box set

Definition

Theater

  • A naturalistic set of a room comprising three continuous wallswith usable doors and windows and possibly a ceiling. It was introducedto the English stage in 1832 by the manager of Covent Garden, MadameVestris, for W. B. Vernard's The Conquering Game.Flats replaced the painted backcloth with its wings and sky borders.This innovation inspired T. W. Robertson to pen the first drawing-roomdramas, such as Society (1865). Box sets continued to be popularin the first half of the 20th century, but their use has since declinedwith the modern move away from the proscenium arch to a thruststage.

    Cumbersome and elaborate box sets have caused actors muchgrief. Doors and windows stick; walls collapse. Rex Harrison was nearlyknocked into the orchestra pit during the New York run of My FairLady (1956), when a hoisted set fell and sent blocks of wood tumblingacross the stage. Box sets also create additional backstage work.The record for opening and closing a sliding door apparently goesto Julie Rutherford, stage manager of John Wells's Anyone for Denis(1981) at London's Whitehall Theatre. She did this 54 times in eachperformance, eventually logging up 20,592 openings and closings.

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