Tag Archives: paper props

Friday Props Roundup

Hi everyone. If you noticed a lack of posts this week, it was because I was in tech for our second show of the season at Triad Stage. And I bought a house and moved. And I have a newborn. But there’s still some cool props stuff this week:

New York Theatre Workshop has transformed its space for a unique production of Scenes From a Marriage. The New York Times is on the story of how director Ivo van Hove and his production designer Jan Versweyveld chopped the space into three rooms that audiences wander through in the first act, and then return to an amphitheater after intermission. Crazy. If those names sound familiar, it’s because I made a fake dead lamb for a previous production that van Hove and Versweyveld did at NYTW.

The Credits delves into the challenges of building massive sets on location in the upcoming film, The Maze RunnerThey had to hire a snake wrangler just to get rid of the snakes on set. So many snakes.

For fans of Firefly, a user named Yellowjacket has created his own high-quality printable files of all sorts of paper props from the show.

Over on the RPF, Steven K. Smith has documented the construction of a very impressive suit of armor from the Dragon Age: Inquisition video game. The whole thing is made entirely of EVA foam with acrylic paint on top.

Finally, on a personal note, Ben Harris, the founder of the Alamance Makers Guild which I’m a member of, has a Kickstarter going. Ben makes science kits for kids, where you can make your own light bulb or telegraph and such. He’s raising money to make some more kits and even to help the Makers Guild find a permanent home.  So check it out if you like science and making stuff.

Friday Links

Stage Directions has a round-up of some of the top theatrical special effects companies out there. They talk about the most challenging effects they have pulled off in a live performance, and how they work with a theater to plan it out and make it happen.

The Wire has a short history of ventriloquism which is quite fascinating, if a little bit creepy. I especially enjoyed the video of Ray Alan performing with his “Lord Charles” dummy, who was performing a ventriloquist act with his own, even smaller, dummy.

Pop Chart Lab has a great poster giving a stylistic survey of graphic design. It looks like a handy reference for when you want to check if your period piece has correct-looking paper props and ephemera.

Marvel Entertainment has started their own web video series on cosplay, and the first installment shows them planning and designing the costume they will build. And hey, looks like they are borrowing a costumer from the world of theatre to help them out. Go, theatre!

Friday Prop Link Roundup

You may have noticed I missed last week’s Friday blog post; we were in the midst of a big ice storm here in North Carolina, and I didn’t have any power or Internet and trees were falling all around me and it was crazy. Anyway, a lot of cool stuff has shown up in the world of props since then:

Wes Anderson’s latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, came out last week, and fans of his work know that he loves his props. Here is a great article giving the back-story of 10 of the most memorable props from the film. It shows the obsessive devotion Anderson has to every object in his movies, and his recognition of how a prop’s details can help tell the story.

Continuing on the Grand Budapest Hotel train, we have two articles on Annie Atkins, the film’s graphic designer and paper prop maker. First, is a short piece and slideshow in the Independent, and second is an interview and collection of the paper props themselves.

A tip of the hat to Tim Shrum for pointing me to this blog on movie miniatures. If you like tiny cars and buildings as much as I do, you’ll love this website.

3D Printing Industry checks in with Owen Collins, who has been busy over the past few years looking at how 3D printing technology pertains to theatre.

Finally, large-scale prop maker Shawn Thorsson is working on a full-scale ED-209 from the original Robocop film. This is a massive seven-and-a-half foot tall fighting machine, and he’s trying to get it complete for the Maker Faire Bay Area in May. The link has some photos and a video showing the beginning of his process; it will be interesting to see how this progresses.

Valentine’s Day Links

Happy Friday, everyone! For those of you in my part of the country, I hope you survived the winter storm(s) alright. Whether you are back to work or still stuck in your house, here are some prop-related articles for your reading pleasure:

The ever-inspiring prop maker Ross MacDonald has a post on some of the period paper props he has made for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire over the past four years. His props are always well-researched and produced on vintage machines as close to how they were originally produced.

Collector’s Weekly has a great piece on the fifty year history of Easy-Bake Ovens. If you have never checked out their blog, this is a great piece to start on. Their stories are always a cut above the rest, filled with tons of great photographs, and delving into the history of various objects in great detail.

If you are interested in making props while spending barely any money on materials, check out the Cardboard Armory. As the name suggests, this blog details various armor and weapon projects built with little more than cardboard, hot glue and the occasional piece of PVC pipe.

Though directed at woodworkers, Popular Woodworking’s “Top 6 Ways to Become a Better Woodworker” is just as relevant to the prop maker. Ok, it’s actually five ways, since one of the ways is to read Popular Woodworking (though if you build prop furniture from wood, it’s a good magazine to check out).

Alpha Officium makes historically-accurate coins out of real metal. His website has some common coins like Florins and Groats, and he can also do custom orders if you need something more specific.

Crazy for You Props

I have already shown off some of the props in the recent production of Crazy for You which I prop mastered, but I thought I would show a bit more of what I did on that show.

The saloon in "Crazy for You"
The saloon in “Crazy for You”

The saloon was one of the larger set pieces in this production. I dressed it out with photographs, plaques, signs and other items. Several of the objects were rigged for “tricks”, including the cuckoo clock on the second floor above the man in the apron, the antlers above the piano, and the jar on top of the piano (I highlighted the piano in a previous post). I also built the two tables you see above.

Turned table legs
Turned table legs

I turned the legs on a lathe to match a table the set designer and I both liked. Even though the scope and scale of this show was already pretty huge, taking the time to turn these legs really helped transform the scene.

Breaking the hotel sign
Breaking the hotel sign

The saloon also had a “hotel” sign hanging throughout the show. In the second act, the hotel’s proprietor finally grabs the sign and smashes it over his head. I made a new sign for every performance. It was a piece of lauan with grooves scored in the back with a Dremel to make it easy to break. The front was painted with a quick wash and then the letters were spray-painted on with a stencil I made.


I needed to find a set of antlers for one of the tricks, but had no such luck. I ended up buying some fake antlers; these are meant to simulate the sound of real antlers hitting each other and are used by hunters to draw out deer. I cut out a plaque with a routed edge, mounted the antlers, and painted everything.

Dancing benches
Dancing benches

Several other scenes used a number of benches which saw some heavy-duty use. These benches were carried around (sometimes with people on them), danced on, tapped on and walked on. We had three benches in stock that they liked (from a previous production of The Crucible), so I constructed three more to match.

Dead Rock Follies poster
Dead Rock Follies poster

I did some graphic design on this show as well. The set designer found a great research image for the signs, which were meant to invoke a community vaudeville show performed out West in the 1930s. I mimicked the colors and layout of the research, changing the words on the poster to match what was in the script. The poster above was printed out three feet tall. I also adapted the size and scale of the poster so a similar image could be used on the flyers and programs that were also props in this show.

Chez Lank
Chez Lank

The penultimate scene in the play takes place in the Main Street of the town. Though this set piece appears throughout the play, it has been transformed for this last scene into a more fancy French-inspired café. The waiters bring out trays with fancy napkins on them during a brief musical number. The set designer and I decided it would be a nice touch if the napkins would be folded rather than just draped over their arms, so we found instructions for folding a napkin into a fleur-de-lis shape. A prop master is always finding little touches like that to shape the details in the props.


Crazy for You, Elon University.

Directed by Catherine McNeela.

Choreography by Linda Sabo.

Set Design by Natalie Taylor Hart.

Lighting Design by Bill Webb.

Costume Design by Jack Smith.

Sound Design by Michael Smith.