Another Friday Links

You may have noticed a distinct lack of posts this week. Between tech, a minor flood at the theatre, and personal challenges, I did not have any time to write this week. But have no fear, the Internet is here, with stories about props of all shapes and sizes:

First off, the Chicago theatre community has an annual props, sets and costume give-away amongst all the professional theatre companies. The Sun-Times Media has a nice write-up, including video and photographs of some of the theatre’s storage spaces. It is also a great exploration on how local theatre communities share resources with each other.

Dave Lowe, the props master at Hallmark Channel’s “Home and Family”, makes custom trophies for the winner of a game segment on the show. When Florence Henderson guest-starred, he set out to create a replica of the cursed tiki from when the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii.

When Playmaker Rep’s production of Assassins needed a dead dog on stage, the costume crafts shop stepped in to make one. La Bricoleuse shows us how they did it.

Finally, Bob Knetzger fits a spray booth underneath his stairs for his home workshop. He has drawings and photos explaining how he built it.

The Week’s Links

I am currently in tech for Pump Boys and Dinettes at Triad Stage, opening next Friday. This means I’m really tired, but I can read lots of things on the Internet. Here are some articles I’ve come across recently:

First up is this interview and video with prop master Russell Bobbitt. He has, perhaps, one of the more enviable positions in the world of prop-making at the moment: providing the iconic weapons for the Marvel Universe, such as Captain America’s shield, Thor’s hammer and Iron Man’s arc reactor. The article doesn’t delve into much detail, but it is still a fun read.

In the New York Times is this fantastic profile on set designer Eugene Lee. You may not recognize Lee’s name (unless you attended USITT), but you probably recognize the set to Wicked, or to Saturday Night Live, which he has been designing since it began. His house is practically a props warehouse, filled to the brim with objects and collections he has acquired over the years, and this article has plenty of photographs showing it all off.

Here is a promising new blog with a fun name: Eat, Clay, Love. It only has a few posts so far from UK-based artist Shahriar, but I’ve already picked up some new techniques I want to try.

Finally, if you have been following Shawn Thorsson’s quest to build a life-size ED-209 from Robocop, part three of his series went up last week. He’s doing a lot of molding and casting of the parts for this installment, and explains how he does it.

Hourglass

Oh, the Things you Find in Stock

It is always fun when you inherit a props stock to go through and imagine what shows the props have previously appeared in, or to see how previous props people have solved problems. Every once in awhile, though, you see something that is so… “theatrical”, that you just have to stare at it for a bit:

Hourglass

Hourglass

If you are familiar with the “fast-good-cheap” triangle, this prop is firmly in the “fast and cheap” category. Despite its aesthetic shortcomings, it is actually a fairly clever solution. It uses materials and found objects that are common to most prop shops, and it is constructed in a manner that probably took less than an hour. It is also possible that on the right stage, under the right lighting and in the right context, this may have looked fine, and the time it would have taken to make this look better was better spent on other props.

Obviously, you would never put a prop like this in your portfolio, and it is not something you should aspire to. It can definitely use a second-pass of sanding and painting. The plywood could have been cut out more carefully, and the excess of glue oozing out everywhere is disturbing. But as I said above, without knowing the circumstances of when this was built, it may have been the least-bad option at the time. There are no judgments in props, only opportunities for improvement.

Always Check Your Props Preset, 1896

The following article comes from an 1896 article in The New York Times:

Edmund M. Holland Destroyed $5

In the first act of “A Social Highwayman,” at the Garrick Theatre, a game of poker is played. One of the players, William Norris, puts a fifty-dollar bill, stage money, on the table and makes an uncomplimentary remark about thieves just as Edmund M. Holland, who plays the part of a valet, is entering the room. Mr. Holland approaches the table when nobody is looking and steals the fifty-dollar bill.

The property man forgot to give the bill to Mr. Norris last Wednesday night and Mr. Norris did not discover that he had forgotton to ask for it until he was on the stage. Then there was great finessing to get a bill without letting the audience know anything was wrong.

Finally Mr. Norris slipped toward the wings and asked several employes of the theatre to let him have a bill. The stage carpenter was the only financier in the party, and he promptly handed to the actor a five-dollar bill, good money.

Mr. Holland has a habit of destroying the stage money after he makes his exit. The act is unconcious and due to nervousness.

After the performance Mr. Norris went to Mr. Holland’s dressing room and asked that the stage carpenter’s bill be returned to him.

“Oh, I tore that up,” remarked Mr. Holland, pointing to a lot of pieces on the floor.

Mr. Norris said a few terse words, looked ruefully at the small pieces of greenback, and went sadly away.

He gave the stage carpenter $5 and tried to keep the story quiet.

First published in The New York Times, February 9, 1896.

Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies