Tag Archives: food

Supers Must Eat, 1907

The following comes from a 1907 news article:

The supers used in big stage productions have the appetites of elephants. No food or drink used on the stage is too mean for them to neglect—provided the property man isn’t looking. They drink the cold tea as though it was really wine instead of the fake vintage. They devour the ginger cake that passes for paté de foi gras. They have even known to attack realistic papier maché grapes and ices made of cotton batting.

The play on this particular night was “Romeo and Juliet” and the scene in Juliet’s garden the pièce de résistence. The stage was filled with apple trees in bloom. White petals were scattered thickly on the cocoa matting greensward. They were not really apple blossoms, but white, pulpy popcorn, substituted for muslin flowers after many experiments, because they looked just as well and lasted longer. The fake blossoms differed from the popcorn of the candy stores in one particular. The firemen thought the pulpy corn increased the danger from fire and ordered the manager to squirt a fireproofing mixture on them.

The prompt book had this stage direction at the climax of the third act: “Romeo fights Tybalt. Murmurs off L. changing to yells. All on.” On this evening there were no murmurs, no yells, no “all” to go on. As the curtain fell, Romeo went to the stage manager, beside himself with rage.

“What the—Beg pardon—Good—Ah—,” he yelled. “Where—was—that crowd?”

“Out of business,” replied the stage manager. “They’re lying in a row down in the cellar. They ate the popcorn.”

“Supers Must Eat.” The New York Times, 16 June 1907, p. 9. New York Times Archiveshttps://nyti.ms/2LIYL5x.

Last Prop Stories in April

Metal 3D Printing Like Never Seen Before – 1st Century Roman Helmet Build – We’re all out of a job! Except that this took months of hand painting and finishing on top of the actual printing. Not to mention you still need to deal with 3D printing just like any other process, where you break your prop down into its simplest components and determine the best materials and methods to achieve those components. Still, this is an impressive looking helmet.

Inside Hollywood’s Prop Food Wonderland – Take a journey to LA’s Prop Heaven, one of the largest independently-owned prop houses in Burbank, California. Nearly a quarter of their stock is devoted to food and restaurant-themed furniture.

Fit For A King – A Nine Piece Rolling Throne – Jay Duckworth details his process of creating a rolling throne for the Public Theater’s mobile production of Henry V. Initially, the throne had to come out in nine pieces and be assembled by the actors onstage, before another actor jumped on the seat and rode around in it. Luckily, it was the only prop in the show!

Propmaster Annette Breazeale Brings WBTT Theater Sets to Life – Check out this lovely photo slideshow of the prop stock at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, where Annette Breazeale is the props master.

How Some Of The Best Cosplay On Earth Is Made – This video details one of the costume armor pieces created by Henchmen Studios, where over fifteen people spent five weeks fabricating every part.

Great Big Prop Links

When Broadway Actors Sit Down for an Onstage Meal, Who Makes the Food? – The prop master, of course! Although, in this article, we find out that the Broadway musical Waitress also has a pie consultant working on the show. Read all about the complicated maneuvers it takes to get a fully-cooked meal on stage every night on cue.

Meet SNL’s 78-Year-Old “Heart Of The Show” – If you know anything about American theatrical set design, you know the name Eugene Lee. Chances are, if you’ve worked in regional or New York theater long enough, you’ve worked on a show he’s designed. Eugene has also designed the sets for every episode of Saturday Night Live since the beginning. Read all about his crazy schedule to make that happen.

Use a Drill to Shape a Chair Seat – Christopher Schwartz demonstrates a technique for using a drill to rough out the complex curved shape of a wooden seat before shaping it by hand. I’m sure this technique has a name, as I’ve seen it used in a variety of ways with other materials.

The Passion of Phil Tippett: Building Stop-Motion Masterpieces by Hand – Great Big Story looks at the latest project by Phil Tippett. Phil has worked in various capacities as a visual effects artist on films like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and RoboCop. But his labor of love is a stop-motion film he has been creating entirely by hand for the past 30 years.

Recollections of Stage Suppers

The following first appeared in a 1916 book titled “Recollections of a Scene Painter”,  written by an E.T. Harvey. We’ve heard about Matilda and the food in “Camille” in this previous blog post.

Matilda Heron had very strong likes and dislikes, and if you were not a favorite of hers, it was best to keep out of her way. Coming to Pike’s one season [editor note: Pike’s Opera House, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1863], she was overjoyed to find an old friend of hers, the property man, Jim Charles. She opened in “Camille,” and her first greeting was, “Now I am sure of getting a good supper to-night.” The supper room scene in the second act is one of the features of the play.

This leads me to say there is much more realism about supper room scenes then is generally supposed. One time here John T. Raymond opened in a play called “Risks.” George Morris, one of the best property men in the business, had worked for two weeks making artificial plants for the garden scene, and a French fireplace for a fancy interior. But he was called down badly because there was “too much salt in the soup.”

When Grace George had the “try-out” at the Grand some time ago in “Divorcons” (this was the play it will be remembered that she took to London with such success), it had been rehearsed at the Grand during the week and a trial performance was given Thursday afternoon. The quiet “tete-a-tete” between man and wife at the cafe, where the obnoxious lover is kicked out, is the most delightful scene in the play. W. A. Brady, whose devotion to his lovely and accomplished wife is one of the beautiful things of the modern stage, had ordered real champagne for the scene. Grace George was carried away with the character. And when the curtain had gone down and they were talking it over on the stage, she said to Frank (Frank Worthing): “What do you think? I drank four glasses of that champagne, upon an empty stomach.”

Pike's Opera House, 1892
Pike’s Opera House, 1892

Original Publication: Harvey, E. T. Recollections of a Scene Painter. Cincinnati: W.A. Sorin, 1916. 32. Google Books, 15 Feb. 2008. Web. 5 Sept. 2012.

Black Friday Prop Deals

Hopefully none of you need to shop for your shows today, which kicks off the official “worst time to do prop shopping” season. If you are safe in your shop or in tech, here are a few interesting prop-related sites to read and visit:

Check out these hotel menus from the 1850s and 1860s. The Hilton College of the University of Houston’s Hospitality Industry Archives has dozens of scans of menus from throughout the Eastern seaboard and Midwest of the US. It’s a great resource if you need to make period-correct food for fancy gentleman.

Genevieve Bee built this great animatronic Wheatley puppet from Portal 2. She has a video showing it talk and move its giant blinking eye. Be sure to check out all the process shots of the construction over at her blog as well.

It’s that time of year again for the New York City holiday window displays. These windows give jobs to dozens of props people for several months throughout the year, and the results are always spectacular. Gothamist has a great rundown of all the major displays, including photographs and videos showing them in action.

Make Magazine delivers some useful tips for props people again, this time giving us 10 great painting tips. These aren’t tips for creating the perfect faux marble, but rather helpful hints on masking and keeping your paintbrushes and cans neat and clean.