I came across the following wonderful illustrations of backstage theatre from 1866. It’s all in French. I thought I could try translating it on my own, but no luck, so here it is in its untranslated glory. If any of my readers know French and would love to take a crack at it, let me know!
The staff, big and small things, a scenic study by Bertall.
The next few illustrations show some manual sound effects and props.
The description of the scenic artist is enlightening:
Each stock theatre has at least one scenic artist attached to it. It is the duty of the scenic artist to paint the scenery for each new production, or touch up old scenery for a revival. He has a large studio up in the “flies,” and it is there that the work is done. Directly the manager decides on the play he will produce he sends for the scenic artist, explains the scene of each act, and asks what there is “upstairs” that will do. Sometimes the manager will do the best he can with old scenery, and instruct the scene painter to alter and touch it up. At other times he will decide on having brand-new scenery for each act. In the latter case the scene painter receives the order to prepare models of each act, the style being left largely to the taste of the artist; and if the models are approved of they are given to the stage carpenter, who, with his ten or twenty assistants, reproduces them on the scale required. When this work is finished by the carpenters the painter steps in once more and sets to work on the decoration.
The final image above shows a collage of scenes. On top is “an undress rehearsal”. Below is a wind machine, distributing the props, and a thunder apparatus.
Source: Hornblow, Arthur. “How a Play Is Produced.” Popular Monthly 1893: 614-22. Google Books. Web. 6 Jan. 2016.
Ross MacDonald has built period props and vintage books for dozens of films and television shows over the years. Check out his web page for a portfolio of his work. I recently talked with him about making props and working in the industry.
How did you get started doing props?
Weirdly enough, I had been doing some television-related work, even back when I was starting out as an illustrator. I was doing this thing, this was up in Toronto, called the Artisan’s Schools Program. It was a grant program. It was me and a couple other guys, we would go into the schools, and we’d start off performing poetry, I would do big drawings, and the third guy, if he was there, would do music. Continue reading Interview with Ross MacDonald→
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies