Picture this. You are at a concert. The opening act has just finished playing, and the crew has removed all of the band’s instruments and equipment, leaving only the drape that the band played in front of. The music starts, signalling that the main act is about to appear. Suddenly, the headlining band appears on stage, as if from nowhere. What just happened? Another piece of stage magic, called the Kabuki.
There are two types of Kabukis, the Single Kabuki and the Double Kabuki, but they both work on the same principle – the use of electrically-powered magnetic systems called solenoids. A solenoid resembles a small box with a pin sticking out. A series of small solenoid boxes are attached in a daisy-chain row on a truss. At one end, this chain of solenoids is plugged into electricity and attached to a controller switch.
For a Single Kabuki, the drape is sewn with loop velcro on the top, on both front and back. D-Ring Velcro attachments are then made by taking a single piece of hook velcro, looping it through the flat edge of the D-Ring (with the hook side facing in), and then sewing the Velcro together tight to the edge. This leaves a D-Ring with an upside-down V-shaped piece of Velcro attached.
The D-Rings are then attached to the top of the Kabuki Drape by sandwiching the top of the drape, with its loop velcro on both front and back, with the hook velcro on the D-Ring. (Think of the Velcro on the D-rings as the bread and the top of the drape as the filling). The result is a drape with adjustable D-Rings across the top. Adjustability is key as solenoid placement on the truss can vary, and it is essential that the drapery D-Rings line up to the solenoid. This is why this velcro system is generally used, rather than sewing the D-rings directly to the top of the Kabuki. The best thing about using a Velcro D-ring is that the drop can be manually pulled down if a solenoid fails to release.
The Single Kabuki is then hung on the solenoid pins, appearing to the audience just the same as any other drape. However, when the time comes to reveal to the audience what is behind the drape, the crew pushes a switch. The switch causes the pins to retract and, as a result, the pins release the D-rings and the Kabuki drops to the ground. And the band appears as if from nowhere.
So that’s a Single Kabuki. I’ll tell about two other similar pieces, the Double Kabuki and the Poor Man’s Kabuki (also called a Tear-Away) in a future post.