By Charles T. Jackson
After nearly five straight months of working every day I had off in the yard building for shows, I was grateful for the months of August and September being “show free”, but by October, our Community Theatre was gearing up for “Oklahoma” and I was ready to get back into the game. Our director asked me to try a “barn raising” piece, and gave me a picture of a butter churn that would be ideal for the period. The barn frame was pretty simple, but very large. I had to build it, take it apart to transport and store it, and then rebuild it on the stage. While I know now that that is how most theatre companies handle sets, this was my first time assembling and disassembling, a reassembling a piece that I made.
At nearly the same time, our director decided to try staging some programs focused on children in the audience, so she needed six 2′ x2′ x 2′ boxes with hinged lids and handles. The boxes would challenge me to make a semi-lightweight box, that required properly installed hinges, were sturdy enough to be stood on by an adult actor and rounded over handle holes so the actors didn’t hurt their hands while moving them. I would be incorporating almost everything I had learned so far into the construction of these boxes, and some!!
The director of the kids show timidly asked, is there way we could get a see saw that appear in the proper scale of the adult actors. Of course I said, as I had gotten in the habit of saying, “I’ll give it a shot”. The below was the end result, and as you can imagine, there was quite a bit of quality assurance testing of this bad boy before it got to the stage.
Armed with only a picture of the ideal butter churn, I set out to make a prop that looked as much like the real thing as possible. With loads of scraps in and around my garage, the only thing I had to buy for this project was a medium sized concrete form tube and two antique/country looking strap hinges. I was very proud of the end result and presented it to the director with pride. It was with this particular prop that I discovered just how attached a guy can get to something he’s built with his own two hands. When I reported to rehearsal and found that someone other than me had painted on it to “age it” at the direction of the director, I was quite annoyed!! This would be something I would have to simply “get over” because it was going to happen, but as this was the first time someone else painted on something I made, it was an emotional milestone that sticks out in my mind.
Having completed all the tasks assigned, my director gave me one last assignment as a long shot. Since our cast had broken one cheap retracting knife after another, she asked if I could possibly try and make one that was a bit more hardy. The below was the end result of me “giving it a shot” but as I’m no engineer, the actors involved in this beats were liable to get actually impaled on the wooden blade due to an overly efficient spring system.
With the end of these shows, I thought 2009 would come to a nice quiet close, only to be pleasantly surprised by being offered a set building position for a local private high school!! That’s for my next post. Thanks for stopping by!!