Tag Archives: food

Strawberry pie

Two Fake Pies

We opened Pump Boys and Dinettes here at Triad Stage a few weeks ago. Set in a diner famed for its home cookin’, we needed some pies. They sing about them, after all. Of course, we didn’t want to be buying brand new pies for every performance, so I asked my assistant, Lisa Bledsoe, to make a few.

Pie crust and base
Pie crust and base

She started off making the pie crusts out of Crayola Model Magic. She shaped a layer into a glass pie tray and let it harden over night. She cut some white bead foam discs to fill most of the inside.

Strawberry filling
Strawberry filling

She was making two pies; a fruit pie and a coconut cream pie. For the fruit pie, she had some fake strawberries from the floral section at Hobby Lobby, and cut all of them in half to make a layer on top of the foam disc. She painted the disc red to continue the illusion that it was strawberries all the way down.

Toasted coconut
Toasted coconut

To top the coconut pie, she used actual dried coconut flakes. They were painted with acrylics to make them look toasted.

Coconut cream pie
Coconut cream pie

The Model Magic did not stick to the pie tray, so she was able to pop the whole pie out and paint the crust with acrylics before popping it back in. The cream on top was made from acrylic caulk. She had visited the hardware store and picked up a few different brands and types of caulk and spackle to test out which would dry the most like a cream pie.

Strawberry pie
Strawberry pie

The strawberry pie got a lattice crust made of more Model Magic painted with acrylics. So there you have it; the Double Cupp Sisters’ famous pies!

Same Chicken in Chicago

The following is an anecdote from a 1916 book titled “Recollections of a Scene Painter”.

Another story of [John E.] Owens that Harry Phillips, the old Health Officer, will confirm. One night, at the old National, Owens was playing “Caleb Plummer” in “Cricket on the Hearth.” It is the scene of the toymaker’s cottage in the snow. The miniature is set in the middle of the stage and the characters are having a dinner party. It is just before Gruff Tackleton makes John Perrybingle jealous of Dot about the stranger. Caleb is carving the chicken, or trying to, for on this occasion he was not making any impression upon it. Of course, the property man, who is expected to be caterer as well as everything else, gets the blame, and Owens, boiling with rage, walked out of the cottage and across the stage to the little side door leading to that “L” in the alley back of Third Street, fired the chicken as far as he could up the alley, saying: “That is the same d—d chicken I had in Chicago.”

Originally published in “Recollections of a Scene Painter”, E.T. Harvey, W.A. Sorin Co., Cincinnati, 1916, pp 37-38.

The Luck of the Links

Happy Friday the 13th! While the rest of the day may be unlucky, at least with this blog, you’re lucky to get a great list of things to read today.

Kamui Cosplay has a great tutorial on using expanding foam for prop making. You can find this stuff in a can at home improvement stores, with names like “Great Stuff” (it’s used to seal and insulate cracks in houses). While it is certainly “great stuff” for some applications, it is a polyurethane foam, so you should only use it in a well-ventilated area and it should be allowed to cure in an area with separate ventilation from where you are working. If you work at home, you especially should not let this stuff cure in your house, where it will off-gas toxic and irritating fumes for 24 hours or more.

Over at Theatre Projects, Jesse Gaffney makes a half-eaten chicken carcass. With just bits of wood, some Model Magic, muslin, and a few coats of latex and Glossy Wood Tone, she comes up with a pretty convincing prop that looks like it came straight from someone’s fridge.

Here’s a great tutorial on turning clear glass into tinted glass. It is not useful for glass jars that need to be filled with water, but it uses nothing more than Mod Podge, food coloring and an oven.

Make Magazine reminds us that it is not only useful, but vital, that we document the process of building our props. Taking process shots is useful not only for your own portfolio, but it can help with the creative process itself. It is also helpful with sharing your work with others, since others can learn from your process, even when you think what you have done is simple or common knowledge.

A book called 507 Mechanical Movements has been around for awhile, and a number of reprints can be found at bookstores and online. Now, you can view all 507 mechanical movements online as well. The website is great because it has animated some of the movements, and has plans to animate more of them. These movements are useful when building moving or trick props, and you need to figure out, say, how to make a prop spin when you pull a string, or how to make a rod move in a straight line using a spinning motor.

