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 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.
This has already been making the rounds, but if you haven’t seen it yet, NPR’s Morning Edition had a story called Objectively Speaking, It’s All About The Prop Master. It talks about what a Hollywood film prop master’s job is like; you can check out photographs at the site, or listen to the story that played on the radio.
The American Package Museum (via S*P*A*M) is a fantastic collection of images of packaging through history. They do not list the years the various packages were in use, but they include size and scale references.
Here’s an interesting rant over at the Full Chisel Blog: Please Do Not use modern glue to repair old furniture. It ties into one of my own rants about how chairs were built to come loose over time, because the alternative is for them to break. The author rails against all modern glues, but polyurethane glue gets the brunt of his complaints (that’s what Gorilla Glue is). I’ve never used hide glue before, though I’m tempted after reading this. If you really, really do not want to set up pots of boiling water in your shop, the article points you to some modern alternatives of “hide glue in a bottle”.
The Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, first premiered The Plough and the Stars back in 1926. They’ve been producing it fairly regularly since then, and some of the props have been along for the ride. “Ploughing history into every production” by Sara Keating in the Irish Times is a great article about the pedigree of some of these props.
The ghosts of long-dead actors sit in chairs that are still recycled between productions, while the shadow of other plays hover above an original Victorian pram that has been used at the Abbey since its very first years. Such objects accrue stories in the same way that cities or buildings or people do. They are a palimpsest of many different lives and different uses.
They carry legends that are usually lost as actors and artists pass on: nobody thinks to write them down.
In the article, Ms. Keating interviews archivist Mairéad Delaney, prop master Stephen Molloy and prop maker Eimear Murphy. They explore the histories of some of these objects, such as Uncle Peter’s Sword, the Tricolor, Mollser’s Coffin, Bessie Burgess’ Shawl, and Mrs. Gogan’s Pram. The aforementioned pram had indeed been used in every production since 1926, and is over a hundred years old by this point.
The Abbey also possesses the original prompt script for the play, filled with notes and scribblings of everyone including Seán O’Casey, the author. All of these objects are remarkable in their own right, but even more so because they survived the Abbey Theatre burning down in 1951 and being completely rebuilt.
Stolloween is a site with an impressive array of Halloween props made entirely out of papier-mâché. It also has tutorials and process photos.
Courtesy of Jesse Gaffney is this article about building fewer cages and dropping more keys. Basically it sums up (much more eloquently) a lot of the reasons why I started this blog; by sharing what I do, what I know, and what I learn, I hope to help everyone reach the next level of skill so we can all create better work.
LUNA Commons are a collection of hundreds of thousands of historical images and items from institutions and universities from around the world. If you need a reference image of an “I Like Taft” necktie or a seventeenth-century map of the world, you can find it here.
It’s been a busy week, and it’s going to be a busy month. Here’s another quick list of links I wanted to share, until I can find time to write something for reals.
Jesse Gaffney, a freelance props master in Chicago, has a new blog. Theatre Projects details the process behind some of his more challenging props projects. I’ve also added a link to the blogroll column on the side.
Art of Manliness has a wonderfully illustrated article on the various types of hammers and how to use them. And if you’ve never been to the Art of Manliness before, take some time to look around; there’s a large archive of articles and forums to explore.
Finally, if you have time, watch The Story of Stuff. It’s a 20 minute film showing how products go from raw materials to the store. It examines the social, environmental, and political aspects of production and consumption, but it’s also interesting for props people who are interested in objects and where they come from.
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies