Tag Archives: Smithsonian

Friday Prop Notes

As Doctor Who gears up for its 50th anniversary in little over a week, check out this new interview with their prop master, Nick Robatto. In it, you can read how he got started, what he studied in college, and how he hates fiberglass and refuses to build props with it (yay!).

For fans of a different genre, Buzzfeed has the stories behind 10 iconic Grey’s Anatomy props. It’s Buzzfeed, so they don’t go into too much detail for each one, but it is still interesting to hear the (often relatable) challenges the props team encounters with making or finding these strange items.

Here’s a brief (but illustrated) look at how furniture design changed due to World War II. The examples look incredibly contemporary, and none of it would look out of place on a modern set. It is a great post for those interested in historical trends in furniture and period styles.

So, the Smithsonian is 3D scanning their massive collection. They only have a small library of models online at the moment, but more is sure to come. Imagine the possibilities for research, where you can view a 3D model of a piece of furniture or an historic weapon right on your computer. You also have the possibility of downloading the models and exporting them to fabrication tools, such as CNCs or 3D printers. Your designer wants a wooly mammoth skeleton in the show? Just download and “print”.

The Prop Building Guidebook

This Week I got a Book

So the big news this week is that I received my advance copy of The Prop Building Guidebook: For Theatre, Film, and TV.

The Prop Building Guidebook
The Prop Building Guidebook

I cannot wait for people to start reading this. It’s the culmination of several years’ work. It clocks in at around 380 pages, and has photographs, charts, and illustrations on nearly every single page.

But enough about me, let’s talk about what else you can read on the web this week:

The House of von Macramé is a new pop musical running at the Bushwick Starr. It’s about a killer who targets models during Fashion Week. Waldo Warshaw did all the blood effects, delivery systems and splatter choreography, which Erik Piepenburg at the New York Times presents to us in this great article and slideshow called “A Scream. A Splash. Send in the Mops“.

This is actually from a month ago, but the Smithsonian Institute has received production-used costumes and props from the Broadway production of Wicked for display in their National Museum of American History. I think more props belong in a museum.

Everybody knows Google Street View, right? Well they have some special galleries hidden in different places. One very cool one is the inside of Scott’s Hut in Antartica. It’s an exploration hut from 1911 which the cold has preserved perfectly. It makes for some really cool primary research. If that link doesn’t work, or if you want to see what other galleries they have, you can view all their collections.

Kushner supporters outside the Public Theater, photograph by Jay Duckworth

The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Links about Props

Last night finally brought us to the opening of Tony Kushner’s new play, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures, which we’ve been in previews for since March (and rehearsals since February!). I was the assistant props master on the show. There’s been quite a stir with Mr. Kushner this past week as well; first, he was set to receive an honorary degree from John Jay College, but then the board of trustees of CUNY voted to deny it; Mr. Kushner wrote an eloquent and biting response asking for their apology; finally, Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote an editorial on the matter and opened it up to reader’s comments.  Last night’s opening even saw some protesters show up in support of Tony Kushner.

Kushner supporters outside the Public Theater, photograph by Jay Duckworth
Kushner supporters outside the Public Theater, photograph by Jay Duckworth

It’s a fascinating (and important) story if you are involved with theatre. But if you read this blog just for the props, don’t worry, I have some links for you to finish off the week:

  • Here is an absolutely fantastic inside look at the Office of Exhibits Central for the Smithsonian Institute, which fabricates the displays and exhibits for their various museums. Besides more traditional materials and methods like mold-making and fiberglass, they have also made a huge push into new technologies like 3D scanners and printers, CNC routers, fabric printers and more.
  • No Tech Magazine has posted the table of contents from an 1837 book titled The Panorama of Professions and Trades. It proposes to show all 87 types of jobs in existence (I think there were far more than that, even at that time, but I digress). What is interesting is how many of these trades remain essential skills for the well-rounded props artisan.
  • Jean Burch has posted a list of project management skills over on her Technical Direction Tidbits blog. I fell a Props Director is similar to a Project Manager in many respects, and this list shares many of the skills which a props director also needs.
  • Do you like pencils? Here’s a whole page dedicated to pencils. You can peruse hundreds of photographs of different pencils while learning their history, as well as view some classic pencil advertisements.