Jay Duckworth

Interview with Jay Duckworth

The following is one of several interviews conducted by students of Ron DeMarco’s properties class at Emerson College.

The Proptologist: Jay Duckworth

by Sabrina Rosenfield

Jay Duckworth

Jay Duckworth

When I called Jay Duckworth and explained that I was the student from Emerson who would be interviewing him, I was greeted with an “Oh my God! Hi!”, and I knew the conversation was off to a good start. I heard him call to one of his colleagues, Sara Swanberg, asking what he should tell me: her prompt response was “I suck!”.

Pleasantries aside, we got down to business. I spoke with Jay as he sat in his office in the Public Theater in New York, where he has been the Props Master since 2008. When I asked him to tell me how he got his roots in theatre, he acknowledged how lucky he was to be working in such a great theatre, and how far he had come. Continue reading

Alice Maguire

Interview with Alice Maguire

The following is one of several interviews conducted by students of Ron DeMarco’s properties class at Emerson College.

Alice Maguire

By Emily White

Alice Maguire

Alice Maguire

Alice Maguire is currently the Properties Supervisor at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, but she hasn’t always been. In 1972 she enrolled in SUNY Oswego as a psychology major and ended up taking a Children’s Theatre class where everyone had to participate in the show somehow. Alice ended up with the glamorous job of running the hand-pump, wintergreen scented, oil based fog machine while squatting behind Scrooge’s bedroom door for Marley’s entrance in A Christmas Carol. When talking about the experience she said “theatre is a bug that bites you and I was bitten”. Continue reading

Cynthia proudly presents the “Egg Cart” used in A.R.T’s production of “Witness Uganda”

Interview with Cynthia Lee-Sullivan

Over the next few days, I will be sharing some interviews conducted by students of Ron DeMarco’s properties class at Emerson College.

Cynthia Lee-Sullivan, a Master of Her Craft

An article by Charlie Trombadore

Cynthia proudly presents the “Egg Cart” used in A.R.T’s production of “Witness Uganda”

Cynthia proudly presents the “Egg Cart” used in A.R.T’s production of “Witness Uganda”

Cynthia Lee-Sullivan has been the Props Master of the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T. for short) for over 30 years. Her career as a Props Master has taken her all over the world and given her the chance to work with some of theatre’s most prominent directors and craftsmen. She was gracious enough to find time in her busy schedule to sit down with me and answer a few of my questions. Continue reading

Friday Prop Links

The Chicago Tribune has a story on making fake food for a play called Smokefall. The twist here is that the characters are eating dirt and drinking paint.

Playmakers Rep is making some fake vegetation for Into the Woods. The witch’s costume is actually covered in vegetables from her garden, so the costume craft shop is churning out latex lettuce leaves to sew into a dress.

Propnomicon points us to this new Lovecraft-based prop making blog called Elder Props. It already has lots of tutorials and how-tos for a number of projects.

If you ever wanted to know about marbleizing paper, this page has a run-down of several different techniques, from basic to advanced.

Here is an interesting article on Chad Taylor, a Cleveland-based prop maker who builds replicas of film and comic book props for cosplayers around the world.

When Prop or Player Fails, Part 3, 1919

I’ve been posting some excerpts of prop mishaps from a 1919 New York Times article titled, “When Prop or Player Fails” (here and here). Since they were so entertaining, I thought I would post a final duet of tales from that article:

Franklyn Ardell’s talent for comedy turned a stage wait in “The Crowded Hour” the other night into the biggest laugh of the performance. The climax of the third act is reached when a bomb from an airplane strikes the house in which Jane Cowl, frantically operating a telephone switchboard, is trying to save a division threatened with destruction. At the time Miss Cowl is calling Soissons on the telephone, and the word is the cue for the bomb explosion and the collapse of the house. On this night, as she called “Soissons!” the bomb exploded, but the house failed to collapse. Miss Cowl waited an agonizing second, and then again called “Soissons!” Again a wait, and as she was about to call a third time the voice of Ardell could be clearly heard all over the house. “Never mind Soissons!” he whispered. “Call ‘em up back stage and find out what in blazes is the matter.”…

A slip which was the fault of no one in particular took place some years ago at a performance of “Madame Sans-Gêne” in Scranton. The scene of the first act was a kitchen, or perhaps a laundry, and Kathryn Kidder, in the leading role, was lifting red hot irons from a presumably red hot stove. So hot was the stove, in fact, that Miss Kidder was applying a tentative finger to each iron as she lifted it, and indicating as she withdrew it that the stove was hot indeed. In the midst of the scene, however, the theatre cat chose to stroll out upon the stage, and, as luck would have it, elected to climb up on the supposedly hot stove. And there it calmly sat, licking its paws in lazy comfort. The audience gave way to uncontrolled merriment, and the entire act went for naught.

Originally published in The New York Times, January 12, 1919. “When Prop or Player Fails”, author unknown.

Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies