Tag Archives: set dressing

Set Decoration: The Forgotten Narrative

Do you love set decoration and set dressing, or do you dread it? Either way, this month’s S*P*A*Minar is for you!

Next Sunday, Larry Heyman, S*P*A*M Member, Properties professor and set decorator will lead a conversation about the challenges presented by set dressing, set decoration and design. He’ll examine the concept that set decoration and dressing is an extension of the narrative created by the director and set designer. Participants will discuss issues and concerns facing the modern properties director as they embark on “painting” the details of the set from an artistic and storytelling perspective.

We’ll talk about the details can be learned about a character by examining their surroundings. These details are not items usually found on the prop list, but are what help create 3-dimensional characters as opposed to a flat caricatures.

When: Sunday, November 14th at 8pm EST
Where: From the comfort of your home!
REGISTER here: https://bit.ly/SetDecorREG

We are once again requesting pay-what-you-can donations to support this S*P*A*Minar programming. All money collected will be used to offset webinar operation costs with additional funds going to our annual grant program for early career prop people. Suggested donation amount is $3.

Donations can be made via PayPal here.

Registration will remain open until 6pm EST on the day of the event and a link to the Zoom S*P*A*Minar session will be sent out to all registered attendees 1 hour before the start of the webinar.

All S*P*A*Minars will be recorded, and the video will be shared on Youtube the week following the event.

Flyer that repeats the text in the article

New Prop Links for the Summer

The Society of Properties Artisan Managers Offers Some Advice – Recently, S*P*A*M solicited advice from its members, which include hundreds of prop masters in most of the major US theaters. They narrowed the list down to 32 nuggets of advice for every new prop artisan.

Interview — DISCOVERY Prop Master Mario Moreira on the Red Angel Suit, Section 31 Phasers, and More – The newest iteration of Star Trek continues the tradition of having cool props. Take a peek into the workshop of Mario Moreira to see how all the custom sci-fi gadgets get made.

‘The Big Bang Theory’ Prop Master and Set Decorator Look Back on the Show’s 12 Seasons – Whether you enjoyed the show or not, a twelve-year run means lots of props and tons of detail in the set dressing. Find out about some of the behind-the-scenes secrets from prop master Scott London and set decorator Ann Shea.

How Gary Does the DicksTaylor Mac’s highly irreverent  Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, now running on Broadway, needed dicks. A lot of them. The show features dozens of mannequins playing the part of dead Romans, and at various points, they come to life and dance with their members. Learn how specialty prop designer Craig Grigg brought them to life with animatronics.

Avengers: Endgame Film Décor – Check out these photos and descriptions of the miriad sets from this decade’s biggest film. Set Decorator Leslie Pope discusses what went into creating some of the major locations in this film, many of which had to match or reference previous locations in this sprawling 22 film franchise.

Prop Stories For You From Me

Quirky work: U of A props master makes her cake and caulks it too – Jane Kline, the props master at the University of Alberta drama department, shows off her work in these pictures and video.

Japanese Prop Maker Creates a Magic Gun Without any CGI – I’m sure you have seen the video floating around of the “real life” Dr. Strange spells. Here is a bit more on FriskP, the Japanese maker behind the magic.

Inside the Amish town that builds U2, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift’s live shows – Fascinating longread about Tait Towers, the company that has been building concert sets for the world’s largest rock and roll bands since Michael Jackson. This is literal cutting-edge performance technology; often, the technology to achieve a design is not invented until after construction has already begun.

Ultimate Workbench + 10 Shop Storage Solutions – April Wilkerson made this video showing how she built a quick and easy 4×8 shop workbench, a common size found in prop and scene shops. She also adds some great storage ideas which you can adapt for your own shop.

96-Year-Old Woman Puts Home Up For Sale And People Go Inside To Find It Untouched After 72 Years – Do you want to see some pink 1950’s interiors? Because this is where you can see some pink 1950’s interiors.

Tangible Tables and Chairs, 1916

The following comes from a 1916 book and describes the evolution of furniture on the theatrical stage:

When the modern play calls for an interior this interior now takes on the semblance of an actual room. Apparently the “box set,” as it is called, the closed-in room with its walls and its ceiling, was first seen in England in 1841, when ‘London Assurance’ was produced; but very likely it had earlier made its appearance in Paris at the Gymnase. To supply a room with walls of a seeming solidity, with doors and with windows, appears natural enough to us, but it was a startling innovation fourscore years ago. When the ‘School for Scandal’ had been originally produced at Drury Lane in 1775, the library of Joseph Surface, where Lady Teazle hides behind the screen, was represented by a drop at the back, on which a window was painted, and by wings set starkly parallel to this back-drop and painted to represent columns. There were no doors; and Joseph and Charles, Sir Peter and Lady Teazle, walked on thru the openings between the wings, very much as tho they were passing thru the non-existent walls. To us, this would be shocking; but it was perfectly acceptable to English playgoers then; and to them it seemed natural, since they were familiar with no other way of getting into a room on the stage.

School for Scandal, 1778

The invention of the box-set, of a room with walls and ceilings, doors and windows, led inevitably to the appropriate furnishing of this room with tangible tables and chairs. Even in the eighteenth century the stage had been very empty; it was adorned only with the furniture actually demanded by the action of the drama; and the rest of the furniture, bookcases and sideboards, chairs and tables, was frankly painted on the wings and on the back-drop by the side of the painted mantelpieces, the painted windows, and the painted doors. In the plays of the twentieth century characters sit down and change from seat to seat; but in the plays produced in England and in France before the first quarter of the nineteenth century all the actors stood all the time—or at least they were allowed to sit only under the stress of dramatic necessity—as in the fourth act of ‘Tartuffe,’ for instance. In all of Molière’s comedies there are scarcely half a dozen characters who have occasion to sit down; and this sitting-down is limited to three or four of his more than thirty pieces. Nowadays every effort is made to capture the external realities of life. Sardou was not more careful in composing his stage-settings in his fashion than was Ibsen in prescribing the scenic environment that he needed. The author’s minute descriptions of the scenes where the action of the ‘Doll’s House’ and of ‘Ghosts’ passes prove that Ibsen had visualized sharply the precise interior which was, in his mind, the only possible home for the creatures of his imagination. And Mr. Belasco has recently bestowed upon the winning personality of his ‘Peter Grimm’ the exact habitation to which that appealing creature would return in his desire to undo after death what in life he had rashly commanded.

The set of the 'Return of Peter Grimm'

“Evolution of Scene-Painting.” A Book About the Theater, by Brander Matthews, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916, pp. 144–146. Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=89gUAAAAYAAJ.

Prop-alicious Prop Links

For this Broadway prop master, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the golden ticket – Buist Bickley is back, with his biggest Broadway show ever. Crain’s New York takes a look at how Buist brought the Wonka factory to life from his Greenpoint studio.

Bringing the animals of the jungle to life in the stage show Running Wild – The puppeteers from War Horse are back, and this time they created a whole jungle’s worth of puppet animals to frolic on stage. Check out the sketches of some of their designs, and watch a video to see the final puppets in action.

Let’s Talk About Sets, Baby – Helen Keller is back, and her play was just on stage at UW-Stevens Point. Check out this conversation with the set designer and the props master about how historical accuracy with the set dressing and properties brought her world to life.

Ironhead Studio’s Superhero and Specialty Costumes – Ironhead makes some of the most iconic superhero suits for films today, such as the Batman suit from Batman V Superman. Tested talks with founder Jose Fernandez at this year’s Monsterpalooza.