6 Theatre Workers You Should Know – American Theatre just picked Karin Rabe Vance as one of this month’s theatre workers. Karin is the props master at the Alley Theatre, which just had a major renovation done to their production facilities. Her shop produces some enviable work, and as a fellow S*P*A*M member, she is a great help to the props community.
Designer Lez Brotherston claims boom in theatre admin jobs has taken toll on technical roles – I once walked the facilities of a theatre company which had gone out of business and were auctioning off their building and assets. The admin office was filled with rows and rows of desks; they probably had 30 people working in there. But they had no production or technical workers on staff, and produced only one show a year. I’m sure other reasons exist for their bankruptcy, but I can’t see how a setup like that could ever be successful, even with a constant infusion of cash. Anecdotally too, it seems more and more young theatre artists want to get into the admin side of things, and fewer want to do any of the hands-on work. But ultimately, you can’t get a show in front of an audience by sitting in front of a computer all day or by talking in a meeting. You have to physically build, paint, sew, wire, and source every last bit, and then heft it through the theatre door.
Free Download for Halloween: The Coffin Chapter – Just in time for Halloween, or perhaps for your remount of Christmas Carol, comes this free chapter from one of Lost Art Press’ books. It’s a lot of hand woodworking, but you can easily adapt the instructions to build one with power tools. I’m dying to try this out.
The Humble Book Bundle: Cosplay – If you haven’t heard of “Humble Bundles”, they take a bunch of products and let you buy them all for however much you want to pay, with all the money going to charity. From now until October 28th, they have a bundle of cosplay books, which feature a lot of stuff that prop builders will find interesting. They are all e-books, but it’s very high quality stuff; some of the books have been reviewed here before, and others are by well-known prop builders whose work has been featured on this blog. Check it out before it’s too late!
Whew, another big week. I had a baby this past Sunday. President Obama declared it the National Week of Making. And for my British readers, you can always come over here to make props if you don’t like how things are going in your country (though you may want to wait until after November in case things go poorly here). But for now, onto the links:
Making theater magic, one prop at a time – The Queens Chronicle looks at Zoe Morsette, a prop maker in Long Island City. Over her multi-decade career, she has made props for many Broadway musicals, as well as 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live.
Theatre excels at exposing injustices, just not its own – A great article on how backstage workers often work unpaid hours, have mis-classified contracts, or are otherwise taken advantage of by theatre companies. Though this is written about theatre in the UK, the same conditions exist throughout the US. In many cases, the common practices are so ingrained, that most theatre people do not even realize many of them are illegal. Unpaid internships are one of the biggest offenders, as are paying workers with a 1099 rather than a W-2.
Ming Cho Lee: Set Designer Extraordinaire – Ming Cho Lee, one of the godfathers of American set design, is having an exhibition of his work at New York’s Museum of Chinese in America. It showcases much of his work, from Shakespeare in the Park to Broadway.
Miniature models built by Markus – Finally, check out this video on the miniature work of Markus Rothkranz. He has been making highly detailed miniatures and models for TV and film for several decades.
Life Behind the Curtain—The Show Couldn’t Go On Without Them – Playbill has gathered the stories of 21 different folk who work behind-the-scenes on this year’s Tony-nominated productions. The range and variety of jobs in theatre is vast, which many high school and even college students do not realize. Not everyone needs to be a stage manager!
Assembling the Giants – Alliance Studio created some massive action figures based off the characters of Blizzard’s new game Overwatch as part of its promotion. The construction was mostly boring 3D printing, but the paint jobs were quite complex and cool.
Shop Hats for You & the Apprentice – If you wanted to reintroduce the tradition of making your apprentices and journeymen wear special paper hats, Chris Schwartz has dug up these authentic instructions and illustrations showing how to make your own.
Tool Storage for the Rest of Us – “All drawers eventually become junk drawers.” Wise words from Popular Woodworking Magazine, which gives us some tips and tricks on creating wall-mounted tool storage so you can see everything you got.
Hollywood is Running Out of Tombstones, according to this article from Bloomberg, featuring the world’s worst stock photo. So much film and television is being produced these days that prop rental companies are running out of stock, studio spaces are booked to the max, and production crew is impossible to find. If you wanted to work in props, this article makes it seem like all you have to do is move to Atlanta or Los Angeles. Do any of my readers have any first-hand knowledge to back that up? I’d love to hear about it.
Food styling for photography is always interesting, and Tienlon Ho wrote an article about how it is changing. Gone are the days of mashed potatoes for ice cream. Ho talks with master food stylist Delores Custer about the tricks of the trade and how they are evolving.
Playmakers Rep’s production of Sweeney Todd features some interesting paper masks during the masquerade scene. Rachel Pollack details how the costume crafts shop brought them to life for designer Bill Brewer.
Popular Woodworking has a list of the 16 dumbest woodworking mistakes, along with a link to their magazine article where they go into more detail. Let’s see… yep, I’ve done all of these.
The House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe sounds like an amazing experience. Owned by George RR Martin and run by artist collective Meow Wolf, it’s a massive Victorian house that may have just slipped into another dimension. Reminiscent of Sleep No More, with some elements of Escape Games, the house is designed for visitors to freely roam, explore, and interact with all the props and furniture. It’s a prop builder’s paradise.
American Theatre has this week’s “must read” article on jobs in technical theatre. They look at where new technicians get their training and interview a number of people working in theatre to see how they got their start. The interviewees come from a range of different departments, like lighting, sound and costumes. No props people appear in the article; probably because we were all too busy to give an interview.
The Abbey Theatre has a video up where Eimer Murphy talks about the vintage working dentist’s chair that appears in their current production of You Never Can Tell.
Propnomicon found this great video on aging glass bottles. It’s a lot better than giving your actors actual antique bottles that they have to drink out of.
Take a tour through the prop warehouse of the Food Network. In the basement of NYC’s Chelsea Market, Wendy Waxman stores thousands of vintage items which appear on the various shows and specials of this TV station. I bet a lot of my readers wish they could spend every day finding and buying quirky kitchen items.
Finally, this is short but interesting. The actor who originally played Darth Vader (David Prowse, not James Earl Jones) posted a photo of the original Vader mask that burned at the end of Return of the Jedi and compared it to the prop that Kylo Ren holds in The Force Awakens. Since the original was made of fiberglass, it turned a little “hairy”, while the prop in the new film looks more “melty”.