… thoughts on theatre, life, and stuff

Posts tagged ‘prop construction’

Mmmmmm, (faux) peppermint pies!

I’ve been making some fake food for our Family Ministry Christmas Program.  Peppermint Pie, cookies, lemon squares… they look yummy!  The cookies, individual pie slices, and bars are made of upholstery foam, the fluffy pink peppermint pie is shaped with soft sculpture (nylon stuffed with polyester craft stuffing) and “iced” with spackling – the kind you use on dry-wall and can get pre-mixed from Home Depot.  That stuff can be piped, spread, and colored just like cake icing.

Peppermint Pie

A little foam cut to the right shape, some spray paint, hot-glue and candy give these the right look.


The lemon bars int the background are spray-painted foam rubber with cake-decorating sugar crystals on top. The green and red sugar cookies in the background are cut from foam, spray-painted, and more cake-decorations applied. The "frosted cookies" are made using foam, spray paint and flour. Flour looks like a dusting of powdered sugar, but will hold up better over time. Powdered sugar is more susceptible to moisture damage.

… happy faux baking!

hugs, v-



Alien Costume


Alien costume

For our Christmas program, (yes, I said Christmas program) we need 9-10 Alien costumes (yes, I said Aliens) so I’ve been busy working on a prototype.  Here’s version #2.  The fabric is uber-light and stretchy, which gives the odd, arched shape when it’s stretched as the trim is attached.

I started with a sleeveless tank and shorts which I cut and sewed without a pattern.  I sew enough that I often don’t use a pattern on something this simple. I usually just get the right proportions by folding a t-shirt in half and cutting out the shape based on that.  Ditto with the shorts, using a pair of pants or sweats I already own.

The trim is simply round pipe insulation which is pre-scored so you can easily split it open.  <Home Depot guy, you rock!>

I cut it in half, hot glued it to the fabric. (IMPORTANT NOTE:  I stretched the fabric as I went along).

I tried spray painting this trim with neon green spray paint, but then the costume lost the cool color contrast between the green and grey (the trim just faded into the costume)  and the spray paint flaked off.  Badly.  in. a. big. mess.

I asked one of our Alien dancers to wear it at rehearsal one night, and it was comfortable, moved well, and because the trim is soft foam, it didn’t hurt or create a problem with movement when she rolled around on the floor for some of the choreography.

My boss (Creative Arts Director at Rocky Mountain Christian Church – Phil Christian) asked that the dancer’s faces not be visible, so I needed to make a head-piece of some sort that the dancers could see through, but would disguise their faces.

The first version of the costume was a TOTAL FLOP in my opinion.  I didn’t like the trim or the fit, or the helmet, which was based on a 1960’s flight attendants’ accessory made by Italian designer Emilio Pucci.

1960's flight attendant uniform was my original inspiration

I really disliked the first prototype.  It was very time-consuming, and inhaling melted plastic fumes is not my idea of a great way to spend the day.  I originally made the helm by using two dollar-store plastic serving bowls.  The bowls were clear, but I decided to spray paint them… they ended up looking like 1970’s green tupperware which was an early indication that this plan was doomed.

I cut out a face opening and a neck hole, figured out a way to “hinge” it with velcro so it could be opened and closed, hot-glued the seam, and added some tree tinsel.  Blech.  It just looked trashy, not cool – and we have some really cool young dancers on our “Crew-X” so I wanted them to look like Judy Jetson, not some spacey version of Elmer Fudd.  🙂

I wanted a scooped collar and waist piece, but without using stiff interfacing or corset stays it was a floppy disaster… Here’s the idea I abandoned…

The model is an awesome kid, but this costume?  No WAY!  Back to the drawing board.

See what I mean? Great kid, but the costume misses the mark.

I decided to abandon the helmet idea, and go with a simplified (and surprisingly less expensive) head-piece made of foam.  I used egg-crate foam; the type you use to pad a camping cot, which I already had on hand.  In this photo, it’s not complete, but you can get the general idea.  I assembled it from strips of the foam alternated with strips of the pipe insulation trim, hot glued together.  The final version is spray-painted neon green, but I don’t want to reveal the final product until the Christmas Program is over… so you can look for it in a future post.  Here’s the idea, though…

Using tulle to cover the face lets the dancer see out, but effectively veils the face.

These are a little more “Predator”-looking than Marvin the Martian-looking, but I’m hoping it will all come together in the final assembly of all the pieces.  I’ve added a collar to the uniform and am hoping to find some inexpensive leotards and tights in bright green or grey to complete the look.  The dancers are going to wear knee pads, which they will provide, and I will either make matching fabric covers for, or simply spray paint them.  Shoe covers are in order as well, because our dancers will be wearing athletic shoes, not ballet slippers.

I’ll post the final project when it’s all finished, but  thought this would be a good time to post the general idea since Halloween is just around the corner and my blog gets so many hits from people looking for costume ideas.

hugs, v-

The “cloppers”

Woot the Monty Python!

Here’s a quick, simple “how-to”.

Remember Monty Python and the Holy Grail?  As the knights galloped around the country-side, they were actually on foot, galloping along accompanied by the sound of horses hooves they made by clop-ping two coconut shells together.  Recently, I got the idea that Reginald Fastidious III (actor and orator extraordinaire) should enter, exit, and generally cavort about the stage to the sound of clopping horses.  I didn’t have any coconut shells around the house, but I did have some red plastic cups that made an appropriate clopping sound when the open mouths of the cups were klonk’d together.  Thusly: 

Bring the Cloppers together thusly with a resounding clonk!


