Inside the Art Studio That Brings Broadway Shows to Life – Joe Forbes himself narrates this video that shows the scenic artists at work inside Scenic Art Studios. Forbes is one of Peter Feller’s “five heads” who started his own studio when Feller Scenery closed (the others being Nino Novellino with Costume Armour, Roger and Shelley Gray with Center Line Studios, and someone needs to help me remember the others).
Watch the Met Opera Stage a Sea of Blood – Find out how J&M Special Effects managed to flood the whole deck of the Metropolitan Opera with fake blood. This article has some striking photographs and video of the effect, and it delves into the kinds of logistics it takes for dealing with such a large amount of fluid.
How to 3D Print on Fabric – This video has been circulating the internet for the last week or so, but it is still too cool not to share. Uncle Jesse shares his techniques for 3D printing directly onto fabric to make effects like dragon scales and the like.
You Gotta Have Heart – Emma Pickles shares how she sculpted, molded and cast a squishy human heart. And she does it (gasp!) without any Smooth-On products! It’s actually a good look at using cheaper, more traditional methods and materials for creating a convincing prop.
Edward Siedle, Technical Director of the Metropolitan Opera House, gives the author an account of some of the animals and fantastic creatures used on stage in the opera. I posted another selection from this article last year:
by Mercy Gorham
“To make the dragon in ‘Siegfried’ possible, two men in turn act as the front and hind legs of the creature and control the working of the mouth, eyes and ears. Two more are required to handle the wires which lower and elevate the head, beside the electrician who watches the lights in the eyes, the one who controls the vapor and steam proceeding from the dragon’s nostrils, and lastly the conductor, who has to watch the score carefully, so as to give the cue for the various movements of the dragon. The technical director himself attends to the side movements of the head.
“The bear in ‘Siegfried’ is worked by the property man. In ‘Koenigskinder’ the geese are real, and must be cared for when not on duty in a room of their own. Every day their wants are attended to, their bath kept clean. Though used but six times during the opera season, these aristocratic birds live on the fat of the land. There is one property goose that takes the crown away and later brings it back again, and this is operated by the property man.
“‘Lohengrin’ has its swans, ‘Rheingold’ its small dragon, ‘The Magic Flute’ its enormous elephant with howdah and Oriental draperies. While these are but minor illustrations of the inventive genius necessary to produce grand opera, they give some small idea of the tremendous responsibility resting on the heads of departments beyond the curtain line, the infinite attention to detail necessary, and the enormous labor, both mental and physical, required to give grand opera patrons the series of perfect stage pictures for which they pay and which they have a right to demand.”
Gorham, Mercy. “Grand Opera Beyond the Curtain Line.” The Theatre Magazine Jan. 1915: 41. Google Books. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.
The Power of Gold – Propnomicon shares this great video from Brazen and Bold about painting an aged metal finish using spray paint, acrylics, and an airbrush.
Flashlight Museum – The next time someone questions the historical accuracy of the flashlight you put in the show, send them to this museum. They have over 3700 images of flashlights from the dawn of flashlight history to the present.
One of the Toughest (Silent) Jobs at the Met Opera – The New York Times looks into life as a spotlight operator at the Met. Sure, it’s not props, but it’s nice to see a major newspaper acknowledge one of our backstage companions. Plus, many of us have probably run spot at some point in our career.
The following comes from the May 3, 1903 issue of The St. Paul Globe:
When the curtain drops at the close of every act of a drama or opera it is the signal for the players to rush for their dressing rooms, some of the men in the audience to troop up the aisles in search of—a change of air, and the women to chat and—possibly to note what the other women are wearing.
But there is another class of individuals for whom the falling of the curtain means business, and the liveliest kind of business at that. They are the “stage hands.”
As the curtain strikes the floor a stentorian voice cries:
“Strike!” echoes another equally robust voice, and instantly there is a commotion on that stage that would bewilder a bystander, if he were permitted there at such a time—which he is not.
The first voice is that of the stage manager of the company playing at the theater. The second is that of the stage carpenter attached to the house. The commotion is the scurrying about of the stage hands, the property men and the electricians whose duty it is to clear the stage with the greatest possible celerity of all scenery, furniture and lighting paraphernalia that encumbers it. For perhaps the first act presented a street in a large city or the parlor of a rich man’s mansion, and the second is to picture a country lane or the wretched hovel of the poor but virtuous. Hence this bustle.