Tag Archives: Book of Grace

Hamburger and French Fries

Making Fake French Fries

The Book of Grace had a moment where Grace, a diner waitress, carried a tray of food across the stage. She started out with a hamburger we had in stock. The director wanted us to add some french fries. To the French Fry Machine!

Hamburger and French Fries
Hamburger and French Fries

Natalie Taylor Hart took on this project. She began with an old scrap piece of upholstery foam. She set the fence on the bandsaw and cut thin strips out of the foam. She then ran these strips through the bandsaw again to get long bars of foam. Finally, she cut the bars to a variety of lengths, leaving the edges at a variety of slight angles to keep them from looking artificial.

Since the piece of foam was fairly old, it was turning yellow in areas. Natalie used a can of yellow spray paint to add color in the rest of the areas. She did not completely coat the fries with a single color; the variety of tones on a single fry help give it more realism. You can see the fries in this state in the photograph below.

Painting the fries
Painting the fries

She next used a shade of brown acrylic paint to add the “cooked” (and burned) parts of the fries. This is the part where subtlety and artistry (and a good reference photograph) help make the fries seem real. None of the fries should look the same. Fries tend to turn browner on the edges, or toward one side. She also made some of the fries browner than others.

Fake French Fries
Fake French Fries

For her final step, she dabbed some artist’s gloss medium onto the lighter parts to give the fries a greasy highlight.

I arranged the fries on the plate, and then secured them into place with several dots of hot glue. Order up!

The set of "The Book of Grace"

“The Book of Grace” Props

The Book of Grace, by Suzan-Lori Parks, closed yesterday here at the Public Theater, so I thought I’d write about some of the props. I’ll start with the set props and some of the tricks that may or may not have been apparent.

The set of "The Book of Grace"
The set of "The Book of Grace"

This show had a lot of tricks. The iron actually ironed, the stove actually cooked eggs, and the sink actually ran water. Sometimes, the simplest of shows actually have the most complex of prop needs. It becomes less overwhelming if you break it down into simpler parts.

The Stove

Top of the stove
Top of the stove

The stove was originally a gas stove. In order to make it cook an egg, I took a hot plate apart and placed the burner in place of the original burners. I ran the cord out the back, and it was all run by the light board.

The Fridge

Top of the Fridge
Top of the Fridge

The refrigerator had a radio on top of it, which was played at one point. We needed to sneak a speaker in there somewhere; the fridge was actually from our prop shop, so we didn’t want to drill any holes or cut any parts out of it to hide the speaker. As you can see in the photograph above, by placing it in a basket and surrounding it with old mail and take-out menus, we kept it out of view from the audience.

The Sink

The sink had some of the toughest challenges. Making it run water was the easiest; since the Anspacher Theater has a sink directly backstage, we just needed to run a hose from it under the deck and to the faucet. The tricky part had to do with the end of the scene. The titular book of Grace was torn up by Vet, the father, thrown in the sink, set on fire, and then the charred pieces were pulled out.

The actual book was a custom scrapbook with many parts created and modified by the actress playing Grace. As such, we didn’t want them to tear it up and burn it every night. Second, if we burned an actual book, the ashes would float up and set the ceiling on fire. Finally, there would not be any way to consistently control what the charred pieces looked like after burning the book.

Interior of the sink
Interior of the sink

On the top of the photograph, you can see a pocket in the sink. Before tearing up the book, the actor grabbed a duplicate copy, which was similar but simpler. After tearing it up, he dropped the pieces down this pocket. Along the bottom of the picture, you can see a bar of metal which covered a trough filled with campfire gel. This is what the actor set on fire. On the left side of the photograph is another pocket. This one held the pre-charred scraps of paper which the actress pulled out at the end of the play.