I draped them around the actor's neck with a string for "hands-free" acting when the cloppers are not in use.

Note the cloppers hanging from Brian's neck at rehearsals.

A pox on Mrs. F’s Hands!

Last season, Mrs. F.  contracted some mysterious allergy or condition or other whacky circumstance that made her hands swell up… well, of course, we couldn’t just use oversized Micky Mouse gloves… oh no!  With a pair of gloves as a liner, a little cotton batting, some nylon hosiery, and a red magic marker… voila!!!     

This is Darlene, our Frederick Campus  Mrs. F,  modeling the results.     

Gotta hand it to Mr.s F!


 Add a little hot glue and some rhinestones and BAM! instant wedding ring!  Darlene was SO patient with this!  We love you, Darlene!     

hugs, V-     

Cactus Prop (painless)



When a script called for a cactus, we had a hard time finding one that was big enough to look good on stage and look DANGEROUS, without actually BEING dangerous.  And I didn’t have much lead time to make something, because we didn’t know the real deal was so risky until it was run-through night, and it punctured our producer in the … err … well lets just say we didn’t find out until Thursday night that we needed a safer prop on Sunday morning.  

Here’s what I did. 

Gather materials including 

  1. a brown paper bag and water to soak it in.
  2. a decorative planting pot
  3. green flannel
  4. white fun foam
  5. a hot glue gun and glue sticks for it
  6. stuffing (I used paper from my paper shredder, you could use polyester batting if you wanted).
  7. a short pencil or dowel for each cactus pad you make

First, I tore off a large panel from the paper bag, wadded it up to wrinkle it, and began soaking it in water.  This will simulate the moss or dirt in the pot when the project is complete. 

Then I cut out round shapes, a little larger than the palm of my hands, from some green flannel scraps I had.  They were from an old faded twin bedsheet, so cost = $0.00.  You can sew the wrong sides of the flannel circles together leaving a large gap in the bottom for stuffing as shown here… 

Click to enlarge


When the cactus “pad” is stuffed and closed, cut needles out of fun foam and hot glue them on. 

add the needles to the "pads"


Hot glue on the pencil or dowel as a stem.  The stem won’t show, but adds support and provides a way to connect the pads together at the base like a real cactus. 

add a quick stem


Next, hot glue the stems together.  If the pads “flop” over, that’s ok.  Hot glue the stems into the base of the pot so they stay put. 
Wring out most of the water from the brown paper bag that has been soaking in water.  It should look wrinkled.  When it dries, it will look leathery, or like dirt from a distance.  (If you want to make a fake book that looks like leather, remember this material!) 
Stuff the paper around and under the pads of the cactus.  When it dries, use hot glue to secure it into the pot.
Ta Daaa!  Safe, realistic-looking cactus.  Done. 
hugs,  v-

Don’t touch my ‘bot.

Rush Hour won a trip to Orange 2010 Conference to present two workshops about producing a family worship service on a shoe string.  The script called for Gordo and Vinny to have robots.     

'bots watching rehearsal. (Photo credit: Brian Dawson)


We originally had a couple of 10-inch tall robots, which were great and only cost $1 each.  BUT!!!!  Then, at the Orange 2010 conference itself, I went to a workshop that totally inspired me to go over the top.  So I hit Walgreens next door to the conference center and literally went up and down the aisles shopping for supplies I could use to build some whackier ‘bots.      

I worked on them until about two in the morning and had a blast with them.  Here are Vinny (Greg) and Gordo (Dwight) and I clowning around with the bots during rehearsals.      

Vinny, V, and Gordo with the bots


  I made them by using foam swimming noodles for the arms and poster board boxes for the bodies.  Add some silver and black duct tape, a couple of styrofoam cups and viola.     

The cool thing about working in a hotel meeting room at one in the morning was that I got to meet Veronique, a recent immigrant from Africa who came in to clean the room.  Getting to know her was one of the highlights of the trip for me.  I even named the bots in honor of our new friendship.  She is tall, beautiful, statuesque, and I’m short, round and kinda goofy looking.  So I named the tall blue ‘bot “Veronique” and the shorter orange one “Vanessa.”  The real Veronique really liked the way her namesake turned out.  🙂     

So here is how I made them…     

1. cut arms, toes, and legs out of swim noodles.  I just used scissors to cut the foam.  By cutting a wedge out at the bend of the elbows and using duct tape, I was able to make the arms bend at the elbows.     


2. construct poster board boxes for head and body.     

click to enlarge


3. cut hands and small “radar dishes” out of poster board (you may want to cut out bolts for the neck, antenna, etc.)     

4. Hot glue the pieces together (I used rubber cement which was a poor substitute)     

5.  Add duct tape for stability and decoration.  I made the legs look like they were wearing boots by using duct tape and some wedge shape foam pieces.     

6. Draw on eyes, cut buttons, nobs, and gadget looking stuff out of poster board scraps, and decorate your bots.  One bot had to have hair like Vinny’s so I made some long “fringe” out of silver duct tape and made that work.      

It turns out, these ‘bots were really tough,  almost indestructible!  Gordo had to fling himself down on the orange one to smash it (the script called for it to be destroyed).  It was a wonderful body slam, a la World Wrestling Federation!  Alas, though, we didn’t buy the bot a plane ticket home, so we had to say good-bye at the airport.      

Bye Bye 'Bot! Photo credit: Brian Dawson


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