20000 Objects in Opera Property Room, part 2, 1912

The following is the second portion of an article which first appeared in the New York Sun in 1912. The first part can be read here.

If the property master should take a notion to lose himself among the bewildering objects under his care he could stay lost as effectually as Charlie Ross. He wouldn’t even lack for victuals and drink if certain operas were put on often enough and he could get at the eatables before the artists saw him. In “Donne Curiose,” for instance, there’s enough food provided to make a fairly good meal if a person’s appetite isn’t too grasping. Not a very filling diet perhaps, but what there is of it is first class.

In the first act Scotti gets a dish of perfectly good ice cream; while in the last act the four inquisitive ladies swipe real cakes off Harlequin’s tray. The opera company buys these latter dainties from one of the best caterers in New York and pays 84 cents a dozen for them.

After Harlequin has been robbed of his pâtisserie he again raids the supper table and reappears with a saucer of white stuff which he spoons down with much gusto. This is whipped cream from charlotte russe, bought for this particular incident.

There is also a beauteous cake from which a large slice is apparently cut. The cake if of papier mâché, a permanent institution with a wedge opening into which a slice of real cake is inserted when the opera is to be given.

In the first act of “Madama Butterfly” Martin and Scotti are the gay boys with their real whiskey and soda and cigarettes, all furnished by the benevolent property department. That sounds good to some folks, but there are even more joyous occasions in certain operas, when the company tickles the palates of the pampered singers with genuine champagne.

A fine imported brand.

In “La Tosca” Scarpia looks as if he were having a square meal when he dines apparently on a thick beefsteak. But for once these culinary appearances are deceitful. Beefsteak cannot be stowed away as fast as the exigencies of a star part in grand opera demand. Consequently Scarpia’s beefsteak is only gingerbread, trimmed to a tenderloin design and garnished with parsley. Although the stake is only gingerbread, the wine that sends it on its way is excellent claret.

This combining of victuals and vocalization is not a task which any singer relishes. When the property man was asked whether the artists ever express a preference for a particular brand of wine or whiskey and whether the ladies insist on some favorite kind of cakes or candy—there is confectionery in “Butterfly”—he said they hadn’t got quite so finicky yet.

“We give them the best of everything,” he said. “They ought to be satisfied.”

This article will continue in a later post. It was originally published in the New York Sun, February 25, 1912, page 16.

Bad Tarts, 1903

The following comes from a column called “Some Theatrical Observations”, written by Adolph Klauber, and first appearing in the April 26, 1903, issue of The New York Times. Besides being a humorous story (and a reminder to maintain consistency with the props), it also details an interesting props solution for eating a lot of tarts. I’ve heard this same method was used to make dumplings eaten by Carol Channing in the 1964 production of Hello Dolly, but this article predates that by over sixty years.

On one occasion when James. T. Powers was a member of a traveling company he had a scene in which he was obliged to simulate the eating of a dozen or so of jelly tarts in the shortest possible time. When the tarts were properly prepared, the comedian could make way with them easily, and the act never failed to create much amusement. Indeed, Powers was so sure of his laughs at this particular part of the play that he always looked forward to it as a bright particular spot in the performance.

It was the duty of the property man to make the tarts for each performance by pasting together thin strips of tissue paper, adding a daub of jelly to the tops. The paper used was so thin that the tarts would collapse with the slightest moisture, and Mr. Powers could easily store away a dozen or more of them in his cheek.

One night Powers discovered that some of his friends were seated in front, and he was more than usually anxious to make a hit. He longed for the tart-swallowing moment and eventually it came. He seized the dish containing the tarts and hurriedly crammed a number of them in his mouth before he discovered that the property man had used stiff wrapping paper for preparing the dainties and they failed to collapse as usual.

The result was a highly realistic choking scene that was not a part of the business of the piece, and, when the comedian finally managed to dislodge the thick wad of paper from his mouth, there were some laughs both before and behind the footlights that were not usual to the piece.

Written by Adolph Klauber, first published in The New York Times, April 26, 1903.