Tag Archives: set design

Props Errata

How to Slush Cast a Prop Helmet – Tested visits Frank Ippolito to learn how to slush cast the Rocketeer helmet, which is perhaps the greatest helmet in cinematic history.

‘She Loves Me:’ David Rockwell Serves Up Old World Flavor with Modern Flair - She Loves Me snagged the Tony for Best Set Design of a Musical, preventing Hamilton from a clean sweep. Find out all the details and dressing that go into this amazing set for a show with horrible music.

New York Spectacular Statue: New York Public Library Lions – Matt Acheson tells us how he brought the NYPL lions to life (in puppet form) for The Rockettes latest show.

Make Edible Paper in 3 Easy Steps – I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but edible paper is one of those prop things that come up from time to time. Sure, you can buy it, but if you need a custom color or size, this may be the way to go.

Friday Links Anonymous

In case you missed it, the Shop@AVR Blog has these seven amazing images of stage technicians throughout history.  They have photos from 1899-1935, and one illustration from the 18th century. One photo shows clearers moving the props; clearers were the precursors to prop running crew.

I’ve previously mentioned the massive auction of Rick Baker’s stuff at the end of this month. Check out this article on how Tom Spina Designs is preparing and preserving his work in anticipation of the sale. Some of these props and animatronics are decades old and were not built to last, but Tom and his crew have a ton of experience restoring and protecting items like this.

I missed this article from last autumn, but WNPR has a great profile on Ming Cho Lee. I think it’s safe to say that if you work in American theatre, you will eventually work with a designer who was trained by Ming. Not only has he shaped set design, but he has had a huge part in shaping design education.

Finally, here is a video from the 90s about the original animatronic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The technology that went into those suits were incredible. Unlike CGI, the suits can actually be performed in live; I wonder if any theatre company has ever used anything as sophisticated as these? That would be a cool show.

The Week’s Links

I am currently in tech for Pump Boys and Dinettes at Triad Stage, opening next Friday. This means I’m really tired, but I can read lots of things on the Internet. Here are some articles I’ve come across recently:

First up is this interview and video with prop master Russell Bobbitt. He has, perhaps, one of the more enviable positions in the world of prop-making at the moment: providing the iconic weapons for the Marvel Universe, such as Captain America’s shield, Thor’s hammer and Iron Man’s arc reactor. The article doesn’t delve into much detail, but it is still a fun read.

In the New York Times is this fantastic profile on set designer Eugene Lee. You may not recognize Lee’s name (unless you attended USITT), but you probably recognize the set to Wicked, or to Saturday Night Live, which he has been designing since it began. His house is practically a props warehouse, filled to the brim with objects and collections he has acquired over the years, and this article has plenty of photographs showing it all off.

Here is a promising new blog with a fun name: Eat, Clay, Love. It only has a few posts so far from UK-based artist Shahriar, but I’ve already picked up some new techniques I want to try.

Finally, if you have been following Shawn Thorsson’s quest to build a life-size ED-209 from Robocop, part three of his series went up last week. He’s doing a lot of molding and casting of the parts for this installment, and explains how he does it.

First Links of Spring

We start off today with this look at making a mold of a Zoidberg mask. These techniques are way above my pay-grade, but it is interesting to see such expert work done on a mold. This is actually the 9th installment of an ongoing series dedicated to creating a mask of the eponymous Futurama character, so check out the other parts if you want to see how it was sculpted and designed.

Set designer Anna Louizos has grown tired of seeing set models, set decoration and props ending up in the dumpster after a show closes, so she has begun a website selling them off to collectors. Check out this news story on how she got started, then head on over to the web site itself. Collecting theatre memorabilia is not nearly as wide-spread as collecting movie memorabilia, but hopefully this site makes it more common.

This sounds like it could be a nightmare: your theatre company wants to use the scene/prop shop as a performing space for one of their shows. Check out this video as Paddy Duggin, a carpenter and prop maker at the State Theatre Company in Australia, explains how they did exactly that for an upcoming production of The Seagull.

And finally, we have the movies, where if you need a plane, you just build a plane. Find out why the production designer for Non-Stop needed to build a plane from scratch rather than re-purposing an existing one.

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.