At the Stage Door with Lori – The San Francisco Opera shines a spotlight on their prop master of nearly 20 years, Lori Harrison. Find out how she got there and watch the video to go backstage in the props shop.
A Beginner’s Guide to Making Mind Blowing Props – Bill Doran of Punished Props has taken his ebook guide to building props and put it up on his website for free, forever.
Giant puppets for “BFG” stage play – Gavin Worth recently made these giant puppets with a group of students at the International School of Lausanne in Switzerland. Check out the image gallery for pictures and animations of how they were built.
These Intricate, Hand Built Suits of Armor Are Fit for a Cat – This is the most important thing on the Internet today. Jeff De Boer has taken his jewelry and metal-working skills and used them to create intricate armor for cats and mice for the past 30 years.
Why Puppets (and Puppeteers) Are Still Important – Smithsonian has a great article on the world of puppetry today, including a short interview with Basil Twist. The article has a plenitude of photos from the Smithsonian’s puppetry collection; if you are in Washington, DC, you can check it all out in person.
Inside Syfy’s Cosplay Melee Workshop – Syfy Channel has a new competition show called Cosplay Melee, where contestants build original costumes and props in an insane time crunch. Tested takes us inside the workshop they use, with a look at all the tools and materials they have access to.
E-cig/vapepen smoke-machine for cosplay and props – Wayne’s Workshop shows us how to modify a vape pen so it can shoot a small burst of smoke with the touch of a button. If you want to do this trick in an Equity production, the Equity Time and Distance Guidelines lists a few e-cigarettes you can use without any testing.
First off – the second edition to The Prop Building Guidebook is finally here! Go buy it so I can feed my babies! And if you like it, please leave a review on Amazon or wherever you purchase it from. And if you really like it (or you really liked the first edition), feel free to shoot me an email; the sad fact of being an author is you do not know how people are using your book unless they decide to tell you.
What’s in a letter? Prop or prank? – The Chasing Aideen blog has a fascinating look at prop letters on stage. Through conversations with directors and historical artifacts, we get a glimpse of how prop letters range from nonsensical scribbles to fully-realized reproductions from the imaginary world of the play.
Skylight Music Theatre’s ‘Beast’ puppet a giant thing of beauty – It really is. This massive, fully-articulated puppet looks like it stepped straight out of a Guillermo del Toro film.
Adam Savage Behind the Scenes of Ghost in the Shell! – In this video, Adam Savage heads to New Zealand to see some of the practical masks and animatronics which Weta Workshop designed and produced for the upcoming Ghost in the Shell film. The aesthetic is an amazing blend of smooth futuristic tech with old-world hand craftsmanship.
The Make: Guide to Dungeon Master Crafting – A lot of props people love models and miniatures, and a few enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons. Make has put together a guide of some fine tutorials on how to make your own miniature terrain and buildings for whatever role-playing games you prefer.
And finally, I’ve started this Instagram thing where I’m sharing all my photographs of prop shops, prop builders at work, and other backstage theater stuff. Come check it out!
Inside the ‘Jitney’ Set: Picturing Pittsburgh Onstage – The NY Times takes a look at how set designer David Gallo and props supervisor Scott Laule brought the set to August Wilson’s Jitney to life. Set in 1970’s Pittsburgh, a lot of the set dressing and details come from conversations with Wilson himself when Gallo designed the original set back in 2000.
The tiny town that builds show-stopping sets for Beyoncé, Kanye and Madonna – This is such a great article on all the massive scenic shops which exist in Lititz, PA, the heart of Amish country. I grew up not too far from there, but I never knew that companies like Tait Towers have built nearly every rock and roll set here since the late 1960s. The larger tech theater schools send a lot of their graduates there, but most people are unaware how much fabrication and painting work can be found in the area.
This ‘Circus’ has elephants … in puppet form – A circus is not much of a circus without elephants, but most of these elephants are poorly treated. So the only humane solution is to build life-size puppet elephants. USA Today gives us a close-up look at how the puppet elephants in Circus 1903 come to life.
Batman’s Original Utility Belt Was Made Out Of Sponges – The headline tells the story. Before HD, television shows could get away with glueing brightly colored sponges to a belt and calling it a Batman costume. I have also heard that some of the phasers in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation were simply painted blocks of balsa wood.
Giant, Flame Spewing Animatronic Dragon – The only thing better than a life-sized elephant puppet is a giant, flame-spewing animatronic dragon. Check out how Zollner Electronics fabricated this monster for a seasonal folk play in Germany.
Shop Tips: Cutting Foam for Propmaking – First up, Tested visits Frank Ippolito’s shop to see what tools he uses to cut flexible foam sheets. I want to try one of the blades he uses, which allows him to make some interesting cuts.
Shinken Sword Commission – The Prop Solve is back with an epic post on fabricating a fantasy sword for a client. The post is filled with pictures of every step, showing not just the successes, but the mistakes and learning experiences along the way. I especially like the build break-down she prepared for her client.
Queens Prop Shop Has Crafted Real Name for Itself in Booming Industry – NY1 visits the Prop “N” Spoon warehouse over in Queens and fabrication shop in Rahway, NJ. Check out the video to see some of the cool props they have built as business booms in NYC.
Adam Savage Examines the Props and Spacesuits of The Expanse! – We go back to Tested for this video of Adam Savage talking with James Murray, props master for Syfy’s The Expanse. Check out all the scratch-built armor, weapons, and other sci-fi elements for this sprawling space adventure.
Paperhand puppet master takes Chapel Hill-Carrboro teachers to school – In local news, puppet maker Donovan Zimmerman is teaching puppetry to local elementary students. Zimmerman is cofounder of Paperhand Puppet Intervention, which produces incredibly imaginative and poetic masks and puppets out of mere cardboard and papier-mache. It’s a wonderful program that will probably be cut as both art and education are eliminated in the next four years.