Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Forte Piano

One of my biggest worries going into our production of Amadeus, was the forte piano. You simply can't do the show without it, it's the focal point of several scenes and needed to be beautiful. 
Our costume designer proposed a brilliant solution. As it turned out, one of the local universities was planning to do Amadeus this coming school year. She put me in touch with the set designer there and we decided to share the work. The University paid for the materials (about $200), and gave me their shop space to work in for the day. They also sent me a student assistant for a few hours to help. I did the research, shopping and building, and the set designer at the university did the painting. 
 The piano was built with a plywood base and lid. 1x12 framing, and bendy-board for the curved side. There is a 1 inch plywood curve, cut to match the curve of the base of the piano on the top edge of the bendy board which helps it hold it's shape. 
To create the keyboard I used a single piece of 1x12 and ran it through the radial arm saw at 3/4 inch increments. Each cut only went about half way across the width of the board, leaving everything attached on one edge. This allowed me to only worry about attaching one piece, and allowed me to keep even spacing along the keyboard. 
The black keys were cut from a piece of 1x which had been ripped on the table saw to the correct width I needed. The ends were curved down by briefly running them past the belt sander. 
 The legs of the piano were Oak railing pieces purchased at Menards and cut to length. They are attached with long lag screws going from the inside of the piano (attach these before the keyboard) down almost 5 inches into the leg. 
 I used an extra leg, hinged to the inside of the piano to hold the lid open when needed. 
 I ended up having to cut the lid twice. The first lid I made from immediately tracing the base, when I initially drew it, and cutting both at the same time. Unfortunately, since my carpentry was not perfect, and the sanding and smoothing of the curve after cutting each piece was not exact, the first lid didn't fit at all. I traced the top of the (almost) finished piano to create the second lid and the curves matched much better.
 And here is the finished piano onstage, finished and painted. 
 I was very proud of how it turned out. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Nipples of Venus

For Amadeus, at Oak Park Festival Theatre, I created this tray of sweets for almost no cost. 
The script described nipples of Venus, as brandied chestnuts, dipped in sugar. 
A google image search gave me a lot of good information too (and surprisingly few pornographic pics considering the word nipple was part of my search)
They look something like this
I used my go-to salt dough recipe (one part salt, one part flour, add water VERY slowly until you reach the right consistency to mold what you need, bake on your ovens lowest temp until hard)
 a small dab of brown paint to each ball, and some extra ribbon and a silver sugar bowl made the tray look full and impressive. 
The grapes sitting on top of the tray were for the few pieces that were supposed to be consumable. From the distance of the audience, they were unnoticable, and they were easy for the actor to eat quickly and easily without gumming up her throat or being forced to chew something sticky before her next line. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Golden Chairs

Let me start by saying that for Amadeus, at Oak Park Festival Theatre, we had just about zero budget. I had to be incredibly selective in how I spent my money because the script calls for many props very specifically. 
I was especially worried about furniture, after seeing nothing that could immediately pass for Rococo chairs in the limited stock, some plastic garden chairs caught my eye. 
There is no garden scene in the show, but I wondered if there would be a way to add an upholstered seat in order to make them feel like indoor dining chairs.
I found three chairs in total, two that looked like the green one above, and one that looked like this white one. After a coat of gold paint, they looked just flowery and over-the-top enough to pass as authentically Rococo. 
 By using a fender washer to hold a screw through one of the holes in the plastic seat, into a plywood circle I cut, I was able to attach upholstered seat cushions without damaging the chairs. 
 I think they turned out well, and they worked perfectly for the moment when Salieri talks about how he was able to buy lavish new furniture for his apartments.