Props for the Weekend

Gamora’s Godslayer – Guardians Of The Galaxy – I lost track of the “Man at Arms” show for awhile. It turns out they’ve rebooted it as “Man at Arms: Reforged.” The original show saw Tony Swatton use forging, blacksmithing, and metalworking techniques to build real metal versions of movie and video game weaponry. The new show is the same, just with a different shop. I have a lot of episodes to catch up on, but I definitely wanted to share this one where they make Gamora’s sword from Guardians of the Galaxy, since it is such a cool blade. You can pick up a lot of techniques by watching them work.

Twin Cities actor blows the whistle on ‘unsafe’ theater production – The production of “Medea” at the Lab Theater in Minneapolis is described as having a three-to-four thousand gallon pool with a 30 -foot long exposed electric circuit along the drip edge. I can’t quite picture that in my head, but it was scary enough to get the actors to call Equity and shut the production down.

The Creature and Special Effects of Alien: Covenant! – Adam Savage’s new life involves visiting every movie set and playing with their props. It’s not a bad gig. Plus, as a former model-maker/prop builder, he knows what kinds of questions to ask to make these videos more informed than your typical “behind-the-scenes” featurette that’s slapped together at the last minute.

Tips of the Week: Wire Splicing, Table Saw Router, and Flea Market Brainstorming – Make Magazine publishes a short list of tips and tricks every week, and I found this week’s collection particularly useful.

A Strange Passage in my Life (part 2), 1835

The following occurred in 1835 and comes from a collection of stories about life on the stage (I previously published the first part). It’s a bit long, but the description of props from generations past is absolutely fascinating:

A Strange Passage in my Life (part 2)

by E. L. Blanchard

On a certain unlucky Friday in the month of November, 1835, there was a consultation in Bradwell’s room about calling into requisition for the forthcoming pantomime of “Guy Fawkes” some old mechanical contrivances which were known to be in existence, but being quite unknown to a later generation, were considered likely to increase the attraction of the Christmas novelty, without involving any extra expenditure. The task of selecting what was likely to be most suitable was assigned to me, and I received special instructions to look out for a certain “animated peacock,” originally made for a pantomime produced early in the century, under the title of “Harlequin and the Swans, or the Bath of Beauty.” Continue reading A Strange Passage in my Life (part 2), 1835

Mid Weekend Links

The Power of Gold – Propnomicon shares this great video from Brazen and Bold about painting an aged metal finish using spray paint, acrylics, and an airbrush.

Flashlight Museum – The next time someone questions the historical accuracy of the flashlight you put in the show, send them to this museum. They have over 3700 images of flashlights from the dawn of flashlight history to the present.

One of the Toughest (Silent) Jobs at the Met Opera – The New York Times looks into life as a spotlight operator at the Met. Sure, it’s not props, but it’s nice to see a major newspaper acknowledge one of our backstage companions. Plus, many of us have probably run spot at some point in our career.

Alien Covenant’s Armor, Weapons, and Blood Effects! – Adam Savage takes a look at all the cool props and practical effects in the upcoming Alien film.

A Strange Passage in my Life, 1835

The following occurred in 1835 and comes from a collection of stories about life on the stage. I find it notable in describing what a props run crew person was charged with, as well as revealing what the pay was for overhire on large shows:

A Strange Passage in my Life

by E. L. Blanchard

It had long been his earnest desire to obtain a practical knowledge of the mode of working stage machinery, and when an old friend of his family, Mr. William Bradwell, the ingenious theatrical mechanician, for many years associated with Covent Garden, proposed that he should be placed on the “property” staff of that establishment as a recipient of the nightly eighteenpence paid to extra hands during the run of spectacular pieces, the offer was eagerly accepted. Throwing in such trifling literary services as a couplet or a comic song for a pantomime, and occasionally assisting in the authorship of a playbill, the duties I had to discharge in this department were neither irksome nor unpleasant.

The distribution of banners, shields, and spears was committed to my charge, and when “Macbeth” was played, I had to count out the exact number of branches required for Birnam Wood to come to Dunsinane, and to see that the forest sent on by human instalments was duly returned and stacked, when the scene was over, in its accustomed corner.

When it was necessary for the evil demon to go below, it was my hand that gave the signal for the trap to descend, and the match to be applied to the pan of red fire; and, when the good fairy had to be despatched on some benevolent mission above, mine were the arms ready to receive her in the flies, and respectfully enfold the waist that had to be unhooked from the strong hold of the “traveller.”

When the revolving pillars of the ascending temple, used in the melodramatic romance of “Aladdin,” produced such a pretty effect, that a round of applause was sure to follow, I felt, as the invisible promoter of this peaceful revolution, bound to acknowledge the complement with an unseen bow. When the radiating star opened in the first scene of “The Bronze Horse,” to inspire by an encouraging dream the slumbering Zamna, Prince of China—represented by Mr. John Collins, uneasily reclining on a most uncomfortable mossy bank in the foreground, and usually grumbling during his supposed sleep about calico flowers being nailed to his couch with sharp tin tacks, placed the wrong way—mine was the hand giving movement to the complicated mechanism.

When Claude Frollo was flung by Quasimodo from the Tower of Notre Dame, it was my mission to hurl through the window the substituted dummy, and my misery to learn that a left-handed deputy, appointed one evening, had sent the stuffed figure through the wrong window, and pitched it into the middle of the pit, among a crowd of amazed spectators, who, after nursing the tattered effigy for awhile in a seemingly affectionate manner, returned it with such force across the footlights, that it fairly knocked down Mr. Henry Wallack, who entered at that moment as Quasimodo, and sent the Esmeralda, Miss Vincent, into such a fit of irrepressible laughter, that it became necessary to ring the curtain down as speedily as possible.

Scott, Clement. Stories of the Stage. London: G. Routledge, 1881. 22-23. Google Books. 25 Oct. 2007. Web. 2 May 2017. <>.

Friday Fun Prop Links

Adam Savage Behind the Scenes of Alien: Covenant – Our favorite Mythbuster tours the set of the latest Alien movie as is being built, painted, and weathered. Sure, it’s a set, but it’s a very proppy set.

Work/Life Balance in Professional Theatre – American Theatre Magazine is running a survey to learn more about the work/life balance in theatre. If you work professionally, take a few moments to fill it out and help add to their data.

The Pen and the Trigger Finger: Examining Gun Violence Onstage – While this article does not deal with props per se, it does have a lot of interesting ideas about the use of guns on stage and even just the implication of gun violence. As a props master, you need to be aware that simply placing a gun on stage or in an actor’s hands carries a lot of weight and meaning to your audience.

Finishing Lies – Finally, Christopher Schwartz brings us this list of claims made on the packaging of wood finishes which typically do not end up being true.

Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies