Sunday, November 1, 2009

Lots of Food Props!

I received this as a comment on one of my previous posts, and my response got so long I decided to make it it's own post.

"Hey, Jesse. I am currently directing a production that calls for a lot of drinking and eating. I am trying to figure out how to make a cake that gets frosted on stage every night and has but one bite taken out of it, beans thrown at the set (the designer is having a fit), edible stuffed mushrooms and scotch, wine and whiskey being consumed in mass quantities. Also, would ice made from melted glass beads pose any health threats to the actors? Please help!"

First off, consumables are just expensive.  For a short run (like a 3 performance high school show) it's no big deal, but for a longer running show the multiplication can get ridiculous and it's important to budget out these props early because they can come back to bite you.

First the cake: I would build a cake out of insulation foam (otherwise known as "pink foam" sold in most hardware stores), paint it to be the right color for your unfrosted cake, and seal it really well (try rosco foam-coat). When you are carving your cake shape, carve out an empty space where you can set in a small piece of cheap store bought cake every night. Because it's being eaten, you're really going to have to use real frosting, but you should be able to make it cheaply using a very basic recipe (powdered sugar, butter and milk). If you seal the cake well though, someone should be able to wash the icing off the foam every night pretty easily, reset a new piece of real cake in the hole, and be ready to go for the next performance.

For the beans, I am assuming that you're talking about some sort of pork and beans style dish (the brown saucy messy kind). I would stay away from real beans as much as possible, and my thought is to go with sponge. Cut lots of bean shapes out of sponge and then place them in a bowl of water colored with food dye. They should make a nice squish and splash when they hit the wall, but without making too much of a mess. You set designer should be sure to seal the paint on that wall really well though as it will probably need to be wiped down every night.

The stuffed mushrooms are tricky. I'm a little stuck on the mushroom base, if it's bigger I would look into using canned pear halves and cutting off the top part, otherwise maybe some sort of bread (half a roll? a muffin top?). The filling really depends on the base. If you use the bread you have lots of savory options (stovetop stuffing, scrambled eggs and dye, mashed potatoes and dye...) if you use the pear maybe try chopping up the cut off from the pear and mixing in some food dye, different jams or chutney).

For Scotch and whiskey either substitute tea or food dye (use mostly yellow with a touch of green). For white wine try white grape juice, for red wine, red grape juice or cranberry. I've also had some luck with Crystal Light powdered drink mixes.

I don't think that your glass bead ice cubes should be a problem in terms of safety. I've also made them by melting down clear plastic pony beads (made for kids projects so maybe even more safe in terms of chemicals). Check out this article on flickr for a great step-by-step.

Always with consumable food make sure you check with actors to make sure there are no food allergies involved, and make sure that you have arranged where you are going to safely store and prepare the food (there is nothing worse then finding out that someone ate your food prop for lunch).

I'm sure everyone has their own tips, tricks and favorite products to use for edible food props, so please feel free to leave a comment to share them.

1 comment:

  1. Hi I am directing a production in Dec, which calls for a food fight, such as spaghetti and pie in the face. We are an amateur company and I wonder if you could give me some advice please?
    Best wishes