How to Create Trees for a Stage Prop

By Bridgette Redman ; Updated September 15, 2017

Things Needed

  • Fiberglass platform stepladder, 8-foot
  • Four-by-eight plywood
  • 4 heavy duty lockable caster wheels (optional)
  • Cordless drill
  • Steel wire
  • Large pieces of cardboard
  • Duct tape (optional)
  • Jigsaw or utility knife
  • Camouflage netting
  • Butcher paper
  • Rope
  • Industrial stapler
  • Brown primer
  • Paintbrushes
  • Several shades of brown paint
Get creative when making trees for the stage.

Trees are a common piece of stage scenery as they help set outdoor scenes and give actors something to hide behind or even to climb up. There are many different ways to build stage trees depending on how they are going to be used in the production.

Build the base. Lay a four-by-eight piece of plywood on the floor. Screw four lockable caster wheels into the outer corners on the bottom of the plywood -- about six inches in so they are easy to lock -- using a cordless drill if the tree needs to be moved during the show. Place an 8-foot platform stepladder onto the plywood. Use steel wire to attach the ladder to the base.

Create the cutout. Trace a tree shape onto cardboard. If necessary, duct tape several pieces of cardboard together so it is tall enough to cover all of the 8-foot ladder. Make sure the trunk is wide enough to hide the ladder; the trunk and canopy must be at least 9-feet tall. Cut out the tree using a jigsaw or utility knife. Attach hunter's camouflage netting to the tree's canopy using duct tape or wire to create a full, leafy effect. Staple on crumpled butcher paper to add knots to the tree or staple on a piece of rope for vines.

Paint the tree. Apply a base coat of brown primer to the trunk. Allow it to dry. Apply two more coats of brown paint. Allow it to dry then use a dry-brush technique to add darker and lighter strokes of paint to create a bark-like texture. You also can create texture by wrapping the tree unevenly in burlap or butcher paper and painting over it.

Attach the tree to the ladder and the base. Duct tape the bottom of the tree to the plywood base and attach the tree to the ladder using steel wire. Make points of attachment at every step of the ladder to ensure the tree does not fall forward.

Tip

Instead of cardboard, use foam board. It is more expensive, but it is lightweight, sturdy and paints up nicely.

If you don't need anyone to climb the tree, replace the ladder with a PVC pipe or galvanized steel. Attach it to the base, then attach the tree to the pipe.

Warning

Wear protective gear such as heavy work gloves and and safety glasses when using power tools.

Make sure the area is well ventilated when you paint.

About the Author

As a professional writer since 1985, Bridgette Redman's career has included journalism, educational writing, book authoring and training. She's worked for daily newspapers, an educational publisher, websites, nonprofit associations and individuals. She is the author of two blogs, reviews live theater and has a weekly column in the "Lansing State Journal." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University.