A Year with Frog and Toad: A work in progress

February 4, 2009

Jonathan Ward, Property Master for the Arden, discusses prop design for A Year with Frog and Toad.

Since I began working as the property master at the Arden, I found that making the props for our children’s productions is my favorite part of the year. The stories allow me to stretch my imagination and create another world for our audiences to enjoy. I use my background in visual art and design to aid in fabricating out-of-this-world creations for the stage.

Looking at objects for inspiration and materials is a common occurrence in my line of work; one of my favorite stories of finding and reusing what we have on hand were the musical instruments that I made for Sleeping Beauty. I constructed them out of broken fiddle heads left over from our award-winning mainstage production Opus.

Remounting an original production like A Year with Frog and Toad has advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, we are lucky enough to have most of the kinks worked out because we’ve done the show before. We already know how big the furniture will need to be, we already know how much blue Mylar confetti we will need and we already know how the magic kite will fly; a lot of the important questions are already answered this time around.

The challenges will come in recreating the world of Frog and Toad for a new generation of audiences to experience without abandoning the roots of our previous production – and what made it so magical the first time around.

Prop design is such an interesting job. I have to be able to change from carpenter to electrician to sculptor, adapting to each new project that is put in front of me. Currently I am working on refurbishing the furniture and other props that were saved in our storage facility from the first Frog and Toad. Lucky for me most of the items were in great condition. A small amount of work will have them prepared for rehearsal.

My next step is to bring a new life and meaning to these objects. Without changing the pieces too much, we are bringing a new “Adirondack mountain” feeling to the interior and exterior of each of the characters’ houses in the show.

A Year with Frog and Toad is a Philadelphia favorite and a wonderful project to be a part of. I feel lucky to be working on such an incredible show that has been honored by audiences and critics alike. The production staff is a tight knit group of artists that I look forward to collaborating with over the next few months.

Let me know if you enjoy the results!

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