Tag Archives: Stage Directions

Friday Rehearsal Notes

I have an article out in this month’s Stage Directions magazine, hot off the presses. For “Cabinet of Wonders“, I spoke with Marc André Roy, the lighting project manager on Kurios, the new show from Cirque du Soleil. Kurios has a lot of props with wireless lighting and motion effects, and we looked at how Cirque makes that happen. I also talked with James Smith at RC4 Wireless, where all the wireless dimmers that Cirque uses are made. You may remember my blog post on my trip to RC4 Wireless earlier this summer.

These photographs of the inventories of British Soldiers are endlessly fascinating and useful. Thom Atkinson has taken all the gear and paraphernalia that a British soldier was issued at various times in history over the past 1000 years, and laid it all out on the floor. If you wanted to know what an archer was carrying at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 (say, if you’re doing Henry V), this is where you should go.

The Examiner has a great interview and profile of Beth Hathaway, a master of building creatures for film. Hathaway has been a fabrication specialist at Stan Winston Studios and KNB EFX for decades, working on projects such as Edward Scissorhands, Jurassic Park, Terminator 2Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Walking Dead.

Finally, check out this LA Times story on Nick Metropolis, the famed LA store filled with junk and jumble of all varieties.

Friday Links

Friday Links

Stage Directions has a round-up of some of the top theatrical special effects companies out there. They talk about the most challenging effects they have pulled off in a live performance, and how they work with a theater to plan it out and make it happen.

The Wire has a short history of ventriloquism which is quite fascinating, if a little bit creepy. I especially enjoyed the video of Ray Alan performing with his “Lord Charles” dummy, who was performing a ventriloquist act with his own, even smaller, dummy.

Pop Chart Lab has a great poster giving a stylistic survey of graphic design. It looks like a handy reference for when you want to check if your period piece has correct-looking paper props and ephemera.

Marvel Entertainment has started their own web video series on cosplay, and the first installment shows them planning and designing the costume they will build. And hey, looks like they are borrowing a costumer from the world of theatre to help them out. Go, theatre!

All the Props Links

I have a new article up in this month’s issue of Stage Directions. I break down how we pulled off a fake knife-throwing trick for Triad Stage’s production of Wait Until Dark. Old pros know this trick, but it is always helpful to see a working model in action.

Fake ‘n Bake is back! Anna brings us a guest post by Ariel Lauryn on how to make a roast beef sandwich. There’s lots of pieces and parts that come together into a great prop which she built at one of my favorite puppet companies, The Puppet Kitchen.

Stagebitz has a great interview up with Gary of Twin FX. This UK-based effects and animatronics company has built everything from fire-breathing dragons to fifteen-foot-tall moving gorillas. What’s even more amazing is they build all of this for the stage, where it has to perform smoothly night after night, for years on end.

First Stage, a dynamite children’s theatre company in Milwaukee, is doing Shrek: The Musical. They show off how they make the ogre face, starting from taking a life-cast of the actor’s head, to sculpting and casting the prosthetic pieces he will wear.

A Friday of Websites

A Friday of Websites

Not too much going on this week. Everyone seems to be transitioning from regular seasons/school to summer work. Still, there were some interesting things on the Internet in the past couple of days:

My latest article for Stage Directions Magazine is up. “Fast, Cheap and Under Control” takes a look at how you build a prop when that prop has never been built before. I interviewed several props people for their perspectives on this particularly perplexing problem; Tom Fiocchi, props instructor at Ohio University; Lori Harrison, props director at San Francisco Opera; and Seán McArdle, worldwide freelance prop maker.

Speaking of Stage Directions, I interviewed Kacie Hultgren in an earlier article about 3D printing for theatre. Make Magazine has revisited Kacie to see what she has been up to lately.

Joshua Meltzer, prop master on the show Dexter, shares 14 bloodthirsty secrets from the “Dexter” set. Some of the shocking secrets? They don’t actually cut the actors with knives.

Finally, do you know the proper way to chuck a drill bit?

Chairs as far as the eye can see.

USITT 2013 Wrap-Up

This past week was the 53rd USITT conference in Milwaukee. This year’s conference featured a lot of things for props people. I couldn’t get to them all, but I saw a lot of them. I took notes which I may go through later, but since I’m writing this on the flight home (and have to work first thing in the morning), I’ll just give the highlights.

First off, there was the Expo floor, filled with companies, organizations and universities peddling their wares. Wonderflex World had plenty of samples of their products, including a sneak peek of a new product coming out soon that is pretty exciting.

Smooth-On had their usual cool booth with all the rubber monsters and foam cinder blocks you can make with their products. There’s a possibility I may start getting samples of their new products to test out for this blog. That would be neat.

StageBitz had demos of their props management and inventory software. I first tested them out about two years ago, and it’s almost completely different now (in a good way). You can do a 3-week free trial of their software from their website, which is really the only way to start discovering how easy and seamless this can make propping a show, from letting the designer share images and research with you, to letting you send the designer pictures of items in your stock, to keeping up with changes in rehearsal, creating to-do lists to send to your artisans and shoppers, maintaining a budget, to finally adding all the props to your stock when the show closes.

RC4 Wireless Dimming had tiny wireless dimmers. It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how these little devices act so seamlessly to let you control any sort of battery-powered light or motor from your theatre’s lighting console. I also attended a session called “Wireless Light and Motion for Propmasters”, where a couple theatres were showing off various ways they used the RC4 units.

One of the last sessions of the conference was on sustainability in design and production led by Donyale Werle. It included the exciting unveiling of the College Green Captain Toolkit, based off of the already-successful program which every Broadway show participates in (I’ll post a link when it appears, or you can contact the Broadway Green Alliance for more information). Jacob Coakley from Stage Directions Magazine live-blogged much of the session.

An earlier session on “Reimagining Theatre with Green Ideals” also featured information about sustainability and the Broadway Green Alliance. Once again, Jacob Coakley live-blogged the whole discussion.

“Grave Matters” was a session with a lot of good tips and tricks for making gore and corpses. One of the speakers, Gary Benson, has his presentation online , including step-by-step photographs of how he made some skulls.

“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out” was a bit disappointing since 3 of the 4 presenters could not be there. However, you can check out the handouts on firearm safety that they had. You will also find a link for a survey they are running to discover how various theatres deal with guns on stage (and off). I’m not sure how long that link will last, so you should download those files rather than bookmarking them.

I got to check out the Young Designer’s Forum, which had some great work. I was also able to meet two of my future coworkers this summer at the Santa Fe Opera.

The Milwaukee Rep props shop hosted a SPAM get-together at their space, though it was nice to see plenty of non-SPAM props masters and prop makers there as well. I wrote about their shop for Stage Directions this month, but to actually see their work space and storage facilities in person was a great treat.

Chairs as far as the eye can see.
Chairs as far as the eye can see.

Oh yeah, I also sold out of my book by the end of my signing. The response has been overwhelming so far. I am ecstatic that so many people are excited about this book, and I can’t wait to hear back from those of you who use it or teach from it.

Did I forget anything about the conference? Was there something I missed? Let me know in the comments what you saw at USITT that excited you.