Technical Theatre: How to Build a Hollywood Flat

Learning Resource Type

Learning Activity

Subject Area

Arts Education


9, 10, 11, 12


Students will learn how to assemble a Hollywood flat. Students will learn the names of all pieces that comprise a flat, they will learn how to arrive at their measurements for all pieces, practice cutting the pieces, assemble all pieces together with predrills, impact drills, screws, and glue. At the end of the activity, students should understand all parts of the flat and also how to build it from the ground up.

This activity was created as a result of the Arts COS Resource Development Summit.


Arts Education (2017) Grade(s): 09-12 - Theatre


Apply basic research to construct ideas about the visual composition of a drama/theatre work.



  • Contextual Reading
  • Characterization
  • Dramaturgy
  • Using information in plays to inspire design choices.
  • Using technology to influence design and prepare students for career pathways.
  • Using historical facts and images for ideas and inspiration
  • Using cultural facts and images for ideas and inspiration.

Theatrical Hierarchy and how it works in the classroom.

Essential Questions

EU: Theatre Artists rely on intuition, curiosity and critical inquiry.
EQ: What happens when Theatre artists use their imagination and/or learned theatre skills while engaging in creative exploration and inquiry?

Skills Examples

  • Students will design the set, sound effects or costumes for the play To Kill A Mockingbird. They will use historical images of that time period to create the visual aspects of the play.
  • Students will participate in a lecture on the history of Technical Theatre. They will pick a time period and design a set, lighting, sound or costume design using only the tools available in that time period.
  • Students will create a visual character board for the character that they are representing in a class play or assigned monologue.
  • Students will write a scene. They will break into roles of Director, Actors, Designers and Writer.
  • Students will use their written scenes in rehearsal. Designers will use provided supplies to create a set for their scene.
  • Students will memorize lines, make character choices, perform for the director for notes and finish creating their set.

Anchor Standards

Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

Learning Objectives

Students will learn: 

1)   to apply basic research to understand the different parts of the Hollywood flat (rails, stiles, toggles & skin).

2)   to apply basic research to understand the materials and measurements of materials needed to construct a Hollywood flat.

3)    to apply basic research to understand the purposes of a Hollywood flat in the theatre (a fake wall, a scenic element, etc.). 

4)   to apply basic research to understand how to assemble the flat (step by step instructions).

5)    how research from technical elements will help them develop ideas regarding the visual aesthetics and composition of a scene or play.

6)    to use tools regularly used in a scene shop to construct basic scenic elements.

Activity Details

1. Explain to students the purpose of a Hollywood flat (a fake wall in the theatre or on a TV/movie set). Use the digital resource to show examples of the flat and pictures of the blueprint of a flat.  See pages 8, 9 and 11 of the digital resource tool.

2. Explain the different parts of a flat:




See page 7 (on the digital resource tool) to see these parts labeled.

3. Explain to students that they are going to build a 4’ X 8’ flat frame and then glue it to a sheet of luan (thin plywood).

4. Assist students in arriving at the appropriate measurements for each of the following:

Stile (2 pieces at 7’10 ½”)

Rail (2 pieces at 4’)

Toggles (3 pieces at 3’ 10 ½”)

5. Supervise groups as they get their wood measured and cut it at the chop/ miter saw using safety goggles.

6.  Assist students in laying out their wood in the proper format, making sure that the stiles are nestled under/over.

7.  Starting at ONE corner, have students line up the TOP rail with the LEFT stile. Have students use their predrill to make two small holes from the top of the rail into the stile. Have them repeat these predrills on each of the four corners.  Each time they get ready to predrill they should have their carpenter square lined up on the outside of the flat to ensure that it is a 90-degree angle. The predrills should hit in the middle of the 1 X 4.

8.  Students should first place a small amount of wood glue in between the stiles and rails at each corner.  Then have students sink 2 X drywall screws in each of the corners of the flat frame.

9.  Once the outer frame is complete, measure from the bottom and make marks with a pencil at 2’ & 4’ & 6’ on either stile. These marks are where the toggles will be placed.

10.  Have students insert all 3 toggles in between the markings of 2’ and 4’ and 6’.

11.  Have students use their predrill to drill 2 X holes on each side of the flat frame for each of the toggles.

12.  Students should first place a small amount of wood glue in between the stiles and toggles at each joint. Then have students sink 2 X drywall screws in each of the joints where the toggles meet the stile.

13.  Next, students will line the entire frame of the flat with wood glue.

14.  Using TWO students, they will hover the 4X8 luan over the frame of the flat and gently lower it directly onto the frame. Students will start securing the luan to the frame with the drywall screw in ONE corner and work their way down to the next corner paying special attention to keeping the frame lined up with the edge of the flat.

15.  Once all 4 sides of the frame have been attached to the luan, go back and use a chalk line to snap a mark on all 3 toggles (across the flat from ONE stile to another ONE). Students should adhere about 3 screws to each toggle from the front of the luan.

Assessment Strategies

Determine if the students have built the flat properly by measuring all sides, all pieces within the flat, checking for how the flat was assembled, ensuring all corners are square, each joint has glue & two screws; & the luan lines up with the edges of the flat frame & that all edges are smooth.

After construction, ask students (formative assessment):

1) the measurements of all pieces (stiles, rails & toggles).

2) how each piece was assembled and in what order.

3) to list names of the types of wood used in construction & to identify each type.

4) to list names of all tools used during construction.

5) to share ideas about how and when the flat might be used in an upcoming scene or production.

Variation Tips

Build one complete flat WITH the students so they can see exactly how everything is done. Not all students listen fully to directions, so sometimes a hands-on example (particularly useful if you use the students who don’t pay attention) might be helpful when teaching the students how to assemble it.

Background / Preparation

  1. Purchase lumber (1” X 4”s and 4’ X 8’ sheets of luan)
  2. Gather wood glue, screws (about 50 x 1⅝” coarse thread drywall), carpenter square, speed square, pre-drills (predrills should be a little bit smaller than the width of the drywall screws), impact drill, regular drill and a chalk line (one of each item for each group). 
  3. Make all appropriate cuts for ONE Hollywood Flat, do NOT let any students assemble this Flat, but use it as an example if students need to see you do it.

Before the learning activity:  Students will discuss their experience with construction and their knowledge of basic construction. Students will also be taught that the measurements of wood are NOT what they say they are.  For example, a 1”X4” is actually ¾” X 3 ½”; a 2”X4” is actually 1 ½” X 3 ½”.