By Christopher Haig
Props Master at the Arden Theatre Company
Throughout the Arden’s production of Pinocchio, everyday objects found around a construction site are used by the actors to tell the story. These common tools and work place materials transform into magical objects transporting our audience into the world of the play by tapping into their imaginations.
At the beginning of the rehearsal process, director Matt Decker and his cast were given a room full of tools, building materials, ladders, drop cloths and scaffolding. As they developed each character and moment in the play, these items found new life and became all manner of imaginative props.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Cricket – voiced and manipulated by actor Doug Hara
To create the cricket, we cut two 10” long blocks of wood and wrapped them in sandpaper. These are known as sand blocks and are used for smoothing drywall or other rough surfaces. We cut out a notch for Doug’s fingers and he uses his pointer fingers as antenna. By simply rubbing the two pieces together he creates the sound and motion of a cricket’s legs rubbing together.
Snow – thrown by actor Anthony Lawton
In keeping with the construction zone concept, we needed to create a version of snow that would be readily available on a job site. We figured out that sawdust in some form would do the trick. The hard part was making sawdust that had small enough pieces to look like snow but not so fine that it would get caught in the actors’ noses or mouths as they spoke. After some R&D, the scenic department shaved some pine wood in nice size pieces that the prop department then sifted over a trash can in a regular kitchen strainer. This allowed most of the fine particles to sift out; leaving us with nice snow-sized sawdust I’ve termed “snowdust”.
Pinocchio’s Growing Nose – manipulated by actor David Raphaely
To create Pinocchio’s growing nose as he tells lies, we used a roll of wallpaper border. This is the strip of wallpaper that goes around the top of a room or above a chair rail. After Pinocchio tells a lie, the border roll is held in front of the actor’s face making it look like his nose has grown 12 inches. When Pinocchio tells a second lie, another actor pulls the end of the roll extending the paper out. After the third lie, it gets extended again until it is sticking out a good 5 feet! Pinocchio finally tells the truth and the actor tilts his head back allowing the extended wallpaper to fall back into the roll as if the nose were shrinking. This is a fun project kids can make at home too. Get a long roll of paper (wrapping paper or butcher paper) and cut to 10” wide. Roll it up and you’ve got a nose, pull the end out and watch it grow!
Check out these and all the other imaginative uses of construction site objects to tell the magical story of Pinocchio onstage at the Arden through June 23rd.