Easy Theatre Smoke Effects

By Contributing Writer

Sometimes a theatrical production needs to create the effect of smoke onstage. Obviously it is far too dangerous to create real smoke, and a fog machine can be cost-prohibitive for small companies. A viable alternative is dry ice, which is relatively inexpensive and can create large amounts of smoke when dipped in water.

Obtaining Dry Ice

There are a number of places to obtain dry ice. It can be ordered online or, if you prefer, can be obtained locally. The Dry Ice Directory (see resources below for link) is a useful resource for finding dealers by telephone area code.

Storing Dry Ice

Make sure to wear gloves at all times when handling dry ice, as it can bind to the skin. Dry ice is carbon dioxide gas that has been frozen at a temperature of minus 110 F. It creates a chemical reaction when exposed to water. Store dry ice in a cooler rather than a conventional freezer, as it will spoil surrounding food and the dry ice itself.

Creating Smoke

To create smoke using dry ice, use a bucket in the wings of the theater. Break the dry ice into small pieces by wrapping it in a plastic bag and cracking it with a hammer. Melt small pieces of the dry ice in hot water to create smoke. Be careful; the smaller the pieces and the hotter the water, the more smoke will be produced. Too much smoke can be disorienting for the actors and the audience.