Tag Archives: America

Links for a Taxing Weekend

Links for a Taxing Weekend

You have only a little more than two weeks left to enter my Prop Building Guidebook Contest! Don’t wait until the last minute to enter. I also wanted to point out that a week from Monday (April 22nd), you can start voting for your favorite prop in the contest; tell your friends they can vote for your prop once per day until the contest ends on April 30th. In addition to winners in each of the individual categories, the prop with the most votes will win its own prize category, so vote early and vote often! And now, onto the links.

Here is a fantastic article about the guys at Spectral Motion, one of Hollywood’s finest creature shops. They’re responsible for most of the monsters in the Hellboy films, as well as for work in X-Men: Last StandBlade:Trinity, and this summer’s Pacific Rim. The article is replete with information about how they got started, what kind of work they do, and what inspires them. It is also heavily illustrated with photographs showing their workshop and the inner workings of some of their creatures. I especially love the following quote about why practical effects are still necessary in an era of digital mimicry:

“A lot of times people turn to digital solutions. That’s also good, if the application is correct. But, you know, a lot of directors that we talk to are of the mind that a practical effect is far better for exactly that reason–because the actor does have a co-actor to work with, to play off of, and to have feelings about.”

I came across this short interview with Mickey Pugh, prop master on films such as Saving Private Ryan and Last of the Mohicans.

From the prop masters email list this week comes Click Americana, an ongoing collection of vintage photos and ephemera from all decades of American history. You can search for specific topics or just browse through by decade, from the 1820s to the 1980s. It has a whole section dedicated to recipes, too, great for when you need to provide period food.

And finally, if you missed my Tweet this week, I shared this video looking at the blood effects in Trinity Rep’s Social Creatures, a “zombie” play now running. Production director Laura Smith and assistant props master Natalie Kearns show us how they make the blood and organs squirt and fly.

Members of the manless theatrical company engaged in scene-shifting

An All-Women’s Theatre Company from 1905

I came across the following article in The Bystander, No. 98, Vol 8, Wednesday, October 18, 1905. Sexist language aside, I thought it gave a glimpse of an interesting theatre company that many of us would not have thought existed at the time. It is also a fascinating article to present during Women’s History Month.

A Novel Theatrical Company: Financed, Managed and Run by American Women

(Mailed by our Correspondent in America)

Miss Gertrude Haynes directing the setting of the scenes
Miss Gertrude Haynes directing the setting of the scenes

The American woman is proud in the knowledge that she can stand alone without the support of mere man. She has taken her place in the world of affairs, and now she is to prove that she can run, entirely on her own, that most difficult of businesses—a theatre. Miss Gertrude Haynes is at the head of a Company which will present a woman’s play, written by a woman dramatist, financed by a woman “angel” (this is as it should be). Advance agent, doorkeeper, treasurers, scene-shifters, attendants—all will be of the fair sex.

In the Treasurer's office, where the "ghost" walks every Friday. For the benefit of the unitiated, it should be explained that the payment of salaries is referred to in the profession by the spiritual simile of a ghost walking.
In the Treasurer’s office, where the “ghost” walks every Friday. For the benefit of the uninitiated, it should be explained that the payment of salaries is referred to in the profession by the spiritual simile of a ghost walking.

Miss Haynes is one of the best-known new stars in the country, her “Choir Celestial” having been presented in all of the theatres of the big circuits. She was the originator of the religious act on the stage, and has won both fame and fortune. But let her speak of her own project:—

“My determination to use women stage hands, advance women, and ticket-takers, is not a freak notion,” said Miss Haybes. “I have tried women for the work and found them better than men. They are faithful, work harder, and can always be trusted to be on hand. And that is more than can be said for some of the men who have been in my employ.

“My sister, Miss Tessie Haynes, went out as my advance agent two years ago, and her success was remarkable. No man ever did so well for me. And it wasn’t six months before she was engaged.

Some of Miss Tessie Haynes’ experiences were more strenuous than most men in the same position are called upon to undergo. In Chicago, she encountered a strike of bill-posters, and could not get the Company paper out. Finding that appeals to the strikers availed nothing, the plucky little woman determined to put up her own bills. Hiring a wagon, she went out supplied with paste bucket and brush, and posted the bills.

