A theatre’s proscenium is part of the architecture and therefore it has fixed proportions that cannot be changed. In many production scenarios, however, the scene calls for a reduction in the proscenium opening. For this purpose the teaser and tormentors are placed directly upstage of the structural proscenium opening. Within certain limits the size of any proscenium arch can be altered by using a teaser and tormentors.
The teaser is a horizontal masking border that is lowered to reduce the height of the opening. It is attached to a batten and suspended just upstage of the proscenium, directly behind the grand drape or act curtain. The teaser can be lowered into position to set the stage height as required by the current scene.
Tormentors or “side maskings” are vertical masking pieces used in conjunction with a teaser. In a traditional setting the tormentors should be mounted upstage of the grand drape and on the same plane as the teaser. While various mounting methods may be used, a tormentor is typically attached to a pipe which is then mounted to a traveler track. The track will allow the tormentors to be drawn onstage to reduce the proscenium opening to fit the current scene. In many installations the pipes will be equipped with a swivel component allowing the tormentors to rotate into an angle, or even reverse to reveal an alternate fabric or finish.
Typical Fabric Choices for a teaser or tormentor include velour, either cotton or synthetic, or commando cloth. The teaser may be sewn from a black or neutral colored cloth with fullness. Alternatively it may be made as a solid framed piece with the fabric applied stretched flat. The teaser and tormentor will always be manufactured of the same material.
Shane Nelsen, our Creative Director at Sew What?, drew a beautiful rendition of how the different drapes (including teasers and tormentors) appear together on a stage. Take a look at it – it is not only beautiful but a great way to have a visual understanding of how all the different drapes work together.