For Theater or Dance: Easy Starry Sky Backdrop

Once when staging Pedro Calderon de la Barca's Life is a Dream, I wanted to have a backdrop of stars, maybe even moving stars.  The plot of this play turns heavily on the king's fascination with astrology, and many speeches refer to the stars and the sky.  Have you ever priced a real starry sky theater backdrop?  Yikes.  Real ones, while spectacular, can run in the thousands.  But do you have a projector?  These can run from $300 to more than $2000.  If you don't have access to one, then you are still stuck.  But if you do, then try projecting a free planetarium via Stellarium onto a backdrop of white sheets.  When the stage lights were on, the stars were almost invisible.  Turn the lights off, and the entire room was plunged into a starry night.  We set Stellarium to simulate the passing of time, so the night sky shifted in the background during the play, not enough to be distracting, just enough to give a sense of what the play tries to capture--time is running out, we will all one day awake from this dream!  You can see the drawback, which is that the stars will be cast on anything before them.  The projector cast stars on the actors, on the backs of the heads in the audience.  And the audience members cast silhouettes on the stars.  I personally think this was cool.

Later, we hosted a waltz/swing dance and projected the stars again.  What a magical effect and very little setup!

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