Engineering a New Stage Blood

by Larry Heyman
in Props

Stage blood. It’s got to look wet, fresh, and realistic. It’s not the dry effects we can sometimes create using paints, dyes, and gloss finishes; no, stage blood has to be fluid. It sounds strange to say, but I’ve been thinking about the challenges of blood onstage for over 30 years now. Theatrical supply companies and makeup houses have produced different versions for use on stage and in film. Each is a little different; viscosity, color, gloss, and each carries its own price tag. 

The feedback I hear most often from prop masters is that the really great products are expensive. This is even more true if you’re doing a long run or particularly bloody show and need higher volumes. A quick review of commercially available stage blood reveals price tags ranging from $100 to $400 per gallon depending on the supplier. At the beginning of the 2018-19 season I realized that we were doing no fewer than three shows that had blood requirements; Side Show, which involves an effect where a chicken is decapitated onstage. (We used a high-quality replica stuffed chicken that was carefully rigged with a removable head). The Wolves, which involves a spontaneous nosebleed onstage. And Julius Caesar (I don’t think I need to go into too much detail, suffice it to say it doesn’t end well.) After investigating a few commercially available products, I began to explore the idea of making my own.