A Kabuki Drop is a stagecraft technique and a release system that drops an open suspended curtain to the floor for a dramatic reveal.
It is often used in theatrical stage performances or special events to reveal a cast of performers, stage set or product.
A curtain or drape is suspended and held open by a specially designed system that holds the cloth securely until it is needed to be released.
The system is generally attached to some kind of overhanging horizontal support structure like a flying bar or lighting truss. The trigger mechanism to release the cloth can be activated either manually or electronically.
Photo Credit: JC & Joel
The modern-day Kabuki Drop finds its roots in the historic Japanese dance-drama, Kabuki Theatre. Traditionally, a curtain drop was used as a stagecraft technique to reveal a change of a scene. This technique was known as “Furiotoshi”, which literally means, “shake down to reveal”.
While I’ve been designing magic & illusions professionally for a number of years, but a pet project on mine has been designing curtain or cloth drop systems for my shows and illusions. I’ve working on various methods and systems, depending on the needs of the particular prop or situation.
A Kabuki Drop can add tremendous visuals and theatrical texture to any show or event.
In particular, for magic & illusion shows, Kabuki Drops can be used in different ways to create different visual effects and add a “wow” moment.
Here are 7 practical ideas on how to incorporate a curtain drop in your show:
Kabuki Drop as a Direct Reveal
The most obvious way to use the Kabuki Drop is as a direct reveal when you want it in your show. It could be at the top of your show to start the show. In which case, you might have your logo printed or silkscreened on the curtain.
You could also have the Kabuki Curtain covering a large illusion or finale set piece and drop the curtain only when you perform the effect.
Kabuki Drop Combined with a Video Projection
At the top of your show, a white curtain (cloth) hangs down and covers the front of the stage. An introductory teaser video is seen via projection on the curtain to introduce you. At the end of the video, the curtain drops revealing you in stage and transitions to your first routine, act or illusion.
Check out this video from a Volkswagen launch. While not exactly a performance, it gives you an idea of how a cool animation sequence can be integrated with a Kabuki Drop.
Silhouette Appearance Illusion
This is a simple but very dramatic and visually appealing sequence you can incorporate with a Kabuki Drop.
While not an illusion, you can see how the band One Republic uses this concept to great effect for the opening of their show.
Here is an idea that you can use.
A white Kabuki Drop curtain hangs in front of the stage. A single light is set on stage upstage (towards the back of the stage). It projects onto the back of the curtain so that the curtain is illuminated.
In sync with appropriate music, you literally walk slowly from behind the light, step over and walk forward downstage (towards the curtain). The audience will see your silhouette “magically” appear and grow larger.
The curtain drops and you make your “appearance” and go into your first act, routine or illusion.
Double Kabuki Drop to Set an Illusion
One variation of the Kabuki Drop is the advent of the “Double Kabuki drop”. The traditional drop is a SINGLE Drop. That means the curtain will already be opened up in place and covering the stage. Activating the curtain drop will drop the curtain to the floor revealing what is on stage.
A DOUBLE kabuki drop means the curtain starts off rolled up and is held in place at the top of the stage proscenium (on the flying bars). Activating the curtain drop will open up the curtain so that it covers the stage. Activating the curtain drop a second time will drop the curtain to the floor revealing what is on stage.
A double drop can be activated either manually or electronically and ANY system can be adapted as a double drop.
The Double Kabuki Drop can be used as a cover device to set an illusion or change a stage set as a visual change from the traditional main or Austrian curtain.
This is also particularly useful for stages that do not have a main curtain that can be closed for set stages.
Double Kabuki Drop as a “Magic” Reveal
A double drop can be used to create an awesome “magicial” appearance. Check out this video from Brett Daniels’ old show. The effect in question is at the top of the video. Nuff said!
Kabuki Glitter Drop
I actually came up with my first DIY Kabuki Drop for a friend in 1996 for his church event. It was a glitter drop where a bunch of confetti dropped from the top of the stage.
This uses a cloth “hammock” that holds all the confetti. A Kabuki Drop system releases one long end of the cloth “hammock” that allows the confetti to drop to the stage floor.
You can use the glitter drop as a finale effect, to enhance a visual effect, to mask a vanish or execute a visual costume change.
The Kabuki Drop as a holding device can also be used to drop other items like balloons, ping pong balls and anvils… ok, maybe not anvils.
Double Kabuki Drop Cover for a Vanish / Reappearance
This uses a double drop in conjunction with an illusion utility such as an illusion deceptive base or Black Art Table.
The first drop unrolls the curtain and is used as a cover. The second drop drops the curtain to the base or table to reveal the appearance or vanish.
This gives a nice remote-look to the cover device for the illusion, enhancing the visual look and magic-feel of the effect.
There are several resources to learn about Kabuki Drops and how to make them.
Check out www.MagicKabukiDrop.com for the ultimate resource on the subject and request for the free download “How to Make a $50 Kabuki Drop”.
My book “Ultimate Kabuki Drop Resource” includes six original designs for Kabuki Drops that are easy and inexpensive to build. There are different plans for different needs & venues with original ideas and design elements.
For a professional Kabuki Drop system, check out: