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A USITT First: The Prop Lab

Stage Directions • Theatre Buzz • February 22, 2018

With the first ever Prop Lab happening on the USITT Stage Expo floor in Fort Lauderdale, SD asked the prop lab curator, last year’s Early Career Honors speaker, Jay Duckworth, to give us a quick introduction to the all-stars prop team of talent he has brought together.
“When David Grindle called me this summer and said that he wanted to do a Props Lab he stated, ‘I want artists to walk away with something of value.’ So I asked myself, ‘Who would I want to learn from and who would I like to invite to share knowledge with the next generation of props people. Also, who would make learning interactive and fun.’”

Prop Master Eric Hart who made this How-To Make a Blood Knife video, will be teaching at the USITT Prop Lab.

“It is as if you could have lunch with a group of props masters to learn the most you could to advance your knowledge and career and USITT has given you the opportunity, but instead of lunch it is three days of hands-on lab work and demonstrations. We have Rick Sordelet, Eric Hart, Adam Daly, Michelle Bisbee, and Tom Fiocchi leading some really informative sessions on a nice range of prop techniques. All of these makers, fight and props masters are amazing at their jobs and have unique abilities to bring to the table.” 

The USITT Prop Lab’s Props Masters
Adam Daly, supported by Karen Rabe, will present “Welcoming Our Robot Overlords.” Helping attendees overcome fear of new technology and integrating it into our prop work with robots and quick prototype. Hands-on with 3D printer, Rapid Prototyping 3D Printing/Robot Making for Props. Daly’s background in robotics and knowledge of 3D printing brings him in as one of the young props masters to keep your eye on.

Eric Hart’s “Pneumatics” session, supported by Jay Duckworth, introduces the principles of pneumatic prop design and demonstrate everything from simple puffs of dust to more complex movement using pneumatic cylinders and solenoid valves. Hart literally wrote the book on props building, The Prop Building Guidebook: for Theater, Film, and TV. His new book is The Prop Effects Guidebook. He also writes the Prop Agenda blog.

Michelle Bisbee, an active member of S*P*A*M and a pillar of the props community, is going to do a hands-on casting demonstration working with Reynolds Advanced Materials. For the “Small Food Casting – Berries” session Bisbee will be supported by Abbey Plankey, as they teach fast and effective casting process using Smooth-On OOMO Series silicone mold making rubber.

Thomas Fiocchi will bridge the gap into cosplay during his session, “Prop Gizmology – Pew, Pew!” Supported by Liz Hastings, Fiocchi will show us how to design and execute cosplay weapon props in a seven step process going from research, design, scaling, to engineering, constructing, and finishing. Different methods, materials, and techniques will be covered to create world class props in your budget and time frame.

Rick Sordelet is one of the most sought after fight choreographers in the arts. He has worked on ballet, opera, 54 Broadway shows, staged 84 Romeo & Juliets and 66 Hamlets. He works closely with props masters, knowing that props folk and fight folk are the last line of defense to ensure that performers are as safe as possible. His two sessions, both supported by Duckworth, “Stage Combat & Safe Weapons” and “Blood Pack Demos,” will share tips and tricks that focus on safe props for safe stage fights.

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