Sunday, December 15, 2013

Never be afraid to ask...for WAY more than you can afford

An Inspector Calls at Remy Bumppo, turned out beautifully, with a huge beautiful oriental rug and beautifully finished wood furniture. 
When we started work on the show, and the set designer sent me research with images of the type of furniture he was imagining, I was worried. I knew my budget was not enough to be able to purchase anything. 
 Then, when I discovered that none of my go-to rental sources had anything, I was even more worried. 
 I hoped that I would find someone on craigslist selling something beat-up that I could repair, or something they didn't know the value of. But after weeks of looking I had nothing.
 While out running other errands in the city, I drove past an antique store that I hadn't been in for years. I had long ago ruled it out as being more expensive that I could afford on any of my budgets. I figured it couldn't hurt to stop in, and I was desperate. 
 Walking into the store I immediately knew I had to find a way to work with them. The furniture in the store was right out of the research images. 
 I approached the owner and told him the situation. I had $X to spend and knew that was far less than he should charge me for a rental of all the pieces I wanted. I could offer him comp tickets to see the show and an insert ad in the program (with a guesstimated value of $X, which would be seen by approximately X number of people). I would take responsibility for the safety of the items while they were in the theater's possession, and the show itself is fairly tame, no large fights, no one treating the furniture roughly etc.
 I was also able to provide him with a copy of the company's insurance policy, to assure him that, should some unforeseen incident harm his pieces, we would be able to compensate him. 
 He agreed to the rental and we have a beautiful dining room set with a table, six chairs, two beautiful gold mirrors, an overhead light fixture, and buffet and a marble top server for exactly what I had in the budget. 
 As precautions to preserve the condition of the furniture, we made sure to tell the cast and the set construction crew that it was rented and valuable, so that they take extra care with it. I have also given the ASM some nice furniture polish and rags. Every evening after the performance she wipes off and polishes the top of the dining table, to make sure no drops of liquid from the show are left on it, and to keep it in beautiful condition. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Scraps of dessert

For An Inspector Calls at Remy Bumppo, the show opens at the end of a dinner party. The characters are supposed to be finishing last bites of dessert as the maid cleans the plates and dishes away. I made these quick plates of lemon cake and custard from upholstery foam and wax. 
 I tore very small bits of upholstery foam from a block I had, 
 I arranged the bits onto plates and then poured a bit of wax that I dyed to look like custard over each piece. 
In addition to creating a nice appearance of sauce, the wax served as the adhesive to attach the foam to the plates.
We purchased one small loaf of lemon cake at the grocery store. We will slice the cake and freeze it. Each week the stage manager will thaw a slice of cake and put one bite onto one of the plates so that one of our characters can have a real piece of cake on her fork to eat before the plates are taken away.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Newspaper with inserted articles

Period newspaper props are getting more and more difficult passing year. As color ink gets cheaper and more common, it is harder and harder to find generic newspapers without large color photos or ads. At one point I could just remove the cover pages as interior pages rarely had color, then the color spread to those pages too. Just recently, my go-to generic newspaper, the Wall Street Journal started printing with color ads and photos on all the pages.
It is also difficult to print your own newspaper. You need a large format printer, and many print shops will refuse the hastle of printing onto newsprint, even if you bring the paper in yourself. It gets tangled and jammed in the printers easily because the paper is so thin.
For newspaper props that don't take a lot of wear and tear, this is my solution.
 I start with a small drawing pad of newsprint. I bought this one several years ago and it has lasted me through multiple projects.
 The pad is 9x12, so each sheet needs to be cut to 8.5 x11 to fit into my home printer.
 I pull images offline and type out a few headlines,
 Then glue the articles and headlines into my purchased newspaper to cover up the color photos.On this one I added the photo of the Titanic, the headline about war, and the small section of a period newspaper under the photo (to cover the larger photo on the page).
Since newsprint is so thin, the extra layer of print tends to blend seamlessly into the base paper and not cause too much stiffness. 
This is easier to do if you buy the paper you are going to be gluing into first, then you can measure the areas you are going to need to cover and format your images and text columns to fit.