Saturday, March 28, 2015

Prop Designs

Old Buoso in the half tester bed

Sometimes things we need on stage just don't exist.  Sometimes they are too expensive to buy, Sometimes things have to be built.  For that there needs to be a design.  Typically, for bigger things the scene designer designs the prop or furniture piece and either the scene shop or prop shop builds it.  For smaller things, sometimes the scene designer gives photo reference and leaves the actual design up to the prop master.

Here are a few of my designs for furniture or other props

Half Tester Bed--Gianni Schicci
For our production of Gianni Schicci, we decided to set it in the 1950's in a mob home.  Old Buoso is dead at the top of the show and we decided to have the entire opera take place in Old Buoso's bedroom.  So we needed a particularly cool bed.  The director wanted a half tester bed so we could hide Gianni Schicci when he's dressed as Old Buoso.

I designed a queen size half tester bed with curtains for the show.  First I did period research on what half tester beds look like.  I decided how big it needed to be to fit in with everything else on stage.  I had to figure how to get it off stage in a ten minute intermission because we did two chamber operas on the same night, the other one was Dido and Aeneas.  As I was preparing to design the bed, I looked in our inventory and found a whole bunch of old porch posts.  I'm sure we'd had them for many years before I arrived.  I decided to design the whole bed around those.

Here are the drawings of the bed, followed by a photo or two.

Side view of the half tester bed

Top view and front elevation of the half tester

Plan view of bed

Details of headboard and footboard

The half tester bed

The Podium--Doubt
We did the play, Doubt in the Black Box Theatre.  The play was done in a modified round and we needed a podium that looked stately but still was portable enough to be moved on and off stage.  Once again I turned to our supply of porch posts.  Also in our inventory we happened to have some resin corbels and some gallery rail finials.  Some props have a life beyond their original purpose.  We have used the podium in several plays since the original.

Here is the drawing of the podium followed by photos

Drawing of the podium

The podium as used in the play, Doubt

As used in the play Bielzy and Gottfried

The Prie Dieu--Lamp at Midnight
For Lamp at Midnight we needed a prie dieu for the Pope to pray at in her personal chambers.  I did some period research and discovered many different kinds of prayer stands.  I chose one that was kind of rococo looking,  I realize it was a little out of phase historically, but it was portable and had to be schlepped on and off rapidly.  I had a few bad 1970's plastic wall shelves that I had picked up at a thrift store a few years ago, so I decided we would Frankenstein them together to create something that would work for a renaissance era Pope.

After it was built, it was painted and I upholstered it with red velour and gold bullion fringe.  When that was done, it just didn't look finished so I took some sewing gimp and twisted it around the center post, reminiscent of the twisted columns at St. Peter's Basilica.  After that, I coated the trim with mastic and painted it to match the rest of the piece.

Plans for the prie dieu

The prie dieu in Lamp at Midnight

As a scene designer who has also been a properties master, designing props is gratifying.  Designing props that are used over and over in show after show is especially gratifying.  I love taking things that exist already and making them over into something they weren't meant for.  Prop people see things not for what they are but for what they can become.

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