Easy Theatre Smoke Effects

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Sometimes a theatrical production needs to create the effect of smoke onstage. Obviously it is far too dangerous to create real smoke, and a fog machine can be cost-prohibitive for small companies. A viable alternative is dry ice, which is relatively inexpensive and can create large amounts of smoke when dipped in water.

Obtaining Dry Ice

  • There are a number of places to obtain dry ice. It can be ordered online or, if you prefer, can be obtained locally. The Dry Ice Directory (see resources below for link) is a useful resource for finding dealers by telephone area code.

Storing Dry Ice

  • Make sure to wear gloves at all times when handling dry ice, as it can bind to the skin. Dry ice is carbon dioxide gas that has been frozen at a temperature of minus 110 F. It creates a chemical reaction when exposed to water. Store dry ice in a cooler rather than a conventional freezer, as it will spoil surrounding food and the dry ice itself.

Creating Smoke

  • To create smoke using dry ice, use a bucket in the wings of the theater. Break the dry ice into small pieces by wrapping it in a plastic bag and cracking it with a hammer. Melt small pieces of the dry ice in hot water to create smoke. Be careful; the smaller the pieces and the hotter the water, the more smoke will be produced. Too much smoke can be disorienting for the actors and the audience.

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