Tag Archives: Triad Stage

Full bar

Building a Bar for “Anna Christie”

The first scene of Anna Christie takes place in a small waterfront bar in the New York City harbor around 1910. For our production at Triad Stage, the design had a large back bar and front bar which could appear for that scene and strike backstage when it ended. The scenic designer drafted the front bar and the back bar for the props shop to build, and away we went. Standing nine and a half feet tall, at almost twelve feet long, the back bar really pushed the limits of the definition of a “prop”.

The back bar was built mostly out of lauan with half-inch plywood framing pieces to make it as light as possible, since it would need to be pushed on and off stage a vista by three crew members.

Beginning construction
Beginning construction

It was constructed in three sections to make transportation to the theatre possible. You can see two of the sections below, showing where the piece broke apart. You can also see the beginnings of the wood grain paint treatment which I wrote about last week.

Two sections
Two sections

Most of the vertical surfaces on the top section of this piece were meant to be antique frosted mirrors. I used some silver Mylar as the mirror, laid a section of lace on top, and spray painted through it. This left a lace-like design on the Mylar, and after a few more coats of spray frosting over the whole thing, it looked just like a mirror.

Making the mirror
Making the mirror

The unit was originally on wheels, but when it got to the theatre, the noise it made while moving was deafening. The stage floor consisted entirely of expanded steel panels. We discovered that plastic furniture gliders actually made moving the unit completely silent and fairly effortless. They also ensured the unit remained stationary when no one was touching it.

Back bar
Back bar

With some practical sconces, some lace runners and doilies, and a whole bunch of vintage liquor bottles, the piece was complete. Below is a photo of the whole setup, which includes the front bar that our prop shop also constructed.

Full bar
Full bar

You can also see a side-by-side comparison of the final piece with a research image. Obviously the proportions and specifics were changed in the design, but the inspiration is fairly clear.

Research vs final piece
Research vs final piece
Crow puppet

Crow Puppet

My major project for the past few months involved engineering and constructing a number of animal puppets for Triad Stage’s production of “Snow Queen”. I wrote about the white-tailed stag last week. One of the most complicated puppets in terms of motion and movement was the crow. He also had the most stage time out of all the puppets, appearing on his own in several scenes. I began work on him shortly after beginning the stag, so that I could have plenty of time to develop the means to have a single puppeteer perform all the actions he needed to perform.

You can see a bit of the “evolution” of the puppet’s mechanisms in this video.

The major difference between the prototype puppet in the video and the final puppet was that I switched the pole to connect on the side rather than from behind. It gave the puppeteer much more control over the puppet by letting him manipulate the orientation of the crow’s body by twisting the main control pole, rather than having to stoop and squat.

Head and neck mechanism
Head and neck mechanism

As you saw in the video, the head and neck were controlled by an inner pole which was free to rotate on its own. Strings ran inside which could turn a bar that held the head.

Hand controls
Hand controls

At the other end of the control bar was a similar bar that held the other ends of these strings. The puppeteer could both swing the bar back and forth and rotate the inner pole with just one hand. The other hand was free to flap the wings.

Wing mechanism
Wing mechanism

If you look closely, you will see the wings were actually attached to mousetraps. Pulling a string moved the wings down, and the springs in the mousetrap moved the wings back up when the string was released.

Bird pattern
Bird pattern

The pattern for the crow’s body was developed in a small prototype by the puppet designer, Bill Brewer. I enlarged this pattern and cut it out of black EVA foam sheets. I came up with a pattern for the head and beak to match the look; like the other puppets in the show, the appearance was not meant to be realistic, but was stylized to make the crow look like he was cut and folded out of sheets of paper.

Crow puppet
Crow puppet

The solid black crow tended to disappear when on stage, so he was given a final paint job by the scene designer, Howard Jones. He accentuated the flat planes and folds on the crow with white and silver paint, helping make the crow “pop” against the background.