Jeff Hiller, Roger Bart, and Nelson Chimilio in Hercules at The Public Theater
Jeff Hiller, Roger Bart, and Nelson Chimilio in Hercules at The Public Theater

Printing Props: Do Not Fear the [3D] Printer

Jay Duckworth

I guess I’m three-quarters Nerd and one-quarter Geek. The main difference between the two is how you answer this question—‘May the force be…’ 1) equal to the mass or 2) with you. One means you are an out and out Geek; Two means you are a full-on Nerd. The great thing is when these two realms converge in a Venn Diagram—with you in the center. That’s where I fit in 3D printing. The first thing I ever printed was a laser scan of the Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem from Mesopotamia. I was fascinated to see the newest technology reproducing the first written story we have yet to find. 

Since then I have been learning how to design, first on Tinkercad, an easy-to-use 3D CAD design tool from Autodesk and now I’m starting with Autodesk’s Fusion 360. I have designed a few things, some for the Hercules musical, that’s based on the Disney animated film, that we just did as part of our Public Works program at The Public Theater. I also printed some prop items that I’ll know I’ll need in the future: the Nebra Sky Disk from the Bronze Age, a mariner’s quadrant that measured altitude, and a witches’ Wheel of the Year that displayed their holidays. So how did I get into printing props, well this would have never happened without David Grindle, executive director of USITT introducing me to Marc Franz, executive vice president of Raise 3D Technologies. Marc asked if I could use a 3D printer for theatrical props work. Oh man could I!

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Aluminum Blades
Aluminum Blades

Crafting Aluminum Blades: The trend towards aluminum for stage weaponry

Jay Duckworth

We have a pretty well stocked armory in the basement of The Public Theater. Old swords, new swords, flamberges, schlagers, hilts, pommels—you name it; we probably have it. But when we started the process for this summer’s Coriolanus, our fight director Steve Rankin requested that we have some custom blades made of aluminum. It struck me that a lot of requests lately for blades have been aluminum. It is in fact a trend in the last decade. But why? We have been using iron and carbon in blades since 1100-800 BCE. Why the change?

I spoke with weapons experts, J. Allen Suddeth and J. David Brimmer, to get some insight. Suddeth is a fight master, and past president of the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD), works as a fight director with Disney Theatricals, and has taught at Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts, SUNY Purchase, and the Lee Strasberg Institute. He’s the author of Fight Directing for Theater. Brimmer is a violence specialist and is also a fight master with SAFD and teaches at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

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