Friday, November 30, 2012

Wedding Centerpieces

The centerpieces for my weddings weren't so much a craft project as a shopping project, but they did seem to tie right in to work.
I have a thing for stemware and glassware and decided that I wanted to use that for the centerpieces at the wedding.

The decision was made early, so for over a year leading up to our wedding I shopped. Because I was in the thrift stores so often anyway, the glasses were acquired fairly easily.
 I'd start each visit to the thrift stores by shopping for the props I was currently needing for work, but before I left I would swing by the glassware and pick up anything in a saturated color. 
 I had a spreadsheet where I kept track of how many glasses I had of each color so that I would be able to create a good mix.
 A couple months before the wedding we pulled all of the glasses out in my parent's kitchen, washed off labels and arranged the glasses into mixed sets of eight. 
 We re-wrapped the glassware in newspaper and bundled each set in an individual bag.
 On the day before the wedding, as we were decorating the hall, all my helpful aunts were able to open one bag at a time and arrange it onto each table.
 We put a tea light candle into each, which added to the warm, colorful glow of the room when the lights dimmed.
 On each table we left a note inviting people to take glassware that they liked with them at the end of the night.
 Everyone seemed to love the glasses and some even turned choosing glassware into a game for the night, walking around the room and scoping out the glassware on other tables, trying to find matchign sets.
 The best part was that  ended up with centerpieces I loved, which doubled as wedding favors that our guests loved and I spend and average of $1 a piece. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Period Pens

I have often run up against period pens as a problem. 
It is very difficult to come across anything cheap and plentiful at the stores that doesn't look like these decidedly modern pens. In the past I have often resorted to spending far more money that I would like on nicer pens that were more timeless, or trying to validate the choice of a pencil in all situations.  
 This summer I had an epiphany and discovered a cheap simple solution. 
A coat of silver or gold spray paint on an ugly plastic pen 
results in a piece that looks classy and timeless from any distance. And saves me a ton of money and time in the future.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


The other day at one of our previews I had four different people come up to me with a bit of fear in their eyes. They wanted to know if I had purchased enough of the Hostess HoHos we are supposed to give away to audience members as part of an audience participation bit.

Did I know that Hostess was going out of business and that people had buying out all of their products off of the store shelves as quickly as they could be found?

Luckily I had purchased all of the HoHos that we needed for the entire run already.

Just a good reminder that it is always best to be prepared for the entire run as soon as possible. you never know when a product will be discontinued or a company will go out of business.

Plastic Champagne Flutes

In Hamlet at Notre Dame Shakespeare this past summer we needed a large number of champagne flutes for a party scene. I didn't have much money to spend on the prop, and had previously decided with the director that we would do our best to avoid putting any glass onstage in this show (there was so much stage combat that anything glass was guaranteed to break). We found a selection of plastic flutes that fit our look at Party City, quickly discovered that the cheap plastic was far too light. When the actors were holding the flutes in their hands we had no problems, but sitting on a table or on a waiter's tray it only took a slight breeze to send them all tumbling. 
To solve the problem of glassing falling (and then breaking), we needed to weight the bases of each glass. I had my assistant fill the small cavity at the bottom of each glass with silicone caulk. We pressed a large heavy washer into the caulk and then filled the base the rest of the way. We smoothed out the caulk so that the glass would sit flat on a surface and let it dry. 
You can see here that the inner layer of caulk stayed cloudy long after the outer layer had dried and become transparent. Fortunately this wasn't a problem for my purposes. 
 We carefully taped over the bottom bit of the bell of the glass, and then spray painted the stem silver. 
 Then repeated several dozen times
 Once the tape was removed we had a set of silver stemmed champagne flutes that were safely plastic, light to carry on a large tray, nicely weighted to not tip over, and less than $1 each. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wedding Guest Book

