Engineering a New Stage Blood

Larry Heyman

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.

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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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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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