Sunday, December 30, 2012

Stage Hay Bale

It is a personal rule of mine that I never put real hay bales onstage. Real bales of hay are heavy, they shed, they are impossible to adequately fireproof, and inevitably lead to allergy problems with someone on the cast or crew. 
 When I can't convince the director or scene designer to use some other option (are you sure you the actors can't be sitting on these lovely wooden crates?), I have developed a method for making hay bales out of foam and raffia. 
The raffia bales don't shed nearly as much, and when they do the pieces are long and easy to quickly pick up; they are light and easy to carry, can be efficiently sprayed with fireproofing, and have yet to cause allergy problems in any of the shows I've used them in.
 I start by creating foam block the size of the bale I want. This one is made from many layers of 1" foam glued together, because that was cheapest and most accessible at the time. I glued the layers together with liquid nails, and then used more liquid nails to do the initial attaching of the raffia. 
Note: This is a messy process, and required lots of dry time. I would coat one side with glue, lay the raffia into the glue, place something on top of the raffia to hold it down, and then wait for it to dry. Once it was dry I turned the bale to the next side and repeated the process. 
After the initial round of glueing, I went back over the entire bale with a hot glue gun, pulling and pressing and gluing more specific spots, catching loose ends, tucking in wild pieces and making sure that corners were covered. 
To hold everything together even more, I wrapped the bale in this wired twine (found in the floral department of the craft store).
 Each stand was wrapped around the bale, pulled as tight as possible and then twisted together to lock it in place. 
I could then take the loose ends and press them down into the foam block so that no actors can get poked by the loose ends of the wire.
And here is the final product.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Construction paper cut-out letters

For the Winter Wonderettes at Fox Valley Rep, I needed to make lots of holiday decorations that looked homemade, but still looked high quality, like they were made with care. One of the trickiest things to figure out was the lettering on all the signs I needed. In the past I would have stenciled onto construction paper or poster-board and then cutout the letters, but in this case I wanted more of a variety of fonts and more control of the font size than I could get with the stencils I owned. 
 Instead I decided to create documents with the exact fonts I needed in the exact size.
 I glued them face down onto pieces of construction paper
 It was still easy to see the outline of the dark letters through the thin printer paper
So I was able to easily cut out the letters.
And then peel the printed letter off the back
 I was left with construction paper cutout letters that looked consistent and carefully made, but still home crafted.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stage Hairspray

I am not sure of how many uses I will actually find for this, but I have just discovered a new product. 
 Fantasy FX canned fog.
This product has apparently been used extensively in recent years for productions of Hairspray.
I imagine this canned fog effect would have many uses, though I used it for a hairspray effect as well.
The fog inside has very little scent and hangs nicely in the air
A quick bit of spray adhesive on a recreated AquaNet Label

And we have a wonderful can of hairspray that doesn't leave any sort of sticky film on actresses, props, or the floor

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wrapped gift boxes

My apologies if this post is overly simplistic. I thought this was standard practice, but while explaining this method to a lighting designer friend and a production manager, they were both fascinated so I figured it was worth a blog post.
There are moments when gifts onstage need to be actually wrapped in paper that can be torn off, in which case, the run crew or stage management will need to do the wrapping, but please be considerate and pre-cut plenty of the correct sized pieces for them to use.
In many other cases you just need a beautiful box that can be opened easily. You can individually wrap the top and the bottom of the box, or i this case, I bought nice heavy gift boxes at Menards and added ribbon to each one. 
 First I wrapped some ribbon around the lid of the box
and glued the end on the inside
 Then carefully lined up ribbon on the bottom, while the box was assembled to match the top ribbon
I repeated the technique in the other direction
 and then glued a bow on top to finish it off
 The gift looks beautiful under the tree and the actor can quickly retrieve the prop inside.
I made each of the five boxes I needed slightly differently, and I was really pleased with how they turned out. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Crushed Shells

I discovered yesterday that Michael's sells bags of crushed sea shells.
 Not sure when else it will come up,
 but they look very pretty and shiny and expensive in this gourd that we use for one of the wisemen's gifts in The Black Nativity

Monday, December 10, 2012

Turkish Bowls

For "Night Over Erzinga" the director was hoping that we could have a set of Turkish bowls on a tray for a short scene. 
After doing some research I discovered that Turkish pottery is not only intricate and beautiful, but VERY expensive, and totally out of our budget.
I decided instead to make the bowls myself. Unfortunately I missed taking pictures of them before I started, when they were all solid colored plastic and ceramic bowls I purchased at thrift stores for less than $1 each.
The next few images show the bowls close up after the first coat of paint.

 Next I used a white paint pen to outline all of the designs and to add details. 
 I slowly added details by rotating each color through each bowl, so that by the time I switched colors the first bowl is dry and ready for a new one. 

 In the end they turned out very well.
The director had been imagining that the bowls would be empty,and the food would be imagined/implied as this was a memory scene. Once we got into  we discovered that the idea wasn't working and we needed to fill te bowls.
With very little budget remaining I was able to fill the tray with food at the last minute for almost no cost.
with ripped up upholstery foam
 a bag of cheap beans (less than $1 at the grocery store)
 small apples I already had in stock
 my fake raspberries and blueberries from "The Crowd You're In With" (these have appeared in at least 4 shows now)
And some puffed wheat cereal so that the actress had something to physically eat in the short scene. 
Finally filling the whole thing out with some stock plastic grapes so that the bowls didn't looks so tiny on the tray.