When I got engaged over a year ago I wrote that you would likely be seeing multiple wedding projects here on the blog mixed in with the theatre projects. As it turned out the wedding was a lot of work and took up more of my time than planned (who knew?). Now that the wedding is over though I would love to share with you a few of the projects I took on. Some are just for fun, but I think that some may have applications in theatre as well.
This first one is just for fun. We were looking for something interesting to do for a guest book and I was coming up empty until I saw a pinterest page where someone had all of their friends sign a Monopoly board. Board games are one of my favorite things and I decided to steal the idea.
Monopoly didn't seem to be super appropriate for a wedding, but The Game of Life seemed appropriate. The only problem is that the board for The Game of Life, looks like this.
It's very busy looking. There would be very little place for people to sign, and where they did it would likely be difficult to read. 
 My solution was a delicate hand with a tiny paint brush and two very thick coats of blue craft paint. 

 I loved that many people signed next to squares on the board that related to life events we had shared or hoped to share together. 
We added a Jenga game because I was nervous about there being enough space for everyone to sign. 
 And now we have these wonderful mementos of all of our friends that we can see and enjoy whenever we play games together with our friends and family.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A level playing field

I had a meeting this summer with a reader of this blog who was interested in talking to me about going into tech theatre as a profession.
During our discussion she spoke of her nervousness in taking on one of her first large jobs on a show. She was worried that her inexperience would be obvious, and that she wouldn't know how to solve some of the challenging problems that the show's design was calling for.
I was able to give her some ideas about how the effects the director was imagining could be accomplished based on a similar effect I had previously needed in another show. The thing is, knowing how to solve her problem was mostly luck. The similar project I had done was on one show three years prior. I hadn't used anything like that effect before or since. If I hadn't been able to do that production, or a different director or designer had worked on that production with me, I would have had no idea of how to answer this student's question.
Experience in this line of work isn't nearly so linear as it is in other professions. I may have been in the business for years longer than someone else on the production team, and another person may have done three times the number of shows that I have, but in the first production meeting, we're on a bit of an even playing field because no one on the team has ever done THIS show before. It's not that experience doesn't matter, the more shows that I work on, the more likely it is that on the next show I will come across challenges I've worked with before. As I have worked on more productions in the city, it has become more and more likely that when I need something, I know of a theatre who has it in stock, or a vendor who might be able to sell it to me. There is, however, no guarantee. There will still be something on most shows that is new and challenging. It can be frustrating to never be able to truly master this profession, but it can also be incredibly freeing. Because every show is new, I am able to ask for help without embarrassment. It is totally okay for me to walk into a production meeting and say, I've never encountered quite this challenge before, does anyone have any ideas? And more often than not, someone does. Through the collective experience of everyone in the room, there is usually at least one person who can say "I did a production once where we did something similar, and here's how we did it."
Becoming a better theatre professional has something to do with building up a large arsenal of tips and tricks, sources and knowledge. Some of this can be acquired through research, reading and seeing other theatrical productions, but some can only be acquired through time and experience. The other key ingredient to success in this business has very little to do with experience, and everything to do with collaboration, being unashamed to ask for help, being able to articulate your needs and being willing to listen and understand the ideas of others.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Simple Salad

Recently I needed to throw together a quick salad as a prop in a show. I had been under the impression that the salad was consumed every night, so I was planning on purchasing a basic bag salad every couple of shows for them to use. Turns out, no one ever even removed the saran wrap during the scene. 
Hooray for saving a ton of money not having to buy new salad every week!
 Even better, I was able to make the fake salad entirely from supplies I had in my closet of supplies at home.
 I started by ripping and crumbling the green issue paper to serve as a base.
Next I cut up my scrap of green fabric to add some variety to the color and texture.
 Next I cut up my scrap of leftover plastic greenery to add more even more texture, and to add something that wouldn't swish so easily.
 Finally I added yarn for cheese and orange pipe cleaners for carrots.
 I wrapped it all in some saran wrap, and sent it onstage.
Hooray for free last minute props :)