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
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 →
Though I could not make it to the NYC Props Summit this year, I did follow what was happening via the Twitter. This was the fourth such event, and Jay Duckworth, the props master at the Public Theater, seems to have outdone himself in organizing it this year.
The NY Times had a great write-up of the event: “[A]bout 50 props people… gathered on Friday night at the Public Theater for an informal meeting that gave attendees a chance to network, watch demonstrations and exchange insider tips on the latest techniques in an area of theatrical design that often goes unnoticed and unheralded.” The article contains much more information and a great slideshow of photographs.
One of the main events was a talk and demonstration by the owners and employees of The Specialists (formerly known as “Weapons Specialists”), a prop rental and fabrication house just a few blocks from The Public Theater known for supplying guns, weapons and custom effects to many of the film and television shows that are produced in NYC.
#propsummit Nigel says always treat a gun as if it is loaded. Never put your finger near the trigger until your ready to fire.
The guys at the Specialists described weapons safety while demonstrating and presenting a variety of the weapons they offer. Everything from rubber guns to blood knives was on display here.
The informal meeting and greeting that happened throughout the night made up the bulk of the event. It was a chance for prop makers to meet prop masters, for prop directors from different theatres to meet each other and for everyone to catch up on what was happening within our community. Props can be a lonely career at times, and it is helpful to learn that others share your woes with demanding directors, absent designers and strange glares as you walk down the street with a bag full of questionable items.
#propsummit Lots of recent graduates meeting the old pros. Some of them didn't know in the early days we used Polaroids for props shopping.
In 2011, Jay Duckworth was the second props master to give the keynote address at a KCACTF conference; the first was Thurston James. Jay is the props master at the Public Theater/Shakespeare in the Park (my former boss). He has put up the video of that speech, so I thought I would share it with you here.
Tech rehearsals for the Public Theater’s production of King Lear start this Thursday, and we are busy as ever in the props shop. My life is busy as ever between writing my book, preparing for Lear, tech rehearsals for Mike Daisey’s The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, and some minor revolution in New York City. So I don’t have much to write, but I do have a sampling of photographs of some of the props we are constructing for King Lear.
The “map” in our production is a tabletop topographical model of Lear’s kingdom. King Lear, played by Sam Waterston , actually kicks the whole table over, and pieces of the map break off. At least, that’s our goal. Besides Jay, a lot of the work has been undertaken by Fran Maxwell, with some help by Sara Swanberg and Raphael Mishler.
We need a variety of dead game for Lear’s men when they return from hunting. After last spring’s Timon of Athens, I already knew we had nothing decent in stock nor anything worth renting in the city, so we had to make some. Pictured above is my first attempt at building one from scratch and covering it in hackle pads and feathers. We then found complete pheasant hides, so we started using those as coverings, which freed us from having to glue individual feathers all over the bodies.
In addition to the pheasants and some rabbits, they wanted a larger dead animal as well. We gave them my fake dead lamb for rehearsals, which longtime readers may remember from last year. We then located the hide of a jackal which turned out to be nearly the same size as the lamb, so rather than construct a new dead animal, Sara Swanberg just set off covering the lamb with the jackal hide.
We have more cool stuff coming up, such as Michael McKean’s eyes which get torn out of his head. That should be quite a sight!
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies