular holes. The pattern is similar to a window screen. The fabric can be painted or have images projected onto it. It can also be a solid colour, often used at the top of a show instead of a main curtain.
Lighting is the secret to successful scrim effects. When the scrim is light from the front and above, the audience sees whatever is painted or projected onto the scrim. It appears opaque to the house. When the scrim is lit from behind, it virtually disappears, permitting whatever is upstage of the scrim to be in full view.
What are Scrim Fabrics?
Scrims have to be made of particular fabrics to perform their function. An average cotton or polyester won’t have the opaque to transparent properties required. The theater industry has developed lightweight, loosely woven fabrics that can take paint and still transform with lighting changes. These fabrics include:
- Sharkstooth – This is the most popular scrim fabric. In fact, many in theater work call the scrim “sharkstooth.” Sharkstooth is typically a cotton/poly blend with a very high cotton content. This helps it to take the paint better. It features a textured, open weave that allows for bleed-through scene transitions and full transparency.
- Theatrical Linen Gauze – Despite its name, this is usually a 100% cotton fabric with a fine and airy texture. It can also be painted or support projections. It is translucent, allowing light to pass through, but not transparent.
- Leno Filled Scrim – This is sharkstooth scrim with all the little rectangular holes filled in with leno. It performs similarly to regular sharkstooth, but it will not achieve full transparency.
Do you wish to mask or reveal? Do you want hard or soft transitions between scenes? Answering these questions will help you choose which scrim fabric is best for your production.
How are Scrims Hung?
Theatrical scrims have grommets or ties along the top and a sewn-in pocket channel along the bottom. The top is secured to a fly pipe while a pipe is often threaded through the bottom for weight. If the theater lacks a fly system, it can hang the scrim midstage or even as a backdrop where it may remain the entire show. If the scrim fabric is sturdy enough, it can be drawn to the side when not needed.
Where Do Theaters Find Scrims?
It is possible to sew a scrim. Scrim fabric is sold by the yard or metre in many fabric shops. If you need a large scrim, however, it’s best to order one from a theater supply shop. Get recommendations from local theaters for quality scrim and curtain suppliers. Search online for scrims that are the size and fabric you want. Then go ahead and plan the magic.