Tag Archives: magazine

First Prop Links of December

Get Up Close With the Props of Dear Evan Hansen – Take a look backstage at the hit Broadway show to see how the props are stored. This series of photos is a great look at all the minute detail that goes into preparing seemingly ordinary props. Even the most mundane details have some story behind it, or some kind of trick rigged into it to make the show run smoothly and consistently.

Woman’s Day Magazine’s Star Wars Playset Designs (1978, 1980) – In two separate issues in 1978 and 1980, Woman’s Day Magazine published plans and instructions to construct Star Wars playsets for the popular action figures. These plans had you build them fully from scratch, using sheets of plywood, plastic, laminates, and other raw materials. This article includes links to the original plans as well, so grab them while you can!

The Secret Tools Magicians Use to Fool You – In another photo series, Louis De Belle has photographed devices used by magicians for his upcoming book, and shares a few of them with us here. He doesn’t actually give away how any of the tricks work, but it is a fun exercise to guess what each magical prop accomplishes.

National Theatre explores “exquisite miniature world” of stage set models – The National Theatre in London has an exhibition of some of the set design models for shows that have been produced there since the 1970s. The exhibition runs until March 2019, and was curated by Eleanor Margolies, author of Props (Readings in Theatre Practice).

Everybody’s Propping for the Weekend

First up is my latest article in Stage Directions magazine. I talked with a number of props masters about creative ways to stretch your props budget. The result is “Creating Relationships to Create Props.

If you can find twenty minutes today, I definitely recommend this video. TechBuilder, a 17-year old from the Philippines, builds a life-size working BB-8 droid from materials he found at the hardware store. It’s all paper-mache, Styrofoam and wood cut by hand. If he needs a tool but can’t afford it, he makes one. He uses roll-on deodorant for ball bearings. The results are absolutely stunning.

Dave Lowe has this fantastically easy but incredibly effective technique for painting faux chipped paint rusted metal. Apocalyptic props, here I come!

Ugh, another actor dead from props. This time, it’s a Japanese actor who was stabbed with a samurai sword during rehearsal. So far, they have not said whether the sword was real or a prop, and whether they think it was an accident or murder, so I don’t really have much to say about the incident. Depending on what we find out, my advice would either be A) Don’t give actors real swords without a fight choreographer present, or B) Don’t hire murderers.

Finally, take a look at some of the props Alton Brown has used over at the Food Network. Somewhere, there’s a prop maker having the time of their life.

Good Links for a Good Friday

Tested has another great episode of their talk show where Adam Savage, Will Smith and Norm Chan discuss building an inexpensive toolkit for beginner makers. By “maker”, they mean someone doing small-scale fabrication of wood, various metals and plastics, some fabric and leather, model-making, and a bit of electronics, so really, it’s great advice for beginning prop makers as well. You can either watch a video or listen to a podcast of the show, which runs about 41 minutes long. They have also written down the list of tools they suggest, though it’s a good idea to listen to the show because they talk about how to buy tools and why you should get certain tools as well.

In case you missed it, I came across The Painters Journal, a publication about scenic art that ran from 2003-2010. All 22 issues are available online to read. Scenic art deals with paints, coatings, texture and sometimes even sculpting, so many of the articles are invaluable to props people as well.

Make Magazine has posted ten tips for using a circular saw. They’re all pretty good, though I would add that hearing protection should be worn too, as circ saws are almost always loud little beasts. A dust mask is usually a good idea as well.

I liked this recent article about Nick Ruiz, a theatre carpenter in the San Jose area. It’s simple and probably familiar to a lot of us in the industry, but stories like this are so rarely written.

And just a reminder that you have less than a month to enter the Prop Building Guidebook Contest! Surely you have a photograph of a prop you’ve built, and who doesn’t want a grab-bag of prop making supplies? The entries I’ve received so far look fantastic, so thanks to everyone who has already submitted.

March Goes in Like a Link

It’s the end of the week, but the beginning of a new month. This is conference month for those of us in technical theatre. First is SETC, happening next week (March 5-9) in Louisville, KY. Shortly after is USITT, taking place March 19-23 in Milwaukee, WI. I will be at both if you wanted a chance to catch up or introduce yourself. At USITT, Stage Directions will be hosting a book signing for my book at their booth on Friday, March 22nd, at 12:30 PM. More info to come. For now, enjoy these links:

My latest magazine article in Stage Directions is now online; I profile the Milwaukee Rep props shop, home of props master Jim Guy. Milwaukee also happens to be the location of this year’s USITT conference. Coincidence?… actually, no, we chose to write about Milwaukee Rep for this issue precisely because of USITT.

The designer of the Dalek from Doctor Who, Ray Cusick, died this past week. The Verge has some videos and a story about him and how the Daleks came to be.

When the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre shut its doors in March 2012, its production facilities and prop storage were abandoned and surrendered to the landlords who owned the building. Jim Buckshon was subleasing part of that building at the time for his company, Renegade Productions, and decided to lease the entire building and save the props. Read the whole story to see how Buckshon took on one of Vancouver’s largest prop collections and kept it intact for future productions.

Weta Workshop — the design/production/creature/FX shop behind films such as The Lord of the RingsKing Kong and Avatar — recently solicited questions for their Mold Shop Supervisor, Michael Wallace.  Mike answers those questions about working in a mold shop, materials and techniques he uses, and his own background.

AJ Catalano is a sci-fi prop maker who has built items for films ranging from The Avengers and The Amazing Spiderman, to The Muppets. Check out this video where he talks about his background and the work he does:

All Props Day

My latest magazine article is out. In “Printing a Set“, I talked with several set designers who are using 3D printing technology as part of their process.

3D Printed Furniture
3D Printed Furniture

Here’s an interesting story. Some soldiers in Afghanistan were having trouble carrying and reloading ammo for the new guns they were issued. To improvise a solution, they were inspired by a prop which Jesse Ventura used in the film Predator, and set out to recreate it. It worked.

The title of this article says it all: Dexter’s Prop Master Tells How He Made the Show’s Most Gruesome Set Pieces. It is fairly gruesome, so I caution clicking through if you do not want to read about severed body parts and other macabre details.

Here is a local news article on Karl Luthin, the owner of KEL Equine Productions, an Illinois-based company which has provided historically-accurate equine props, horse wranglers and set dressing to the film industry for years. His latest work will be seen in the upcoming Lincoln film by Steven Spielberg. You have probably seen his props in films such as “Glory,” “The Patriot” or “The Last of the Mohicans“. Check out his webpage too, for photographs of many of the items he has.

You can find pictures of early variations of the game Monopoly (known as “Landlord’s Game”) as well as rules and other historical facts here. There are over a dozen variations spanning from 1903 to 1939.

Finally, I like this set of behind-the-scenes photographs from the original Alien film. It’s just a guy chilling in a monster costume, whatever.