Syracuse Stage’s Washable Ink Recipe
Syracuse Stage’s Washable Ink Recipe

Ink That Will Not Stain, Washable Ink from Syracuse Stage

From Jessica Culligan

Jessica Culligan is a Prop Artisan at Syracuse Stage. A recent production of Pride and Prejudice, called for a bit of stage business that potentially would be a prop headache. The Lizzie Bennet character spills ink on her dress and the prop department was tasked with coming up with an ink solution that would wash out of the dress. A dress that first stays on stage long enough for the stain to begin drying and letting the ink solution soak into the costume. We asked Culligan to share the recipe of their washable ink with our Stage Directions readers:

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Armillary sphere circa 1775 made by Charles Lincoln in London (photo:National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection)
Armillary sphere circa 1775 made by Charles Lincoln in London (photo:National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection)

Curators of Everyday Objects: The Work of Prop Masters

Larry Heyman

In Uncle Vanya, a character comes onstage, moves to the sideboard and takes the small brass teapot from its perch atop a samovar. She adds tea, decants water from the spout on the side, pauses and pours tea into a low, wide teacup. The cup is large, not modern, with a matching saucer... and on the edge of the saucer she places a large lump of sugar. When the tea is served, the lump is placed carefully in one’s mouth, as one sips the hot, dark tea. It’s a ritual. It is something no longer done. But to someone in the audience, it is a memory. A tiny piece of a long-forgotten reality.

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Jay Duckworth and Michelle Bisbee at USITT 2018
Jay Duckworth and Michelle Bisbee at USITT 2018

Talking Props at USITT with Jay Duckworth

Stage Directions

Last year at USITT 2018, SD contributor and proptologist Jay Duckworth, resident properties master at The Public Theater, hosted the first ever Prop Lab on the USITT Stage Expo floor. While there we invited him to interview a few of his fellow props masters, who he had invited to join him teaching prop workshops. Here are three of Jay's USITT Conversations with Adam Daley, Eric Hart, & Michelle Bisbee.

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Two Sides of the Coin...that you made!

Jay Duckworth

Props Master; Props Teacher
There comes a time in a prop person’s career where they have to show an actor how to pull off a trick. It’s sometimes very simple like drawing a sword properly or not using the sword as a cane by leaning on it. These may sound like common sense points, but they all fall under a blanket of teaching. As technicians, we sometimes assume the people know skills that we use every day, but actors who do ask questions about replicating the actions of a skill are being honest with us because they want to know how to do this correctly as if they are someone who’s had that skill all their life. 

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Sound Conversations at USITT 2018

Michael Eddy

At the 2018 USITT Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Stage Directions and USITT hosted the Stage Directions Studio on the show floor. Over the three days we spoke with a wide variety of theater artisans, designers, technicians, and practitioners about their thoughts and advice on an array of topics in their respective theatrical disciplines. This month we are including some of the thoughts of two of the sound designers we sat down with during the show. They shared with us their mentors, technology, and also offered their humble advice to those starting out in a life in theatrical design. We thank them for generously share their experiences and thoughts with SD. Here are Jonathan Deans and Steve Canyon Kennedy in their own words:

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Alien the Play at North Bergen High School (photo: Howard Sherman)
Alien the Play at North Bergen High School (photo: Howard Sherman)

The Pros, The Cons, and The Promise of Alien the Play

Howard Sherman

In space, you may have heard, no one can hear you scream. However, in North Bergen, NJ, when you scream in outer space, you can be heard around the world.

That was the case when North Bergen High School mounted Alien the Play, an adaptation of and homage to Ridley Scott’s celebrated 1979 film, which at the root of the movie’s stunning visual sci-fi design, was about a group of people trapped in a haunted house with a monster, only in this case, the house was a space ship.

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URTA Celebrates 50 Years

Lisa Mulcahy

2019 is a milestone year for the University Resident Theatre Association (URTA)—it’s the organization’s 50th year in service, and what great service has been provided. URTA’s founding intent was to foster excellence in professional theater training. During the past five decades URTA has developed a wide range of programs and services geared to assist and support students, instructors, and working professionals. Of course, MFA students also know and have participated in URTA Auditions and Interviews, where they’re seen and evaluated by top theater program faculty recruiters. URTA member universities have graduated scores of working artists who have racked up incredibly impressive credentials in every aspect of theater business and education. “Essentially, we have three missions: to support student artists; to support faculty; and to support theater professionals as they move through their training and careers,” says Tony Hagopian, URTA’s executive director. 

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Words, Words, Words

Jay Duckworth

Speaking at Maine State Music Theatre this summer, I was asked what my design process was. I said, ‘First off, read the script.’ Holy Cow, I can’t believe the number of people that I’ve worked with that just skim it over to look for ‘he hands him a hammer’. What if the actor must hit someone on the head with that hammer? 

The first time I worked with playwright Arthur Laurents he told me, ‘If you have any questions, look back into the script, and it will tell you everything.’ When I go through a script for the first time, I hit everything that is a prop with a yellow highlighter; everything that is a perishable with a red highlighter, and situational information (year, season, holidays, before and after, financial situation, day of the week, and weather trends) with a blue highlighter. 

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A Conversation with Distinguished Achievement Award-winning Sound Designer Eileen Smitheimer

Michael Eddy

Eileen Smitheimer is a theater professional and educator focusing on sound and lighting design. She has been designing and assistant designing for more than 30 years across the United States and Europe. Smitheimer served for 22 years as the head of audio for the Professional Theatre Training Program, the former graduate theater conservatory at the University of Delaware (UD). Currently, she is an associate professor in UD’s Department of Theatre, as well as resident sound designer and sound supervisor for the Resident Ensemble Players, the university’s professional theater company. At the 2019 USITT Conference in Louisville, KY, Smitheimer was honored with the 2019 Distinguished Achievement Award in Sound Design and Technology. She is the first woman to receive the DAA in sound design. The DAAs honor individuals who have established meritorious careers in specific fields of expertise in any area of design or technology in the performing arts. Smitheimer, who received her B.A. and E.E.T. degrees from Purdue University, has been an active member of the USITT Sound Commission for 35 years where she is a vice-commissioner. She is a member of TSDCA and the OISTAT Sound Design Group and was also part of the planning and staffing committee for the Sound and Lighting Design Exposition at the 2003 and 2007 Prague Quadrennials. We caught up with Smitheimer at USITT 2019 for a brief conversation:

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