Tag Archives: Jay Duckworth

Interview with Jay Duckworth

The following is one of several interviews conducted by students of Ron DeMarco’s properties class at Emerson College.

The Proptologist: Jay Duckworth

by Sabrina Rosenfield

Jay Duckworth
Jay Duckworth

When I called Jay Duckworth and explained that I was the student from Emerson who would be interviewing him, I was greeted with an “Oh my God! Hi!”, and I knew the conversation was off to a good start. I heard him call to one of his colleagues, Sara Swanberg, asking what he should tell me: her prompt response was “I suck!”.

Pleasantries aside, we got down to business. I spoke with Jay as he sat in his office in the Public Theater in New York, where he has been the Props Master since 2008. When I asked him to tell me how he got his roots in theatre, he acknowledged how lucky he was to be working in such a great theatre, and how far he had come. Continue reading Interview with Jay Duckworth

Links for the End of June

Gothamist has behind-the-scenes photos from Shakespeare in the Park, as well as how they make blood for Shakespeare in the Park. Both links feature the Public Theater’s costume master Luke McDonough, as well as my old boss, props master Jay Duckworth.

Harrison Krix is back with another great project, a life-sized shark gun from League of Legends. I don’t do the video games, so I don’t really know what that is, but it looks cool and lights up and opens its mouth.

Ars Technica has a fascinating article on how Disney built and programmed an animatronic President.  D23 has a similar article; though theirs has far less of the technical information, they have many more pictures of the other animatronics used at Disney parks.

Finally, here is an interesting piece called “Practical Effects Can’t Make a Comeback Because They Never Went Away“. While the article itself raises some good points, it also contains a fair amount of videos giving behind-the-scenes looks at the practical effects in various films from throughout the years.

Dispatches from Props Summit 2012

Though I could not make it to the NYC Props Summit this year, I did follow what was happening via the Twitter. This was the fourth such event, and Jay Duckworth, the props master at the Public Theater, seems to have outdone himself in organizing it this year.

The crowd meets and greets in the Public Theater Props Shop
The crowd meets and greets in the Public Theater Props Shop. Photograph by Jay Duckworth.

The NY Times had a great write-up of the event: “[A]bout 50 props people… gathered on Friday night at the Public Theater for an informal meeting that gave attendees a chance to network, watch demonstrations and exchange insider tips on the latest techniques in an area of theatrical design that often goes unnoticed and unheralded.” The article contains much more information and a great slideshow of photographs.

One of the main events was a talk and demonstration by the owners and employees of The Specialists (formerly known as “Weapons Specialists”), a prop rental and fabrication house just a few blocks from The Public Theater known for supplying guns, weapons and custom effects to many of the film and television shows that are produced in NYC.

The guys at the Specialists described weapons safety while demonstrating and presenting a variety of the weapons they offer. Everything from rubber guns to blood knives was on display here.

Guns from the Specialists
Guns from the Specialists. Photograph by Chad Tiller.

The informal meeting and greeting that happened throughout the night made up the bulk of the event. It was a chance for prop makers to meet prop masters, for prop directors from different theatres to meet each other and for everyone to catch up on what was happening within our community. Props can be a lonely career at times, and it is helpful to learn that others share your woes with demanding directors, absent designers and strange glares as you walk down the street with a bag full of questionable items.

The evening was also a chance to share new resources, tools and materials:

Jay also pre-ordered a copy of my book to give away as a door prize, so I cannot give up the opportunity for a bit of self-promotion here:

Next year’s event promises to be just as exciting. It will be happening around the same time of year (late August/early September), so you can plan ahead a bit if you are interested in attending.

Prop Summit 2012
Prop Summit 2012. Photograph by Sara Swanberg.


Preparing for King Lear

Tech rehearsals for the Public Theater’s production of King Lear start this Thursday, and we are busy as ever in the props shop. My life is busy as ever between writing my book, preparing for Lear, tech rehearsals for Mike Daisey’s The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, and some minor revolution in New York City. So I don’t have much to write, but I do have a sampling of photographs of some of the props we are constructing for King Lear.

Jay Duckworth working on the map table
Jay Duckworth working on the map table

The “map” in our production is a tabletop topographical model of Lear’s kingdom. King Lear, played by Sam Waterston , actually kicks the whole table over, and pieces of the map break off. At least, that’s our goal. Besides Jay, a lot of the work has been undertaken by Fran Maxwell, with some help by Sara Swanberg and Raphael Mishler.

Partially finished dead pheasant
Partially finished dead pheasant

We need a variety of dead game for Lear’s men when they return from hunting. After last spring’s Timon of Athens, I already knew we had nothing decent in stock nor anything worth renting in the city, so we had to make some. Pictured above is my first attempt at building one from scratch and covering it in hackle pads and feathers. We then found complete pheasant hides, so we started using those as coverings, which freed us from having to glue individual feathers all over the bodies.

A sheep in wolf's clothing
A sheep in wolf's clothing

In addition to the pheasants and some rabbits, they wanted a larger dead animal as well. We gave them my fake dead lamb for rehearsals, which longtime readers may remember from last year. We then located the hide of a jackal which turned out to be nearly the same size as the lamb, so rather than construct a new dead animal, Sara Swanberg just set off covering the lamb with the jackal hide.

We have more cool stuff coming up, such as Michael McKean’s eyes which get torn out of his head. That should be quite a sight!