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Answer Box

  • She Kills Monsters Car/Claw: Using Puppets to Convey Deep Emotional Content

    Kathy Eddy | Answer Box | September 30, 2020In June of 2019, I was onstage at Penn State University’s Playhouse Theatre with large pieces of foam core and sections of PVC pipe. I was there with two directors, a dramaturg, a stage manager, a ‘dragonographer’ and about 10 students. We were putting the director’s vision onstage for the first time. The concept of […] Read More...
  • Lessons Learned

    Jay Duckworth | Answer BoxCurrent Issue | September 2, 2020After 12 years as the Resident Properties Master at The Public Theater, Jay Duckworth has chosen to leave The Public to pursue the next act in his career, teaching. “With all theater shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I took this opportunity to really do some reflection on my work as well as my teaching […] Read More...
  • Don’t Touch the Props: Thinking about backstage safety in a post COVID-19 world

    Jay Duckworth | Answer Box | May 22, 2020Though it’s been said—many times—seriously, don’t touch the props. We will be getting back to work; I don’t know when, but theater is resilient, and we’ll be back. I hesitate to use the word return; a lot of things will be different. There should be and will be some new safety protocols and considerations for […] Read More...
  • Teaching Props Online

    Jay Duckworth | Answer BoxCurrent Issue | April 29, 2020The situation that we are in right now with COVID-19 sucks. I usually can spin most anything into a positive. Like the time I got shot in the arm but luckily, I had on my brother’s jacket, but that’s another story. Like the famous quote, “If you’re going through Hell just keep on going.” Right […] Read More...
  • Propping Angels in America, a “period” piece

    Jay Lasnik | Answer BoxProps | March 25, 2020This month’s Answer Box comes from Jay Lasnik, Props Master at Penn State University. Here Lasnik talks about building a “period” phone booth from the 1980s for a recent production of Angels in America at Penn State, as well as “Hunting & Gathering” props for this production. The Creative Team for this production included: Scenic […] Read More...
  • Hell’s Best Friend: Building the Devil’s Dog

    Jay Duckworth | Answer Box | January 7, 2020At the Public Theater, we’re doing an update of Tony Kushner’s A Bright Room Called Day. It’s being directed by our artistic director Oskar Eustis. The design team is a who’s who of gifted designers and our scenic designer David Rockwell is an absolute treat to work with. There are some great challenges to the […] Read More...
  • Turning the Table: How to make a flipping table

    Jay Duckworth | Answer Box | November 13, 2019Drumsticks of shamans were the first representations of magic wands. Then later, in ancient Egypt, the royal cubit was a standardized stick that was distributed to workers, those too were seen as magic wands because those who carried and worked with these sticks were able to build the structures of the Gods. The first documented magic trick is from ancient Egypt, where Dedi, a fictional ancient Egyptian magician, decapitated a bird and then reattached the bird’s head and brought it back to life. There is also a depiction of the cup and balls trick where a ball was put under one of three cups. The trick was to follow where the ball was supposed to be, an ancient version of Follow the Lady aka Three-card Monte. As technicians in theater, there are often times where we have to create an illusion. In William Shakespeare’s The Tempest there is a banquet table in Act 3, Scene III where food appears out of nowhere. There is a neat trick for this, and I’d love to share it with you.  Read More...
  • A Volley of Arrows Using High, Low and No Tech Solutions

    Brent Stainer and Camille Taliaferro-Barber | Answer Box | August 21, 2019When Archbishop Murphy High School, in Everett, WA, produced The Maid’s Trial; Joan of Arc, the script called for two volleys of arrows to strike the stage, creating the illusion that the characters were being attacked from a long distance. In the first volley, arrows strike across the set and the character of Joan is struck in the shoulder. The second volley strikes around the stage and onto shields held up to protect the injured Joan. The effect needed to look realistic to reflect the heavy tone of the play, so comical or whimsical effects would not do. The primary concern of course was safety, so actual free-flight arrows would not be considered. The solutions to the multiple challenges were found using three approaches – high tech, low tech, and no tech.  Read More...
  • Creating the Chandeliers

    From Alison Mantilla | Answer Box | April 10, 2019Alison Mantilla is a freelance prop supervisor and oversaw the props for the Lincoln Center production of My Fair Lady with a scenic design by Michael Yeargan. Mantilla walks us through the build for the chandeliers in the embassy ball scene at the top of Act II. Read More...
  • Words, Words, Words

    Jay Duckworth | Answer Box | September 19, 2018Speaking 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.  Read More...
  • The Right Material for the Job… Unless you are a Prop Builder

    Michelle A. Bisbee | Answer Box | August 22, 2018Props people are the MacGyvers of the theater and movie industry. Hopefully many, if not all of you, have seen the amazing Q2Q Comics #210 The Hardware Store. What makes this one so painfully funny is how truthful it is. I know I am preaching to the choir when I say this, though there are many items that can be easily purchased, it is how we use these items and thus how they need to be constructed that differs from the ordinary person… that and an individual’s budget for a single item compared to that same dollar amount for an entire show as Jay Duckworth recently discussed in the Answer Box article Order Up! A Working Ziosk Prop in the August issue of Stage Directions. To quote poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy: We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams. Our number one weapon in our arsenal is our imagination. We look at things in a different way—we look at elements, overall shape, texture, and potential. In class, whether teaching model making or props, I ask students to push and surpass the limits of their imagination.  Read More...
  • Order Up! A Working Ziosk Prop

    Jay Duckworth | Answer Box | July 25, 2018Digital Ordering in View of the Audience "Did you read last night’s report?" Corinne Gologursky, assistant props master for Kings at The Public Theater asked me. "They want the actor to order from the Chili’s Ziosk in real time.""Oh yeah, I saw that…" I responded. "I’m just choosing to be in denial about it."  One of the great things about doing new plays is not only the idea that you are working on ink-wet work that is adding to the American playbook, but you get new challenges that really test the mettle of who you are as an artist. Read More...
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