Vacuformed “El Dorado” Banners

Candide, by Leonard Bernstein
Scenic Design by James Noone
The Glimmerglass Festival, 2015

For the king of El Dorado’s entrance, four 11’0” x 4’0” bangled, two-sided coin-faced banners were carried on stage.
I pulled my research from punchao, an ancient depiction of the Incan sun god, Inti.

Finished "El Dorado" Banner
2016 USITT Ohio Valley, Peggy Ezekiel Award: Board’s Choice & Outstanding Achievement

Vacuform was the fastest and lightest weight way to achieve the detail, variety, and quantity requested by the designer. Two 15” ply faces and two sets of 24” rings were made so that there could be four different face combinations. Because the bed of the vacuform machine was 2’x4’, the outer rings had to be made in two halves to accommodate their size and depth of the coin face. The wooden forms were embellished using a combination of shaped plywood, carved MDF, and a variety of nuts, washers, rubber furniture feet, and other miscellaneous hardware. This allowed for a quick assembly and provided a durability able to withstand numerous pulls on the vacuform machine.

The pole was made from five quarter clear pine. Each stick was ripped down to 1-1/8” square before the corners were routed so they were 8 sided. The cross arm was half-lapped and screwed to the upright pole. 1/4” foam core circles sandwiched the pole to provide an attachment surface for the vacuformed plastic.

.035 PETG plastic was used for the outer rings of every banner and .035 white polystyrene plastic was for the faces. The plastic pieces were adhered to the foam core base with Hilti expanding foam. Separate scabs were also pulled to disguise the seams of the ring halves and attached with Hilti foam. In total, 8 faces and 16 sets of rings, and 24 scabs were needed to create the double sided coin faces. The faces were painted with Design Master Antique Gold and treated with a reddish brown FEV in the crevices to pop the depth of the imagery.

Over 700 ft. of beads, sequins, and piettes were strung from the cross beam and the face. The sequin beard was leftover trim from show related costumes. Decorative gold rope was used as lashing to hide the screws. The cross beams were fitted with 4” round finials to finish the look.