The materials that teams get for each P.A.R.T.Y. challenge vary, but one thing that they always get is a large piece of butcher paper for making a backdrop. Some prompts or stories may only call for a single setting, while others require to characters to move between locales. Oftentimes the backdrop is left to the last few minutes of prep time and the scenery is just an afterthought, but there are lots of creative ways to get the most out of that paper and add something special to a skit. So here are some tips for getting the most out of a backdrop.
- The appearance of the backdrops counts as 10 points of the overall score for the skit, so don’t overlook the opportunity to get more points by doing something sloppy or unrecognizable.
- Did you know that the paper is large enough that if students use both sides they can easily show up to four different locations? But, transitioning between them can be tricky. Most of the time, the paper is draped over the top of the backdrop holder. It can be taped in place to ensure it doesn’t fall during a show, but most teams rely on gravity to keep it in place. But, depending on how many times the characters need to change location this can be a dicey proposition, and a backdrop that falls down in the middle of a show is distracting for the audience and the performers. Tape from the competition kit cannot be used during the skit, but it can be used during set up.
- In order to change between backdrops, students can turn the entire backdrop holder around rather than trying to “turn the page” by moving the paper itself. This can save time and hassle, but they also need to make sure they leave themselves enough space between their extra team members and any props or costumes they are saving for later and the backdrop holder as they move it.
- One clever way to use the paper is to cut a “window” into the paper and have a character stand behind it. I was in a skit once where we had “breaking news” on a television and we used a window we cut into the paper as the television screen. Maybe the characters go through a drive-thru window at a fast food restaurant, or they step through a door to another world. There are lots of ways to incorporate this trick and add interest to a show.
- There is no rule that says the paper must remain intact. Backdrops can take any shape your students can imagine, and the paper can be used in costumes and props if the need arises.
- Time is of the essence, so consider dividing the labor during the PA.R.T.Y. prep time. If some people are better at drawing you might consider putting them on backdrop duty rather than working on it all together.
- When considering the limited time available, it is also a smart strategy to get good at identifying the minimum elements needed to convey a certain place or time. If the story takes place in the future, a hover car in the sky can go a long way to situating your story in time. If there is a scene in a classroom a desk with an apple on it is a good way to simply show that setting. This corresponds to the E (Eliminate) of the SCAMPER technique.