Making props for Marie

Guest writer: Brian Walker, production manager

So once again we are in prop land.  You may remember my post from the last big show we built, The Core.  During that show, our big push was making period-appropriate props.  This time around, my big push is making food props.  During the 2nd act of our new ballet Marie, there is a food fight on stage.  Since you can’t really throw real food around, we had to make fake food.  The directive we had was that it had to not hurt (too much) if it hit someone, and it couldn’t bounce around when it fell on the ground.   For rehearsal purposes, we pulled together some small toy soccer balls and a few other soft toys.  Our production director Tom Boyd also made a few other appropriately shaped food items (turkey legs, hams, and small cakes).

For the show, some of the rehearsal items were good enough to be reused to make the real items.  Most of the food items are simply foam rubber with weights glued into the middle of them.  They get covered with cheese cloth and then coated in a latex compound to seal it.  Once they have had several layers of the latex, they will eventually be painted to look like food.  These pictures show some of the exsisting food props in process of being coated.

assorted-pieces1

turkey-legs

This is the prototype pig that was made by Tom for rehearsals.  He plans to make another one.  I personally think this one is pretty good considering it’s foam and cheese cloth, but you can’t fault a perfectionist.

pig

One of the ways we thought it would be easiest to make food props would be with hackie sacks.  We put in a bulk order, and I went to work. I had to do some thinking about what other food items we could make that would be appropriate for the dinner table of Marie Antoinette.  I of course went right to escargot.  I have had escargot, and to be quite honest, I don’t really get it…but who am I to question French Royalty?  So how do you make a hackie sack into a delicacy like escargot???  Well I’ll tell you.  First, obviously you start with the hackie sack which you cut open to reveal the plastic pieces that fill the ball and give it it’s shape.

hacki-sack-uncut

hacki-sack

Some of the plastic pieces are removed to make room for the 3 oz lead fishing weight that will be stuck inside.  This will help give the finished escargot some weight so that they don’t bounce around as much.  It will also help make them easier to throw across the stage.

hacki-sack-weight

Once the hackie sack has been weighted and sealed back up, a strip of foam is cut.  The thickness varies, mostly because it’s hand cut…and cutting foam isn’t an exacting art.  The foam is then shaped, rounded at the top and tapered toward the bottom and then split about 2/3 up.  This first piece was the prototype, so you’ll have to forgive how rough this one looks.  I promise they got better.

foam-first-cut

foam-cut

Once the foam is cut and shaped, the hackie sack is glued into place toward the “top” of the foam about 1 inch from the edge.  Once it’s in place, the hackie sack is curved (and glued) into the foam toward the split.

snail-step-1

snail-step-2

The split foam is then curled and glued into place around the sides of the hackie sack, giving you a snail shape.  Once the hot glue hardens (and the burns on my fingers heal) the snail shape is covered in cheese cloth and then coated in the latex compound.  It took quite a few layers to get them well sealed and solid.  You don’t want the latex to be too thin; otherwise, they won’t survive being tossed around.   Once the latex dries, they are painted and given the escargot “garnish” of green foam.  Then you have a finished hackie sack, escargot-style.

snail-coiling

snail-finished

 finished-snail

-Brian

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2 thoughts on “Making props for Marie

  1. Hi,
    I just wanted to say to my friend Zion. I’m the prop master here in New Orleans, and he comes here as the prop master for you. I lost his address. If you know who I’m talking about, please tell him hi for me.
    Many Thanks,
    Bobby

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