Learning Resource Type

Learning Activity

Technical Theatre: How to Build a 4' x 8' Theatrical Platform (Elevated Playing Surface for Actors)

Subject Area

Arts Education


9, 10, 11, 12


Students will learn how to assemble a theatrical platform. Students will learn the names of all pieces that comprise a platform, 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 (rails, stiles, toggles, and skin) of the platform and also how to build it from the ground up. Although this activity is very similar to "How to Build a Hollywood Flat", platforms and flats are used for different purposes and different lumber is used for each.

The digital tool provides examples of platform and lumber used on pages 9, 11, and 13.

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

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


    Use researched technical elements to increase the impact of design for a drama/theatre production.

    Unpacked Content



    • motivation
    • origin
    • rising actions
    • climax
    • protagonist vs antagonist
    • Alexander Technique
    • diction
    • consonants
    • vowels
    • motivated movement
    • blocking
    Theatrical production

    Essential Questions

    EU: Theatre artists develop personal processes and skills for a performance or design.
    EQ: What can I do to fully prepare a performance or technical design?

    Skills Examples

    • Students will discuss in a classroom setting the differences in dealing with friends, family, fellow workers, employees or a boss: how you speak, listen and react differently in each of those relationships.
    • Students will have improvisational scenes using those roles as starting points in the scenes.
    • Students will study Viola Spolin techniques in class and use those techniques in classroom scene work.
    • Students will research scenic painting and how it can enhance scene aesthetic for their various plays and performances.
    • Students will create Living Newspapers for their classroom audience, using modern articles, various roles for each student and rehearsal to refine the final performance.

    Anchor Standards

    Anchor Standard 5: Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for presentation.


    Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    1)    Students will be able to distinguish the different parts of the theatrical platform from one another (rails, stiles, toggles, and skin).

    2)    Students will identify the materials needed to construct a theatrical platform.

    3)    Students will construct the theatrical platform (step by step instructions).

    4)    Students will examine and explain the purpose of a theatrical platform in the theatre (a raised playing surface) after it is constructed.

    Activity Details

    1. Explain to students the purpose of a theatrical platform by referring to the digital tool resource and allowing students to observe pictures of a platform in order to understand the basic structure of the platform by looking at blueprints on the digital tool resource. There are images of a platform on pages 9, 11, and 13.  

    2. Explain the different parts of a platform:




    These parts are labeled on page 7 of the digital tool resource.

    3. Explain to students that you are going to build a 4’ X 8’ flat frame and then glue it to a sheet of ¾” plywood.

    4. Assist students in arriving at the appropriate measurements for each of the following.  All pieces are cut from 2” x 4”s:

    -Stile (2 pieces at 7’ 9”)

    -Rail (2 pieces @ 4’)

    -Toggles (3 pieces at 3’ 9”)

    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 the 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 platform to ensure that it is a 90-degree angle. The predrills should hit in the middle of the 2 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 (3”) drywall coarse thread screws in each of the corners of the platform frame.

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

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

    11.  Have students use the predrill to drill 2 X holes on each side of the platform 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 (3”) 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 4’ X 8’ ¾” plywood over the frame of the platform and gently lower it directly onto the frame. Students will start securing the luan to the frame with the (1 ⅝”) coarse thread drywall screws 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 four sides of the frame have been attached to the plywood, go back and use a chalk line to snap a mark on all three toggles (across the platform from one stile to opposite one).  Students should adhere about 3-4 (1 ⅝”) screws to each toggle from the front of the ¾” plywood.


    Assessment Strategies

    Assessment Strategies

    Determine if the students have built the platform properly by measuring all sides, checking for how the platform was assembled, ensuring all corners are square, each joint has glue and two screws; and the plywood lines up with the edges of the platform frame. Hold formative assessments with individual students or groups that include asking the students to:

    1) explain and restate the measurements of all pieces (stiles, rails & toggles) while elaborating on the specific measurements of each piece of wood needed to create a 4'X8' platform.

    2) examine how each piece was assembled and discuss why they were constructed in the order they were.

    3) select different types of wood used in construction and to compare/contrast the different woods while teaching others about their differences and how to identify each type.

    4) describe and name all tools used during construction.

    5) explain the actual measurements of the pieces of lumber used (despite their name); and where the wood name (2 x 4's or 1 x 4's) originates.

    6)  identify useful examples of how the platform could be used in a theatrical show.

    Variation Tips

    Build one complete platform 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 in teaching the kids how to assemble it.

    Background and Preparation

    Background / Preparation

    1. Purchase lumber (2” X 4”s & 4’ X 8’ sheets of ¾” plywood)
    2. Gather wood glue, screws (about 40 x 1⅝” coarse thread drywall & about 25 x 3” coarse thread drywall screws per flat you want to build), 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 platform, do not let any students assemble this platform, 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” X 4” is actually ¾” X 3 ½”; a 2” X 4” is actually 1 ½” X 3 ½”. 

    Digital Tools / Resources