Tag Archives: usitt

Prop Building Contest

I just got back from this year’s SETC Conference in Louisville, KY. Focal Press had a nice display for The Prop Building Guidebook: For Theatre, Film, and TV, which will (hopefully) become available at some point today. As you can see from the photograph below, there is another exciting announcement:

Book display at SETC
Book display at SETC

That’s right, a contest! You can send in a photo or video of  a prop you make and win a pretty cool collection of prizes, including my book, some more Focal Press books, and some prop-making supplies and materials. The contest page has more details on the prizes and how to enter; there are separate categories for students and professionals, as well as a category for group entries, since we often build props in collaboration with others. The contest runs until April 30th, so you have some time to prepare your entry, but don’t wait too long!

In other news, I will be at USITT (March 20-23 in Milwaukee, WI). Stage Directions magazine is hosting a book signing at their booth (#100) on Friday, March 22nd, at 12:30 pm. You will be able to purchase the book there if you do not already have one. You can also check out the latest issue of Stage Directions magazine, which has an article on the Milwaukee Rep props shop by yours truly. A press release about the signing will be going out later today, but I thought I would let everyone know now, since schedules at USITT tend to fill up fast.

 

March Goes in Like a Link

It’s the end of the week, but the beginning of a new month. This is conference month for those of us in technical theatre. First is SETC, happening next week (March 5-9) in Louisville, KY. Shortly after is USITT, taking place March 19-23 in Milwaukee, WI. I will be at both if you wanted a chance to catch up or introduce yourself. At USITT, Stage Directions will be hosting a book signing for my book at their booth on Friday, March 22nd, at 12:30 PM. More info to come. For now, enjoy these links:

My latest magazine article in Stage Directions is now online; I profile the Milwaukee Rep props shop, home of props master Jim Guy. Milwaukee also happens to be the location of this year’s USITT conference. Coincidence?… actually, no, we chose to write about Milwaukee Rep for this issue precisely because of USITT.

The designer of the Dalek from Doctor Who, Ray Cusick, died this past week. The Verge has some videos and a story about him and how the Daleks came to be.

When the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre shut its doors in March 2012, its production facilities and prop storage were abandoned and surrendered to the landlords who owned the building. Jim Buckshon was subleasing part of that building at the time for his company, Renegade Productions, and decided to lease the entire building and save the props. Read the whole story to see how Buckshon took on one of Vancouver’s largest prop collections and kept it intact for future productions.

Weta Workshop — the design/production/creature/FX shop behind films such as The Lord of the RingsKing Kong and Avatar — recently solicited questions for their Mold Shop Supervisor, Michael Wallace.  Mike answers those questions about working in a mold shop, materials and techniques he uses, and his own background.

AJ Catalano is a sci-fi prop maker who has built items for films ranging from The Avengers and The Amazing Spiderman, to The Muppets. Check out this video where he talks about his background and the work he does:

Summer Jobs Already?

For those of you in school for theatre, it is not too early to start thinking about summer employment. Even though snow is still on the ground and it gets dark at 4 pm, this is the time of year that many summer festivals, theatres and operas begin recruiting for their production positions and internships. To my international readers, I am sorry this post only deals with US jobs and internships.

Whether looking for summer work or for immediate work, Backstage Jobs should be one of the sites you check daily. By now, most of the major and legitimate theatres have learned to post any and all technical and production-related jobs to this site. It is completely free to view every job posting. The site admin also does a bang-up job of keeping spam and unrelated postings from appearing.

Speaking of spam, the Society of Properties Artisan Managers maintains a list of which of their member theatres offer props internships. This is a comprehensive list of all internships, not just summer ones, so be sure to check the commitment dates for the theatres you are interested in.

Artsearch is another big mainstay of technical theatre job postings. Though you should avoid job posting sites which require you to pay to view listings, this is the one exception. If you are currently in school, your school will probably have login information you can use (this is often true if you are an alumni as well).

In addition to job listings online, you may wish to think about applying and interviewing for jobs during one of the two big conferences. Though these are held in March, now is the time that you should be registering for the conferences, booking your hotel and making your travel arrangements. The two major conferences for theatre technicians are USITT and SETC.

