Tag Archives: Alley Theatre

Weekly Props Roundup

For the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s props director, one blood is not like another – The Washington Post does a fantastic job interviewing Chris Young, Properties Director of the Shakespeare Theater Company. Chris shows off all the different kinds of blood he uses, and why he needs so many. The article has some great photographs, including a few of the blood delivery devices he incorporates into props and costumes.

I Ain’t Got No Body – A lot of dead bodies seem to appear in Jay Duckworth’s props shop, so it’s about time you get to hear his side of the story. For Shakespeare in the Park’s production of Cymbeline, Jay used the Saran wrap and packing tape method for making a body, and he gives a good step-by-step tutorial in this article.

Midlands Professional – Set Designer and Prop Maker David Hardware – David Hardware tells his story of how he became interested in working in film. He started out working in craft services, and eventually opened his own prop-making studio in Leicester, England.

Pressure Casting a Glow-in-the-Dark Slimer Model – The folks at Tested have a video showing how Frank Ippolito cast a glow-in-the-dark sculpture of the Onionhead Ghost from Ghostbusters.

Finally, in an update to last week’s story about the devastation to The Alley Theatre in Houston from Hurricane Harvey, the theater recently posted some videos and photographs from their prop storage area. It looks like it will take awhile to clean everything up, and a lot of it may end up being unsalvageable.

Alley Theatre Suffers Damage from Hurricane Harvey

This week saw a particularly devastating hurricane hit Houston. Many theaters were damaged, but perhaps none as severely as The Alley. The Alley is one of the three oldest resident theaters in the US. I visited their shops and performing spaces just last month, when they were fresh off a recent renovation that updated their entire theater.

American Theatre magazine posted some videos and photos as the storm hit. The Neuhaus theater and lobby were completely submerged. The hand prop storage in the basement was also completely underwater. The props team has not been able to get down there yet to survey the damage, but it could potentially be a total loss. The Alley has operated for over fifty years, and their stock had evolved into one of the best in the country; they frequently lend unique items to theaters all over the US.

The storm hit during rehearsals of a new play by Rajiv Joseph. They have already made plans to continue with the show at an alternate venue.

I have been following this story on the Facebook page of The Alley’s properties master, Karin Rabe Vance. She has posted a list of local charities if you wanted to donate to help Houston. If you wanted to directly help the theater, you can also donate to the Alley Theatre Employee Flood Assistance Fund, or to the rebuilding campaign for the Alley Theatre itself.

I am certainly glad the employees are all currently safe, and I am sure the theater will be able to rebuild over time. Nonetheless, this kind of loss is devastating to a props shop. A prop stock is part of our livelihood, and a stock like The Alley’s represented the careful accumulation of items over many decades. That kind of collection cannot simply be repurchased, and may never be replicated. It will be a great shift in how they prop shows for many years to come.

(Watch a video to see more images of Harvey’s impact on The Alley).

A Visit to the Alley Theatre Prop Storage

I recently returned from the 24th annual Society of Properties Artisan Managers’ Conference. This year, it was held in Houston, and hosted by the Alley Theatre and Houston Grand Opera. As part of the conference, we were able to tour the prop storage of the Alley.

They have hand props and some commonly used items located in the basement of the theatre itself, located right in downtown Houston.

Head stock
Head stock

Continue reading A Visit to the Alley Theatre Prop Storage

Friday Rehearsal Notes

6 Theatre Workers You Should Know – American Theatre just picked Karin Rabe Vance as one of this month’s theatre workers. Karin is the props master at the Alley Theatre, which just had a major renovation done to their production facilities. Her shop produces some enviable work, and as a fellow S*P*A*M member, she is a great help to the props community.

Designer Lez Brotherston claims boom in theatre admin jobs has taken toll on technical roles – I once walked the facilities of a theatre company which had gone out of business and were auctioning off their building and assets. The admin office was filled with rows and rows of desks; they probably had 30 people working in there. But they had no production or technical workers on staff, and produced only one show a year. I’m sure other reasons exist for their bankruptcy, but I can’t see how a setup like that could ever be successful, even with a constant infusion of cash. Anecdotally too, it seems more and more young theatre artists want to get into the admin side of things, and fewer want to do any of the hands-on work. But ultimately, you can’t get a show in front of an audience by sitting in front of a computer all day or by talking in a meeting. You have to physically build, paint, sew, wire, and source every last bit, and then heft it through the theatre door.

Free Download for Halloween: The Coffin Chapter – Just in time for Halloween, or perhaps for your remount of Christmas Carol, comes this free chapter from one of Lost Art Press’ books. It’s a lot of hand woodworking, but you can easily adapt the instructions to build one with power tools. I’m dying to try this out.

The Humble Book Bundle: Cosplay – If you haven’t heard of “Humble Bundles”, they take a bunch of products and let you buy them all for however much you want to pay, with all the money going to charity. From now until October 28th, they have a bundle of cosplay books, which feature a lot of stuff that prop builders will find interesting. They are all e-books, but it’s very high quality stuff; some of the books have been reviewed here before, and others are by well-known prop builders whose work has been featured on this blog. Check it out before it’s too late!