Tag Archives: company

An All-Women’s Theatre Company from 1905

I came across the following article in The Bystander, No. 98, Vol 8, Wednesday, October 18, 1905. Sexist language aside, I thought it gave a glimpse of an interesting theatre company that many of us would not have thought existed at the time. It is also a fascinating article to present during Women’s History Month.

A Novel Theatrical Company: Financed, Managed and Run by American Women

(Mailed by our Correspondent in America)

Miss Gertrude Haynes directing the setting of the scenes
Miss Gertrude Haynes directing the setting of the scenes

The American woman is proud in the knowledge that she can stand alone without the support of mere man. She has taken her place in the world of affairs, and now she is to prove that she can run, entirely on her own, that most difficult of businesses—a theatre. Miss Gertrude Haynes is at the head of a Company which will present a woman’s play, written by a woman dramatist, financed by a woman “angel” (this is as it should be). Advance agent, doorkeeper, treasurers, scene-shifters, attendants—all will be of the fair sex.

In the Treasurer's office, where the "ghost" walks every Friday. For the benefit of the unitiated, it should be explained that the payment of salaries is referred to in the profession by the spiritual simile of a ghost walking.
In the Treasurer’s office, where the “ghost” walks every Friday. For the benefit of the uninitiated, it should be explained that the payment of salaries is referred to in the profession by the spiritual simile of a ghost walking.

Miss Haynes is one of the best-known new stars in the country, her “Choir Celestial” having been presented in all of the theatres of the big circuits. She was the originator of the religious act on the stage, and has won both fame and fortune. But let her speak of her own project:—

“My determination to use women stage hands, advance women, and ticket-takers, is not a freak notion,” said Miss Haybes. “I have tried women for the work and found them better than men. They are faithful, work harder, and can always be trusted to be on hand. And that is more than can be said for some of the men who have been in my employ.

“My sister, Miss Tessie Haynes, went out as my advance agent two years ago, and her success was remarkable. No man ever did so well for me. And it wasn’t six months before she was engaged.

Some of Miss Tessie Haynes’ experiences were more strenuous than most men in the same position are called upon to undergo. In Chicago, she encountered a strike of bill-posters, and could not get the Company paper out. Finding that appeals to the strikers availed nothing, the plucky little woman determined to put up her own bills. Hiring a wagon, she went out supplied with paste bucket and brush, and posted the bills.

Her action caught the fancy of the men, who cheered her bravery, and her bills were not disturbed. She has the record of being the only woman bill-poster in the world.

Miss Tessie Haynes, sister of the manageress, acting as a bill-poster
Miss Tessie Haynes, sister of the manageress, acting as a bill-poster

Miss Gertrude Haynes is not exactly preparing for trouble, but she is prepared to meet it if it comes. The man who thinks to have a joke at her expense will “get left” as his countrymen say.

Thus: “My property woman weighs 160 pounds, is strong and vigorous, and can hustle a trunk if necessary,” declares the indomitable manageress. Nor will she stand any love-making nonsense to interfere with the work in what she calls her “Adamless Eden.”

“No, my doorkeeper won’t flirt with the men. She is a fine, handsome woman with grey hair, inexpressibly dignified, and no man will take liberties with her. At least, I pity the one that tries.”

Man will not be entirely banished from the Company. He will be suffered to play the male roles, but otherwise will be quite subordinate. Listen to this strike-loving scene-shifter of the sterner sex!

“I expect to get a cleaner production by reason of my woman stage director. A woman is naturally artistic. She will not take more time to set the stage than a man, but it will be done infinitely better.

“My artists would fall down every night if I did not go after the men and smooth the wrinkles out of the carpet. A woman would never do such clumsy work.”

Miss Haynes’ final word breathes the very spirit of determination. “I have always come off ahead in our battles, and I’m sure that my new venture of an Adamless troupe will succeed.”

Members of the manless theatrical company engaged in scene-shifting
Members of the manless theatrical company engaged in scene-shifting

This article and images were originally printed in The Bystander, No. 98, Vol 8, Wednesday, October 18, 1905.

4th Annual Prop Summit and Weekend Links

The 4th Annual NYC Props Summit will be held tonight at the Public Theatre. It will be from 6:30-10pm at the Public Theater props shop (425 Lafayette St). It is free to attend. Food and drink will be provided, though you are encouraged to bring your own beverage of choice to drink and share with the group.

The props summit is a chance for prop masters and prop makers to meet each other and get to know the larger community. If you live near the area and want to work in props, you should definitely come. If you freelance or work at a theatre where you need the occasional freelance prop builder, you should definitely come. I have written about the previous three summits on this blog: check out 2011, 2010 and 2009.

You can find out more about it in these articles from Stage Directions and Playbill. If you cannot make it, you can follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #propsummit.