Her action caught the fancy of the men, who cheered her bravery, and her bills were not disturbed. She has the record of being the only woman bill-poster in the world.

Miss Tessie Haynes, sister of the manageress, acting as a bill-poster
Miss Tessie Haynes, sister of the manageress, acting as a bill-poster

Miss Gertrude Haynes is not exactly preparing for trouble, but she is prepared to meet it if it comes. The man who thinks to have a joke at her expense will “get left” as his countrymen say.

Thus: “My property woman weighs 160 pounds, is strong and vigorous, and can hustle a trunk if necessary,” declares the indomitable manageress. Nor will she stand any love-making nonsense to interfere with the work in what she calls her “Adamless Eden.”

“No, my doorkeeper won’t flirt with the men. She is a fine, handsome woman with grey hair, inexpressibly dignified, and no man will take liberties with her. At least, I pity the one that tries.”

Man will not be entirely banished from the Company. He will be suffered to play the male roles, but otherwise will be quite subordinate. Listen to this strike-loving scene-shifter of the sterner sex!

“I expect to get a cleaner production by reason of my woman stage director. A woman is naturally artistic. She will not take more time to set the stage than a man, but it will be done infinitely better.

“My artists would fall down every night if I did not go after the men and smooth the wrinkles out of the carpet. A woman would never do such clumsy work.”

Miss Haynes’ final word breathes the very spirit of determination. “I have always come off ahead in our battles, and I’m sure that my new venture of an Adamless troupe will succeed.”

Members of the manless theatrical company engaged in scene-shifting
Members of the manless theatrical company engaged in scene-shifting

This article and images were originally printed in The Bystander, No. 98, Vol 8, Wednesday, October 18, 1905.

Friday Night Sites

The weekend is upon us again. It’s a holiday weekend; for those of us in the theatre, that means we have to go to work despite all the stores and banks being closed. It is also the unofficial end of summer. But don’t worry; I have some fun links below!

Curtains without Borders is a fascinating-looking project. It aims to record and restore all those hand painted theatre curtains found in town halls, grange halls, theaters and opera houses. It is mostly preserving those painted between 1890 through 1940. The site itself has some photographs (albeit of a small size) from across the country showcasing these valuable pieces of our theatrical history.

The San Francisco Gate has an article about Lori Harrison, the prop master at the San Francisco Opera. Lori gave us a tour of the opera back in 2010 when SPAM held its conference out there.

LA Weekly has a short blog asking “what do you do when your gun doesn’t go off onstage?” Most prop masters know to incorporate backup plans whenever dealing with firing blanks on stage, but if you don’t, this article is a good reminder that you should.

The National Park Service just completed a huge project. Thousands of images from their collections across the country are searchable and viewable online. These objects and specimens give a wide range of information from America’s history and are great for research.

Here are some pretty cool vintage ammo boxes. Unfortunately, none of the images are dated, but the enterprising prop master might be able to use them for further research. And while we’re at it, the whole Accidental Mysteries blog where this came from is filled with interesting vintage stuff and historic oddities.

First Links of Winter

Okay, so it’s still a few days until winter, but the sudden temperature drop makes it feel like it’s already here. I am driving down to North Carolina today; enjoy these links and websites in the meantime.

Stage Directions magazine shows how props artisan Jay Tollefsen improved the “baby-in-a-bag” trick for the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s annual production of Dracula in this article titled, “Baby’s Got a Brand New Bag.”

Hirst Arts Fantasy Architecture has compiled a nice tutorial with lots of helpful hints on casting small resin pieces in silicone molds.

This fascinating post looks at the history of imagined books as props in theatre. One example is the first use of a prop book in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in which the script mentions Prospero’s book; what would they have used as a prop in those earliest of performances. The article talks about far more; like I said, it’s pretty fascinating.

The Educational Theatre Association has a nice how-to on adding texture to hard scenery; it’s great for using on props as well.

By 1974, the EPA had produced over 80,000 photographs showing how America interacted with the environment. The National Archives has begun making them online, and the Atlantic has posted a fine selection of some of these slice-of-life images of America in the 1970s.

Future Fossils is a collection of technological items from the near-past, such as 8mm cameras and Atari joysticks, which have been molded and cast in concrete so they look like archaeological relics from bygone days. You can buy them as well, but really, I just thought they looked cool.