14 April 2009

I Build Awesome Props
It's true. And you can learn how to build awesome props as well. In the interest of increasing the overall quality of stage props, I offer the following.

Here's my prop building process.

It's about two things: The silhouette and the details.


This is how we identify things, especially at a distance. It's the general shape of the thing that we look at. In World War II, servicemen were given charts of airplane silhouettes to study. As kids, we all picked out shapes we perceived in random cloud forms. It's an innate ability that dates back to when our eyesight developed as babies. That's the first point: silhouette.


The tiny little things matter. If you don't want an audience to miss the forest for the trees, you damn well better have plenty of trees out there. Or something like that. A minor, seemingly insignificant thing out of place will be noticed, if only subliminally. But the right detail in the right spot goes a long way towards selling something. Marilyn Monroe wouldn't be Marilyn Monroe without the mole. You probably can't tell me what side of her face it's on without a Google image search, but you'd notice if it was missing.So let's take an actual prop, the first prop I built for Red Snapper:

(sorry about the crappy cellphone picture!)

The problem: For her "Monkeywrench" number, Snappy needed a tub of grease she could reach into and get a handful of grease to smear across her breasts. (It's as hot as it sounds!) Real grease would suck to clean up, and wouldn't be opaque enough to hide her nipples. These are the problems we face in life. So we decided to create our own tub of grease, and slip a container of chocolate frosting inside.Here's an actual tub of grease for comparison:

(promotional picture swiped from online somewhere)

The silhouette is right on the money. Not that too many people in L.A. have ever packed ball bearings. In grease, I hasten to add. For the "Monkey Grease" logo I tried to match the color palette of her costume. This is a detail point:

(photo by Dan Hendericks)

There are pictures that better illustrate this point, but I'm a sucker for a girl with a naked back. (Because it usually means a naked front, as well.) It's a bit hard to tell, but there are green swarovski crystals on the shimmy belt and green threads in the frilly trim. And of course, the red and pink. This photo also sets up what is the crowning achievement of my prop:

(another crappy cellphone picture)

Ta-da! I added a monkey detail to the label to match her hat! This monkey is on the other side of the "Monkey Brand Grease" text as well, inverted so as to add a little variety. And because monkeys like to hang upside-down.A couple of other things to note: This tub was purchase at the 99 cent store and was full of sidewalk chalk. I cleaned it out and painted the inside black, so as to look as if it is full of black grease. I used glitter paint on the letters to give them a little burlesque sparkle. That, and I used two of Snappy's green swarovskis on the label.

I hope this has been educational. Next time, I'll discuss the process that resulted in the infamous "Jack Box" and sperm puppets from Red Snapper's "Every Sperm is Sacred" number!