Fine Dining in Charlotte’s Web
By Christopher Haig, >
Props Slops Master
Sure, there was a full dinner for twelve in August: Osage County. Yes, it’s true they ate (fake) horse meat in The Whipping Man. But the finest dining on the Arden stage so far this season, has to be Wilbur’s slops – all 7 buckets-full actor Aubie Merrylees enjoys during each performance of Charlotte’s Web.
The slops went through several stages of development before reaching the final product seen onstage now. At the beginning of rehearsals, the cast was supplied with a wheelbarrow of fake foods pulled from our prop storage. Fake vegetables, fruits, sandwiches and other faux food made of plastic, rubber and foam made up the first slops.
Through rehearsals, director Whit McLaughlin decided what was working and what was not. One of his overriding concepts on the production was the use of real things over fake things. We aimed to avoid the usual children’s theatre prop versions of things.
In light of that design choice, it became apparent that the large fake foods were not right. Our next step in the research and development of the slops was to create fake items that looked more like leftovers instead of whole pieces of fruits or vegetables. We pulled leaves off some of the faux foods and made fake skins and other debris. While this looked closer to the real thing, it still didn’t seem right.
During the last week of rehearsals, we took a giant step closer to the right answer when we realized we were missing the secret ingredient – SLOP JUICE.
Once we started using liquid, the slops themselves needed to look less like newer, whole pieces of food and more like half eaten, decomposing food. So we changed the faux food out for random chunks of foam. Combined with the slop juice this looked really gross, but had a few problems. First, the chunks of foam looked like foam too much to pass for any type of food product. Secondly, we had concerns about Aubie putting his face into a mixture of liquid and foams that may not have been the most “nutritious” shall we say. Wilbur is also supposed to eat an apple right from the slops so we needed to find a way to make them safe and edible.
The answer came to us during the tech rehearsals and was fairly simple considering all the previous steps. The simple decision was to use real food – big green and red leaves of cabbage, green tops of carrots, potato and carrot peelings and some celery. When you add these things to the murky slop juice, you get the perfect recipe for Pig Slops.
SLOP JUICE recipe
- 2 qt. water
- 1/3 cup coconut milk
- 8 drops of warm brown gel food coloring
- 5 drops of blue food coloring
Mix all ingredients in a pitcher. Stir. Pour into 5-gallon bucket over your favorite leafy greens and leftover vegetable skins.
Serve up to the little piggy in your barn.