Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Perils of Props

As I've mentioned before, the ladies are using parasols (think life-size version of the kind you might get in a fruity drink) for some of our numbers. The ones we've been using in rehearsal so far have a paper covering. Now. Think 8 or 10 women trying to learn blocking while singing words they're trying to memorize to music they're also trying to memorize, rehearsing this not-yet-learned movement in a too-small rehearsal space, and it should come as no surprise that the parasols are becoming battle-scarred veterans. Our producer, who's also a member of the chorus, has a big roll of tape that she leaves in her rehearsal gear to render first aid to the wounded. Most of the tears happened when we first got the parasols and tried to open them for the first time. Being new, they were quite stiff and the paper on a few of them didn't take kindly to being forced to leave a position it may have held for quite a long time before being sold to a theater company.

I'd managed to get through two blocking rehearsals without a casualty, but today I broke that streak, or rather, had it broken for me. Three Little Maids from School ends with the TLMs with our backs together and our parasols out in front of us, turning in a circle. (Something Busby Berkeley might have dreamed up.) As the music ends, Peep-Bo and Pitti-Sing are supposed to kneel down on either side of Yum-Yum. Well, I hit my music cue, but I don't think Yum was quite ready for that (it was the first time we'd managed to get that circle going) and crashed her parasol into mine. I don't know what hers looked like, but mine ended up with a great big tear from the edge all the way up the rib to the top!

And of course, in addition to the dangers to the parasols, there's the risk to those of us carrying them. When open, they do tend to block your peripheral vision. When you can't always tell where the others are on stage, well, collisions are inevitable. So far, though, we've been lucky; the injuries have been limited to the parasols, not the people.

And Mikado productions are notoriously hard on fans (there seems to be some unwritten, inviolable law that if you're doing The Mikado, you MUST use fans!). The company I did Mikado with before specializes in Gilbert & Sullivan and therefore does Mikado every few years (always using fans). This company has needed new fans for each production because, while they have quite an extensive store of the things, there never seem to be enough matching ones that survive from one production to the next. The usual problem with the plastic-ribbed fans is a broken rib. If it's something like the sandalwood ones you sometimes see at mall kiosks, the thread running through the ribs is what most often breaks. With fans covered with paper or a delicate (or flimsy/cheap) fabric, the cover tears. I have a pretty painted balsawood one, but after spending some time on display on the fireplace mantel, the wood has gotten warped so that it's hard to open and close. And of course, when a group of people are learning to snap their fans open on a music cue, it's inevitable that at least one fan will go flying out of someone's hand and hit the floor with a crack that means the poor prop person has another patient. If you've never done Mikado and find yourself in charge of the props, order at least twice as many fans as the number of cast members required to use them. That way you can cannibalize the seriously damaged fans for parts to repair the lightly damaged ones.

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