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How to Build a Tree on Stage

You can recreate nature on stage with just a few materials
Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Things You'll Need

  • Safety glasses
  • Work gloves
  • Chicken wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • Foam core tubing
  • Brown paper bags or butcher paper
  • Bucket
  • Wallpaper paste or glue
  • Stirring Stick
  • Fake leaves that are attached to wires or string
  • Real leaves and branches
  • Brown and green spray paint

Creating the right environment on stage for a play is an important part of the production. While some shows choose a minimalistic approach to set design, adding lush, realistic-looking set pieces — including trees — can help your audience suspend its disbelief and become lost in the world of your play.

Building trees on stage can do more than create the look of the location. Depending on how full or bare the trees are, you can indicate the time of year. You can give the audience information about the tone of the show by making the design of the trees softer or more severe.

Making the Tree Body

Cut a 1- to 2-foot tall strip of chicken wire long enough so it can wrap around the foam core tubing and overlap itself by about an inch. Do this for each tree.

Secure the wire to the foam tubing by first pulling it tight around the foam. Cut a few of the wire's honeycombs apart so that you have some loose wires, and twist them with the pliers around each other to hold the wire in place.

Cut the bottom of the chicken wire tube so that you can splay the wire out, and bend it into shape that resemble tree roots.

Cut a 3- to 4-foot tall strip of chicken wire long enough so it can wrap around the foam core tubing and overlap itself by about an inch and secure it to the top of the foam tube in the same way as the roots. This will become the leaves.

Cut the wire so that you can bend and twist it into the shape of branches.

Adding Texture

Tear the butcher paper or paper bags into strips of varying lengths and sizes.

Mix three parts water with one part glue in the bucket, and stir until it is blended.

Dip the paper strips into the glue and water mixture until they are fully saturated, then run each strip of paper between two fingers to remove some of the moisture.

Cover all surfaces of the wire and foam tubing with the wet paper strips. Add three to four layers so that the texture is thick and your tree is sturdy.

Allow the tree to dry.

Finishing Touches

Spray paint the tree trunk and branches with brown spray paint if the butcher paper or paper bags have lost any of its color.

Wrap the branches with the fake leaves to the desired leaf density.

Place actual leaves or branches in the top of the tree to add extra density, texture and realism.

Spray paint any bare patches of leaves with green spray paint, if desired.

Tips

  • To make the tree thicker, you can wrap more layers of chicken wire around the foam tubing.

Warnings

  • Always use spray paint in a well-ventilated area. Always wear gloves and safety glasses when working with wire.

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