But Will It Wash Off… – I forgot to post this when it first came out, but Jay Duckworth and Alex Wylie needed some spray paint that would wash off. During The Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar, they had a scene where the protesting crowd added graffiti to posters of Caesar; of course, it needed to be removed for the next performance. Yes, that’s the same production that faced heckling and interruptions this summer.
If You’re Going to Copy Broadway Show Design, Don’t Brag About It – A lot of theaters, particularly universities and community theaters, do not seem to be aware that copying the set design of a Broadway show is unethical and often illegal. Christopher Peterson breaks down the issues involved and highlights one recent example that garnered a bit of publicity.
Learn to ‘Sharpen This’ – or Any Other Tool – Chris Schwartz points us to some upcoming events by Lie-Nielsen where they will show you how to sharpen your woodworking tools for free (there’s one in NYC in November). He also links to his whole “Sharpen This” series, where he gives tips, tricks and advice for sharpening; this is a seemingly simple task, but you will find tons of conflicting and arcane information about it online.
I spent the early part of the summer back in New York City working on the first show for Shakespeare in the Park. As You Like It, directed by Daniel Sullivan and designed by John Lee Beatty, required a dead deer corpse that could be carried around the stage.
Jay and Sara had already purchased a urethane taxidermy deer form, which was waiting for me when I arrived. I proceeded to chop it apart at the joints and reattach them with fabric hinges (using left-over canvas from the tents we made for last year’s All’s Well That Ends Well).
The spine needed a bit more flexibility. The deer was going to appear on stage as if it had just been shot, and then one actor was going to hoist it over his shoulders and carry it around fireman’s style. I used several pieces of rope to give a semi-flexible span between the front and back half of the deer, while a big piece of upholstery foam was added to help it maintain some shape and volume.
I also carved the neck out of upholstery foam. I wrapped the foam in fabric, sewed it shut and glued it to the rest of the body.
The photograph above shows the deer all jointed and floppy and ready to be covered in fabric. Yes, that is pantyhose on the legs; I added them to give further support to the legs while maintaining full flexibility.
It took three separate deer hides to completely cover the whole body. I arranged them as best I could around the deer so the fur coloring, direction and length would match the hide of a real deer. Real fur has so many variations throughout, whereas fake fur would just make the whole thing look like a giant stuffed toy. Jay bought me a bottle of “Tear Mender”, which is a latex-based adhesive designed for fabric and leather. As the back of the hide is essentially leather and the body was covered in fabric, the glue made a really strong but flexible connection.
The hooves were also purchased from the taxidermy supplier. I had to drill out the bone a bit on top so I could slide them onto the threaded rod which ran through the urethane foam cast legs.
We also had some glass eyes for the head as well as plastic ears from the taxidermy supplier. I patterned some fur over these ears, but they were deemed “too stiff” after the deer’s first rehearsal. Luckily, I just had to reopen the seams and pull the plastic parts out; the fur maintained the shape pretty well on its own.
The deer also got a nice open head wound. We had a separate set of antlers that the actors danced around with, and the scene opened with the antlers already removed. I mixed various colors of acrylic mixed with epoxy to give it a permanent “wet” look.
I had Raphael, one of the other prop artisans, pose while holding the deer. He moved fairly decently, though the joints between the legs and the body were a bit stiff-looking. Some of the transitions between the different hides I pieced together were a bit rough when viewed up close, but on stage under the lights, he looked amazing.
Last week, I showed the beginning stages of a French 75mm field gun I was building for this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park. You can see the construction of most of the structure in that post. Today I’ll continue with the addition of detail, painting and finishing touches.