For the rest of you, here are some links to keep you busy this weekend:

  • Many of the futuristic weapons from Men in Black 3 were 3D printed by a two-man company. Their machine allows them to print the props directly out in multiple materials. Check the page out for photographs and a video about their company.
  • In 1970, Robert Resta lost his wallet. Forty years later, someone found it. Check out the post at Retronaut for some photographs of what was inside. It is great research for the sort of ephemera and everyday business one might carry around at that time.
  • Where else can prop makers work? Freelancer Laura Johnson just finished making tiny figurines for a model of Lindisfarne Castle as part of an historical exhibition.

Costume Armour

This past weekend I made a trip up to Cornwall, NY, to visit Costume Armour. Brian Wolfe, the general manager, happily showed me around the shop, storage areas and all the pieces they have on display. Costume Armour was founded over 50 years ago by Peter and Katherine Feller, and later purchased by theatrical sculptor Nino Novellino in 1976, and has produced pieces for nearly every Broadway show since then.

Knight of the Mirrors from "Man of La Mancha"
Knight of the Mirrors from "Man of La Mancha"

The piece that kind of began Costume Armour is the armor from the original Broadway production of The Man of La Mancha. Before then, armor was either leather, felt or heavy metal. They solved many problems by vacuum forming a suit of armor from newly sculpted molds based off of historical research. Though the suit itself predates the company, Novellino made it while working with Peter Feller on the vacuum forming machines built by Feller to construct the Vatican pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair. Costume Armour still has those machines, and they are part of what makes their company extraordinary. The vacuum tank is over 1000 gallons, and they can produce pieces from sheets of plastic as large as 52″ by 12′-0″.


The shop was in the midst of a big order for the Disney Jedi Training Academy, Star Wars Weekends and Celebration, which they have been doing since 2004.


I was interested to learn that the shop still uses Celastic quite a bit for many of their sculptures. The original brand-named Celastic has long ceased being manufactured, though they did have a few rolls stock-piled for those extra-special projects (pictured above). The modern equivalents are a bit thicker, but act the same; the cloth is saturated with acetone, than draped or molded over a form or sculpture, and when the acetone evaporates, you are left with a rigid and rock hard surface. Brian explained that it is unrivaled for making realistically-sculpted drapes and clothes on statues.

So I stand corrected on my earlier article on Celastic, in which I claimed that it is rarely used and that there are less toxic alternatives that can do the same thing. Of course, using it requires the proper safeguards for dealing with large buckets of acetone, but working with most materials in the props shop requires understanding and protecting yourself against any potential hazards and toxins.

Jesus and C-3PO
Jesus and C-3PO

While I saw something cool around every corner, I thought I would point out the above picture. They cast a head based off of a scan and model of the Shroud of Turin, so what you have here is what many believe to be the real head of Jesus. He is, of course, on a shelf next to a C-3PO mask.

See you later!
See you later!

The statue pictured above was produced was was sculpted in foam, molded in silicone and cast in fiberglass . Though larger than me, I could easily pick it up off the ground; most of the weight, in fact, came from the plywood base, and not the statue itself.

Novellino was featured in the American Theatre Wing’s In the Wings series; watch the video to learn more about the company and to see the vacuum forming machines in action.

The Condensed History of Specter Studios

Congratulations to te winner of my very first contest, Shane Dreher! Though all the comments offered plenty of comic potential, his provided the most unexpected types of laughs.

I think it would be great if the two old ladies in Arsenic and Old Lace had bats to beat people with the entire play between their witty banter.

I also have some more information on Specter Studios, the company that makes the foam baseball bats which Shane just won. Eanna Holton, the Business and Operations Manager over there, sent me the (condensed) history of Specter Studios:

The current incarnation of the company began in 2004 when it was purchased by Scott Tyson And Mark Marsen. Orginally, they were looking to purchase a building to transistion from being home haunters into official devotees of all things creepy. At the time, Specter (then Spector) had both building and business. Long story short, they passed on the building and bought the company instead! There were a lot of early obstacles, not the least of which were falsified financial documents from the previous owners and though Mark and Scott had already built another strong company, it was not in either the haunt or manufacturing arenas.
There was a lot of trial and error, but Specter kept learning and growing with regard to its reach and its efficiency. In 2010, we began a new era at Specter Studios and have been hard at work with 11 of Pittsburgh’s most talented artists creating some really unique, high quality masks, costumes, and props. We have 2 full time designers who create the majority of our designs, but the floor is open for anyone within the studio to suggest ideas or even try their hand at the sculpting. A good example of that is our Opera Clown Mask. It was sculpted by Mike Pezzulo AKA GYPZY who says he hadn’t touched clay since high school! This mask quickly became, and still is, one of our most popular products! As mentioned, the 11 people who work at our studio are all artists in their own. Ranging from graphic design,music, fashion desgin, painting and drawing, to special makeup effects and circuit bending! We all feel very lucky to belong to such a motley crew.

So there you have it!  Have a happy Memorial Day weekend!