Although sets may appear to be one piece, usually they comprise of a number of sections. The size of these sections depends upon a number of factors:
Weight: As sections of scenery are moved, carried and built by stage crew, the pieces should not be too heavy. The join of each section, where possible, is disguised within the design. In the Stage Design with the Court of a Castle, the staircases were almost certainly constructed in five sections: Section one would be the top stage-right platform and first four treads, section two the continuation of those treads and the lower platform, section three the steps leading down from centre-stage, section four the lowest set down-stage-centre-right and section five the arch and treads stage-left. All would need to be bolted or clamped to each other to create a solid structure. Incidentally, the down-stage cladding on section two would not have extended behind section three but would have followed the line of the steps. If the cladding went to the floor, the stagehand would have been unable to climb inside and fix the two pieces together.
In the case of columns supporting a ceiling, such as in the Italian Coast Scene by John Devoto, the columns would have been set to their onstage marks and the ceiling lowered onto them from the Flys. The stage crew would have then climbed up and fixed the sections together.
With arches and walls the same technique would be applied. In Serafino Brizzi’s Interior of a Gothic Fortress, the arches were probably stored in the Flys and flown in to sit on top of the walls during the scene-change. The walls and arches would then have been secured, the ropes untied and pulled out of view.
Ease of repair of vulnerable sections: Statues, finials and capitals are often broken or chipped and it is much easier to make a repair if only a small section of set needs to be removed.
Transportation: Sets are rarely made within the theatre itself so need transporting from the workshop in a cart or lorry. At the end of a run of performances the scenery will then be moved to the stores. The life of a typical production can be as much as 15 years and the number of revivals dependant upon its popularity.
Storage space onstage: Wing space is never as large as the onstage area so pieces of scenery are often broken into sections.