Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

A Friday Cavalcade of Links

Stage Directions magazine has a great feature on Faye Armon-Troncoso this month. In “The Actor’s Propmaster“, we get a look at how she got started, some of the show’s she has worked on, and what she has learned. I got to work with Faye a bit when I lived in New York City, including assisting her in the production of Merchant of Venice mentioned in the article.

I love this visit to the Fiberglass Animal Farm. FAST Corp in  Wisconsin is responsible for most of the giant animals and other roadside attractions you see around the US. If you pass a giant ear of corn on the side of the road, it was probably made by them.

Smooth-On has a great FAQ on solving one of the main problems with molding and casting in the props world: how to make paint stick to your plastic castings.

I know a few props people who sometimes work on the balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, so I really enjoyed this article which looks at the 1920s puppeteer whose inflatable monsters changed Thanksgiving.

Finally, this past Thanksgiving, I had a little article written about me in the local paper: “Props master Eric Hart: This guy wrote the book on making props for plays.”

Has to superintend the stage dinner

Dinners are Real, 1905

The following is the fourth excerpt of an article which first appeared in 1905 in the St. Louis Republic. You can read the first part herethe second part here, and the third part here.

When the Thanksgiving dinner is brought on before the critical eye of the house full of patrons it consists of a genuine turkey, smoking from the baking pan. Rich red cranberry sauce is piled up and celery, potatoes and all the little side dishes come on just as they would at the home place. What the performers cannot consume in the precious few minutes of the act goes to the stage hands after the show.

McCarrick was with a company at one time which demanded the real thing in the dinner line. He arranged with a near-by restaurant to bake the turkey and cook up the “fixin’s.” Eight times a week it was one of his principal tasks to see that the fowl went into the oven at the proper moment. He states that when the company reached Thanksgiving Day on their tour that without exception the members ordered beefsteak and fried potatoes for their holiday dinner at the hotel.

Has to superintend the stage dinner
Has to superintend the stage dinner

Since the demand for realism has become so pronounced managers and property men have been driven to desperation by the extremities to which they have been put. When it came to a question of getting an outfit for the cow punchers of “The Virginian” New York was searched over for a respectable equipment, which in this case meant the well-worn, greasy and prairie-stained accouterments of the typical cowboy. It was a simple matter to go into the theatrical outfitter’s and buy the clean pretty suits of leather and the broad-brimmed sombreros. These answered the purpose of neither the manager or the demands which the public would make.

The solution was reached by the happy thought that a Wild West show then appearing in the city might have some performers who would trade the old for the new, and they were at once sought out. It took some parley to convince the genuine plainsmen who were then on exhibition that there was not a joker concealed in the transaction. Eventually enough of them were convinced that everything was “on the square” to supply McCarrick with what was wanted and the result is a band of Westerners which would be satisfying even in the heart of the cow country.

Originally published in The St. Louis Republic, January 1, 1905.

Vacuum formed turkey

A Disappearing Turkey

To all of my American readers, I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving this week! Brian Wolfe from Costume Armour sent me some photographs of a trick turkey they recently created, which seems apropos to the holiday.

For this trick, a waiter needed to walk in with a food cart. He lifts the lid off of a covered tray revealing a delicious roast turkey. He replaces the lid, and the next time the lid is removed, the turkey is gone. Instead, an actor’s head is on the tray, and the actor begins to speak.

This is the drawing he shared with me:

Drawing for a turkey trick
Drawing for a turkey trick

They needed a giant, oversized turkey with enough room inside to fit a head; it also needed to be light enough that it could be lifted along with the tray (you will see why in a minute). They had a rubber turkey in stock, but it was too small and heavy. So they decided to vacuum form a new one. They carved the turkey in foam, made a two-piece mold, and vacuum formed it in 0.04″ Kydex plastic.

Vacuum formed turkey halves
Vacuum formed turkey halves

They cut out the pieces, glued them together, and painted them. Next, they cut a large hole in the bottom:

Hole in the bottom of the turkey
Hole in the bottom of the turkey

The tray was also vacuum formed, this time in a heavy 0.093″ Kydex plastic with a metallic finish. The bottom was formed over a wooden mold, while the lid used a plaster mold. They also added some artificial lettuce which was bought.

Vacuum formed turkey
Vacuum formed turkey

A brass drawer pull completed the look to the lid. The small black rectangle next to it in the photograph below is a small toggle switch:

Tray Cover
Tray Cover

When the waiter flips this switch, a small battery-powered electromagnet turns on (shown in the next photograph). The turkey had a small piece of flat steel hidden on top which is grabbed by this magnet. So when the magnet is on and the tray lid is lifted, the turkey travels along with it, hidden from the audience’s view.

Battery and magnet
Battery and magnet

The diagram below illustrates how the whole trick was set up. I’ve seen this same basic principle carried out in a number of different ways, but the combination of the hollow turkey and electromagnet makes this execution especially elegant; you can control whether the turkey or head is visible simply by the flick of a switch. The actor underneath does not have to do anything.

Turkey trick diagram
Turkey trick diagram

Hope you enjoyed this! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!