Looking past the actors — the technical feats of the Humana Festival – Insider Louisville takes a look at how the sets are built for Humana Festival to allow quick changeovers between shows. The Festival has seven shows being produced in three spaces and running in repertory; and they’re all brand-new works. I worked in the props shop for Humana Festival exactly ten years ago; it is quite the burst of activity.
The workers who make Broadway hum deserve a standing ovation – In honor of World Theatre Day this past Monday, NY Daily News published this article by Patricia White, president of Theatrical Wardrobe Union Local 764 IATSE. She describes all the union jobs that make Broadway work, from ushers and ticket takers, to dressers and musicians.
Create Custom Screen Printing Designs at Home – Make Magazine has a great primer on screen printing. Sure, your computer printer can handle a lot of different materials, but screen printing is great when you need to get an image onto a piece of material too large for your printer. I’ve used it to make custom vinyl folding chairs.
Working With Transparent Worbla – Propnomicon shares this video on working with transparent Worbla. Like regular Worbla, it is a thermoplastic that softens at low temperatures so you can manipulate and shape it by hand.
Corporeal Intangibility – The Alley Theatre made custom acrylic furniture and props for their production of The Nether, including a gramophone and a rocking horse. This was clearly an interesting project.
I have a second project from The Faery Tale Adventure which I recently finished. Like the Magic Seashell from a few weeks back, this was a project I used to get photographs and videos for various techniques covered in the second edition of The Prop Building Guidebook, which will be out in early 2017.
This was my first time carving into polyurethane foam, and the difference from polystyrene foam was remarkable. It does not have any of the sponginess of polystyrene. It cuts like butter but you can get really sharp, defined details.
Unfortunately, the dust may be reactive with your skin, so you need to wear gloves, sleeves, and a mask while working with it. The inertness of polystyrene dust has it beat there. But for a small piece like this, it was pretty fun.
The video game graphics were not helpful; the actual Talisman is only seven by nine pixels big. But the manual has some artwork which I enlarged and used as a guide.
I have some more photos and information about carving polyurethane which will be in the second edition of my book.
I tried out Worbla for the first time on this project. I have a video on Worbla coming out within the next few months, and the second edition will have a lot more information on it as well.
You can see in the photo above I coated the polyurethane with Flexcoat to give it more of a shell. I made the horns separate and attached them afterwards.
I’ve worked with Wonderflex before, so I noticed some differences between the two materials. First, Worbla smells like maple syrup when it’s heated. Really. Wonderflex seems to have much more of a transition between hard and soft. Worbla will become pliable very quickly with heat, then re-solidify quickly when cooled; Wonderflex becomes gradually more pliable as it is heated. That may be because the Worbla is thinner, or maybe because its formula is a bit different; I don’t know.
Like other thermoplastics, the benefit of Worbla is that you make a hollow shell of a prop rather than a solid chunk. My original plan was to fill the void with lights so the Talisman could glow, but I ended up putting so much paint on the outside that it became opaque.
For my first attempt at paint, I tried hydro-dipping. That did not work. So I covered that over with a traditional marbleing technique, which will also be in the book and in a future video.
I finished it off with a black wash for ageing and some copper metallic acrylic for highlighting, followed by a spray gloss clearcoat.
And now I have a Talisman that can keep my humble props shop safe from evil spirits and undead creatures.
Ward Works builds a vacuum former and presents the whole step-by-step process with photographs. The whole thing was done for under $600, though you can save money if you have a lot of scrap around the shop.