Tag Archives: tour

Touring the Houston Grand Opera

While at the 24th Annual Society of Properties Artisan Managers conference in Houston, we got a chance to tour the stage and warehouse of the Houston Grand Opera. On the first day, we visited the Wortham Theater Center, located in the heart of downtown Houston. Being an opera, the stage and seating are far larger than most of the theaters we work in.

So many linesets
So many linesets

Continue reading Touring the Houston Grand Opera

Last Links in April

Hey, if you haven’t gotten my Prop Building Guidebook yet, you can get it direct from Focal Press for 20% off until April 29th! Just use code MRK95 at checkout. It makes a great gift for graduation (hint hint).

This seems like one of those weird Buzzfeed articles, but it actually has a whole lot of cool photographs from a tour inside Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.

Legacy Effects has a great video on the making of the suit from the new Robocop film. Sure, there is a lot of 3D printing and digital fabrication involved, but there is also a surprising amount of traditional artistry going on, including sculpting, painting and sewing.

La Bricoleuse discovers an armor maker right here in North Carolina. Dr. Eric Juengst is the Director of the Center of Bioethics at UNC Chapel Hill, and he spends his spare time fabricating historic suits of armor (and suits of armor for animals). Check out these photos and video of his workshop and his creations.

Here’s a good step-by-step tutorial on how to do a life cast of a face from Lauren Daisy Williams, a student at UNCSA. I met Lauren at the USITT Young Designer’s Forum this year, where she had all sorts of fun molding and casting projects on display, so it’s nice to see her share the process for some of her work online.

Mysteries of the Prop Room part 2, 1902

The following tour of a property room at the Metropolitan Theater in Saint Paul, MN, first appeared in The Saint Paul Globe in 1902. This is the second selection from that article, with the first appearing here.

“There are two more property rooms above this one. Perhaps you would like to see them,” he suggested hospitably.

The second property room was reached by means of a narrow and very straight-up-and-down ladder. If the first looked like an old curiosity shop, the second seemed, in the dim light that came from a solitary incandescent light, a veritable chamber of horrors. From a nail driven in one side of the wall there hung an iron cauldron that suggested the three weird sisters in “Macbeth.” A cotton velvet cloak with a big collar of stringy white fur took on, in that dull light, the shape of one of the witches herself. A skull and cross-bones grinned cheerfully from a niche above a black table. Several masques peered down from a shelf and a big collection of drinks, daggers and swords did not detract in the least from the high tragedy effect of this second property room.

“There is still another property room directly above this one.

“Perhaps,” suggested the Property Man, “you would like to see that also?”

The visitor surveyed the iron ladder that was even narrower and very much straighter-up-and-down than the one she had just mounted and shook her head.

“It’s just full of things like this,” he said. “Tables and chairs and battle axes and churns and band boxes and things!”

The visitor decided she had acquired the taste for property rooms and dropped in at the Grand.

Originally published in The Saint Paul Globe, February 23, 1902, page 22.

The Old Proproom at the Walnut St Theatre, 1910

The following comes from the New-York tribune, July 03, 1910. Written by Charles Bloomingdale, Jr., it tells the story of Charles Hoffner, props master at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia, PA. Incidentally, the Walnut is the first professional theater I’ve ever worked at, as an apprentice stagehand ninety-one years after this article was written. I’ve cut some of the parts that don’t deal with props to keep this short, but you can read the full article at the above link.

Charles Hoffner
Charles Hoffner

Hats off, gentlemen! Age, in the person of the Past, quavers “Good morrow” to you: the old, musty, dusty proproom of the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia bids you come in from the garish glare of to-day and sink in its shadows of bygone yesterdays, bids you see and touch the things that Forrest, Booth, Macready, Kean, Charlotte Cushman, Dion Boucicault, and other giants of the stage saw and touched–yes, and used–in those dear, dead days when the drama was palmy. Hats off, gentlemen and enter!

The Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia is the oldest standing playhouse in America. In February, 1808, it was erected, and for one hundred and two years it has flourished. Once it stood at the outskirts of the town, then the center; now the town has grown many, many miles beyond it. But its proproom–its old proproom; for it has two now–is the same as when Pepin and Preschard opened the theater with a circus and pantomime one hundred and two years ago.

What is a proproom? A proproom is a room for properties. And what are properties? Anything and everything, costumes excepted, used on the stage during a play. A property room looks like the average junkshop, possibly more so. A chair is a property; so is a clock, a cane, a candle, a chain, a corkscrew. And a bottle is a property too, and the forged will and the mortgage papers, a horseshoe, a feather duster, and a paper of pins. And the property man of the theater has all these hundreds of seemingly inconsequential things under his thumb and gets them when they’re needed. Continue reading The Old Proproom at the Walnut St Theatre, 1910

Childsplay Theatre part 2

Previously, I showed photographs of our tour of the Childsplay props shop. Today, I will show photos from our tour of the rest of their facilities.

The dye room, located next to the costume shop, also had a spray booth which was shared with the props department.

Spray booth

The costume shop itself was clean and well-organized. I love shelves full of labelled boxes.

Costume shop storage

Someone was working on a bunch of tails for a giant mouse costume.

Mouse tails

I enjoyed the copious number of power cords hanging from the ceiling.

Ceiling power cords

We also toured the administrative offices of Childsplay. Old props and bits of artwork appeared everywhere. Here, Jim Luther, the prop master, shows us one of his creations.

Snap, Crackle, Pop

We saw many of Childsplay’s awards they’ve won over their 35 year history.

Jim Guy looking at awards

These puppets are delightful.


Below is a portrait of Sybil B. Harrington, namesake of the Sybil B. Harrington Campus for Imagination and Wonder, which is where all these shops and offices are located.

Sybil B. Harrington

My wife, Natalie, found her long-lost twin sitting on one of the desks.

Natalie's friend

I hope you enjoyed sharing my tour of Childsplay Theatre in Arizona. Enjoy the weekend, and stay tuned for more information from this year’s S*P*A*M conference.