The Society of Properties Artisan Managers Offers Some Advice – Recently, S*P*A*M solicited advice from its members, which include hundreds of prop masters in most of the major US theaters. They narrowed the list down to 32 nuggets of advice for every new prop artisan.
Interview — DISCOVERY Prop Master Mario Moreira on the Red Angel Suit, Section 31 Phasers, and More – The newest iteration of Star Trek continues the tradition of having cool props. Take a peek into the workshop of Mario Moreira to see how all the custom sci-fi gadgets get made.
‘The Big Bang Theory’ Prop Master and Set Decorator Look Back on the Show’s 12 Seasons – Whether you enjoyed the show or not, a twelve-year run means lots of props and tons of detail in the set dressing. Find out about some of the behind-the-scenes secrets from prop master Scott London and set decorator Ann Shea.
How Gary Does the Dicks – Taylor Mac’s highly irreverent Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, now running on Broadway, needed dicks. A lot of them. The show features dozens of mannequins playing the part of dead Romans, and at various points, they come to life and dance with their members. Learn how specialty prop designer Craig Grigg brought them to life with animatronics.
Avengers: Endgame Film Décor – Check out these photos and descriptions of the miriad sets from this decade’s biggest film. Set Decorator Leslie Pope discusses what went into creating some of the major locations in this film, many of which had to match or reference previous locations in this sprawling 22 film franchise.
It’s the middle of a hurricane here in North Carolina, as well as Opening Night for my first show of the season, but I still found some great stories and videos on props that you can check out:
Broadway’s Biggest Debut: King Kong – Ugh, this puppet is so amazing. It is controlled by 14 puppeteers and it contains a ton of animatronics as well. Be sure to see some of the videos of Kong in motion.
TAIT Take Over – Karla Ramsey – Scenic artists at TAIT Towers create the proscenium arch for the Elton John concert. It is a combination of foam carving and clay sculpting, with everything molded and cast for the final piece. A few of my friends and colleagues spent the summer up here working on this, and the results are spectacular.
Cosplay Shines At DragonCon – Make Magazine has a great round-up of cosplay photographs from the recent DragonCon in Atlanta, GA. Yes, there is a whole convention just for dragons.
Modeling and 3D-Printing Wonder Woman’s Tiara for Cosplay! – Darrell Maloney made this video to show us how he modeled a digital version of Wonder Woman’s tiara from the recent film. He then 3D printed it, and shows us how he finished and painted it as well.
Submit Your Role Call-ers! – American Theatre Magazine has a regular segment where they highlight theatre workers that more people should know about. This December, they will be profiling twenty folks that should be known outside their discipline. You can nominate people you think they should highlight; let’s see some props people up in there!
Stormbreaker – Avengers: Infinity War – MAN AT ARMS: REFORGED – If you’ve seen the new Avengers film, you know that Thor gets a pretty awesome new axe. And if you watch “Man at Arms”, you know they forge famous pop culture weapons from real steel. So buckle up as the team at Baltimore Knife Company fabricates this mythological axe/hammer combo fit for a god.
Hong Kong Court Convicts Props Master for Possession of Fake Cash – A judge in Hong Kong has convicted two film crew members for possession of fake cash from a film. Though the bills were clearly labeled as film props, and were not even attempted to be used as real currency, the crew members were still given prison sentences. This is a chilling verdict for members of the Hong Kong film industry, which is seeing more and more interference from the Chinese government.
“Costume-making Is Dying. We Can’t Get the Skills.” – The head of costumes at the Royal Opera House in London is finding it hard to staff her shop with skilled artisans. I have heard similar rumblings in the world of props. Despite the rise in hobbyist prop makers, actual professional positions are getting harder to fill. Do we, as an industry, have an obligation to train the next generation of prop artisans?
An Award For The Best Prop? – Aurelie Gandilhon asks why there is no category in any of the major performing arts awards for best prop.
New Behind The Scenes Look At The Art And Practical Effects Of ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’! – Check out all these photos and video of the animatronic dinosaurs used in the new Jurassic World films. Even though they do a lot of CGI replacement for the final film, they still build full-scale dinosaurs for filming.
First off – the second edition to The Prop Building Guidebook is finally here! Go buy it so I can feed my babies! And if you like it, please leave a review on Amazon or wherever you purchase it from. And if you really like it (or you really liked the first edition), feel free to shoot me an email; the sad fact of being an author is you do not know how people are using your book unless they decide to tell you.
What’s in a letter? Prop or prank? – The Chasing Aideen blog has a fascinating look at prop letters on stage. Through conversations with directors and historical artifacts, we get a glimpse of how prop letters range from nonsensical scribbles to fully-realized reproductions from the imaginary world of the play.
Skylight Music Theatre’s ‘Beast’ puppet a giant thing of beauty – It really is. This massive, fully-articulated puppet looks like it stepped straight out of a Guillermo del Toro film.
Adam Savage Behind the Scenes of Ghost in the Shell! – In this video, Adam Savage heads to New Zealand to see some of the practical masks and animatronics which Weta Workshop designed and produced for the upcoming Ghost in the Shell film. The aesthetic is an amazing blend of smooth futuristic tech with old-world hand craftsmanship.
The Make: Guide to Dungeon Master Crafting – A lot of props people love models and miniatures, and a few enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons. Make has put together a guide of some fine tutorials on how to make your own miniature terrain and buildings for whatever role-playing games you prefer.
And finally, I’ve started this Instagram thing where I’m sharing all my photographs of prop shops, prop builders at work, and other backstage theater stuff. Come check it out!
Inside the ‘Jitney’ Set: Picturing Pittsburgh Onstage – The NY Times takes a look at how set designer David Gallo and props supervisor Scott Laule brought the set to August Wilson’s Jitney to life. Set in 1970’s Pittsburgh, a lot of the set dressing and details come from conversations with Wilson himself when Gallo designed the original set back in 2000.
The tiny town that builds show-stopping sets for Beyoncé, Kanye and Madonna – This is such a great article on all the massive scenic shops which exist in Lititz, PA, the heart of Amish country. I grew up not too far from there, but I never knew that companies like Tait Towers have built nearly every rock and roll set here since the late 1960s. The larger tech theater schools send a lot of their graduates there, but most people are unaware how much fabrication and painting work can be found in the area.
This ‘Circus’ has elephants … in puppet form – A circus is not much of a circus without elephants, but most of these elephants are poorly treated. So the only humane solution is to build life-size puppet elephants. USA Today gives us a close-up look at how the puppet elephants in Circus 1903 come to life.
Batman’s Original Utility Belt Was Made Out Of Sponges – The headline tells the story. Before HD, television shows could get away with glueing brightly colored sponges to a belt and calling it a Batman costume. I have also heard that some of the phasers in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation were simply painted blocks of balsa wood.
Giant, Flame Spewing Animatronic Dragon – The only thing better than a life-sized elephant puppet is a giant, flame-spewing animatronic dragon. Check out how Zollner Electronics fabricated this monster for a seasonal folk play in Germany.