When it comes to creating an eye-catching and dynamic theater set, few elements have the visual impact of a set of curved stairs. Not only do they add depth and dimension to your stage, but they also offer a unique challenge to the technical production team. In this guide, we’ll walk you through building a set of curved stairs that can be both a stunning piece of scenery and a functional part of your high school’s theater production.

Planning and Design: Before you start cutting wood or hammering nails, it’s crucial to have a detailed plan. Work with your director and set designer to understand the requirements for the stairs. Consider the following:

  1. Dimensions: How tall and wide do they need to be?
  2. Curve: What is the radius of the curve you are trying to achieve?
  3. Load-bearing: How much weight do they need to support?
  4. Safety: What safety features can be incorporated?
  5. Materials: What materials will you use that are both cost-effective and sturdy?

During the production of Once Upon a Mattress, we constructed a set of spiral stairs. However, as with most theater sets, the stairs were not built in the same way as one would build a set for a house. If you take a closer look, you can see the lighting boom lying on the floor.

First, holes were drilled into the 2×8 lumber to make way for the step supports. Each step support was then carefully placed on the boom with wood spacers separating them to ensure adequate spacing. Finally, the boom was positioned at the center of the circle to ensure stability and balance.

As you look closely, you can notice the presence of extra spacers that are holding the steps apart from each other, and they are placed further away from the center. These additional spacers have been carefully installed to ensure that the steps are well-supported and remain stable, even with regular use. 

Once the construction is complete, you will see that the steps stand out of the castle tower, giving it a grand and majestic look. The steps were originally designed with a different stringer, but as the construction progressed, the design was modified to use a 2×10 stringer instead. This change was made to improve the structural integrity of the steps and make them more durable.

Firstly, we carefully inserted the pipe through a hole that was present in both the top and bottom platforms. After that, we proceeded to stack the treads, one by one, onto the pipe. To ensure that the treads were evenly spaced, we placed spacers near the pipe in between each tread. This helped to maintain a stable and secure structure. Once we had all the treads in place, we guided the pipe down to the floor, completing the process.

We’ve installed a stringer to support the treads near the middle of the treads

We made this curved plywood ourselves by gluing and screwing several 9″ wide strips of 1/8″ plywood together to create a strong curve.

Jeff and Christina tried out our stairs. You can see the clamps that held the plywood together while the glue was drying.

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