This year, USITT is held March 20-23 in Milwaukee. The conference is meant for technicians and designers for all aspects of live performance. Part of the conference includes a massive stage expo, where companies and employers have booths to show off what they do. This is where you can meet and greet with the people in charge of these companies; many of them use USITT to do some of their recruiting for summer internships and apprenticeships.

The SETC conference will be held March 6-10 in Louisville, KY. SETC is meant for all aspects of theatre, including acting and directing, so it is not focused on just the production side. While the exposition hall is much smaller than USITT’s, it does have a job fair you can sign up for. Companies have small tables where they list the job openings they have, and you sign up for times to interview. You then spend the rest of your time meeting with employers all over the convention center to interview for these jobs. You can interview for as many or as few jobs as you have time for. I actually got hired at the Santa Fe Opera for the first time at the SETC job fair.

These websites and conferences have jobs at all skill and pay levels; even the internships can vary widely in how much you are paid. While it may seem your acting friends are constantly taking low-to-no paid internships, as a technical theatre person, you should always be paid for your work. Plenty of paid opportunities exist at all skill levels if you look for them.

Out Like a Lion… with Links!

USITT is in full swing on the other coast, and I am only a few days away from the next deadline on my book. Things are hopping around here! Here are some interesting things from around the web:

Since I couldn’t make it to USITT, I’ve tried using Storify for the first time to cull together some news and tidbits about it. Tell me what you think.

Local man hopes for a leg up to career in the movies! This is the story of a 47 year old man from Northern Ireland who was laid off from his job and decided to switch gears and learn how to make props for movies. Even if you don’t want to read the story, the picture at the top of the page is definitely worth a glance.

Do you like giant woodshops? Do you like Ron Swanson? Nick Offerman, who plays Ron on TV’s Parks and Rec, has an enviable woodshop, which he shows off in this video. Nick learned carpentry by working as a theatrical set carpenter, so he has his shop set up like a scenery shop. The things he builds, though, are a far cry from flats and platforms.

In this interesting article called “The Tool Works at Both Ends“, we learn how your brain adapts and remodels itself depending on what tasks we do throughout the day. If you sit in front of a computer all day, your brain becomes better at absorbing large amounts of text and processing it while multitasking on other thoughts. If you work in a carpentry shop all day, your brain becomes more adept at guiding your hands to use tools and imagining how pieces of wood would look assembled in your head. The article proposes a “mental crossfit” program to condition all the portions of your brain throughout the day. As props people, we probably have one of the best jobs as far as maintaining a good brain balance goes, in that we are constantly switching between tasks such as research, collaborating with team members, hands-on building and crafting, and abstract problem-solving.

USITT 2011 Wrap-Up

Props at the Ohio University booth
Props at the Ohio University booth

This will be my last post about this year’s USITT conference. I would have done a more extensive wrap-up, but I had to jump straight into tech for “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide…” immediately upon returning to New York City. Instead, I’ll highlight some summaries from around the web. Much of USITT is very lighting/audio/automation oriented. Since the coverage of props is so under-served, I promise to do a more in-depth post next year.

One of the sessions I attended was “Everything is a Weapon”. Tom Fiocchi, one of my first prop teachers, was joined on stage with Wayne Smith, Brian Ruggaber, and a giant marlin fish with a sword for a nose. The session dealt with what factors make a weapon “stage combat–worthy”, and how to apply those factors to objects that were never intended to be weapons. Jacob Coakley has a great summary of the workshop on TheatreFace if you want to learn more.

Tech Expo is a display of interesting and innovative technical solutions to theatrical problems. The best ones are selected to be published in a catalog after the exhibition. La Bricoleuse has more information and photos of this year’s Tech Expo, including a spontaneous combustion parasol she helped create.

You may have noticed in her photos a blood sample chart in this year’s Expo. The chart was showing off a new type of stage blood which washes out of nearly everything. Developed by Meghan O’Brien-Blanford and Peter W. Brakhage at the University of Delaware, the chart featured a swatch of the most common fabrics used on stage. Each was soaked in the blood, then washed after either one hour or two hours. As fas as I could tell, only one fabric showed any signs of staining; the rest were completely clean, even after sitting two hours before being washed. They were giving away samples which they named “Fugitive Blood”; the labels invited us to check out FugitiveBlood.com, but at the moment, the website is still in its “coming soon” phase.

I love blogging
I love blogging