Bygone Theatre Rentals – Appliances

Bygone Theatre has finally gotten our  storage space sorted, which means we are ready to start renting out some of our great vintage pieces! Take a look at some of our larger items here; all prices listed are before HST. Please note that we are able to negotiate payment structures, and that discounts are available when renting multiple items at once. Email us at info@bygonetheatre.com with any questions, or to place an order; we require a minimum of 3 days notice for all prop rentals.

  1. Vintage Fridge: used in Wait Until Dark, gorgeous late 50s/early 60s white fridge with dusty rose interior. Inside latch has been modified to make for easier opening. Rental Price: $75.00/wk

2. Vintage Stove: used in Wait Until Dark, charming late 1940s white stove with oven.
Rental Price: $75.00/wk

3. Vintage 1950s Ringer Washer: used in Wait Until Dark, white General Electric washing machine with wringer, mid-50s, excellent condition.
Rental Price: $75.00/wk

Bygone Theatre - 1950s Wringer Washer Rental

4. Vintage 1950s Red Mini Fridge: Late 1940s/1950s, bright red mini fridge with chrome handle. Great for a photoshoot, or for a cafe/soda shop look.
Rental Price: $75/week

Bygone Theatre Red Mini Fridge

Stay tuned for much more, including vintage office supplies, props & costumes.

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Cheque, please!

Our director (and production designer) Emily Dix quickly walks you through the process for making a faux cheque for theatre.

Till Next We Trod The Boards

I get a kick out of little details in things, which is why I often spend too much time on small prop details that likely won’t be noticed by anyone but myself. Today’s example? The certified cheque prop needed for Bygone Theatre’s upcoming production of His Girl Friday.

Really, it’s a pretty simple one, and since we’re seeing the cheque before it’s cashed, I’m not going to the trouble of embossing it, I did however want something from around the right date, and double-sided.

Since this show will be on a real stage, and not something that requires the same accuracy as was needed for shows like Rope, which practically happened in the audience’s lap, I just searched for 1930s or 1940s certified cheques and settled on one from 1933;

walter-winchell-signed-check-issued-to-international-news-photos-1933-16

I found this through a memorabilia site – it works great as it doesn’t have a big distracting…

View original post 283 more words

His Girl Friday Costume Designs: Finding Vintage Fabric

As any of you who have seen one of our past shows knows, I care a lot about having costumes that are as authentic looking as possible. I’ve done past posts on how to fake a vintage style with more recent clothes or patterns, and on what types of fabric were common to a certain era – but where do you go to find that fabric? As I’ve been scouring the web looking for answers to that very question, I thought I’d share my best finds here.

Reproduction Fabrics

Don’t be dissuaded by their dated looking website, reproductionfabrics.com is an amazing resource if you’re looking for vintage or antique styled patterned fabric. From the late 1700s through to the 1950s, they have a selection of fabric that covers nearly every style and colour, and for very reasonable prices. Some are actual reproductions of old patterns and some appear to be “in the style of”, either way, this should be one of your first stops if you need vintage, patterned, fabric.

American Folk and Fabric

Another good source for reproduction designs in americanfolkandfabric.com. I found they had “frillier” fabrics than Reproduction Fabrics – lots of florals in pink, that sort of thing – so depending on what you’re looking for this could be perfect, or may miss the boat.

Antique Fabric

Depending on the project, you may prefer actual vintage or antique fabric to a reproduction. In this case, you’re likely going to find smaller amounts and a higher price, and remember, the condition won’t compare to what you get from a reproduction. While for costumes I’d always opt for a modern-made fabric, I certainly see the appeal of the real thing. If you’re looking for variety, check out antiquefabric.com. Well indexed and with a wide-variety of fabrics from periods ranging from the 1800 through to the 1960s, you’re very likely to find something you’ll want. Sadly, most of the pieces I found drool-worthy were not big enough to make what I’d like. But if you want some authentic pillows or accessories, even a blouse that takes only a yard or two, this is your spot.

Spoonflower

If you still haven’t found what you’re looking for, you can try creating your own design and printing it through spoonflower.com. This site allows you to upload designs that you can print for yourself on a number of types of fabric (plus wallpaper and wrapping paper), and has the additional option of allowing you to sell your designs to others through the site (you get a commission). Try searching through what others have made, or upload your own!

Most quilting sites also offer a selection of vintage & antique styles, though I’ve found it isn’t necessarily as accurate as some of these other sites. But if you know what you’re looking for and have a particular style in mind, Equilter and Hancocks-Paducah can be great resources.

Happy searching!

-E.

Knock ‘Em Dead! – The Vaudeville Origins of Theatre Slang

Chances are, if you’re not a vintage theatre lover like we are, you don’t know too much about Vaudeville. You’ve likely heard the term thrown around and maybe have a vague image of some old-timey song and dance, cheesy jokes and bad acts being pulled offstage with a hook. You likely know more about Vaudeville from Looney Toons than from the real thing. While Vaudeville may be (sadly) dead, its influence is still alive and well with thanks to the many theatre slang terms the style coined. How many of them do you recognize?

Bugs Bunny gets "the hook".

Bugs Bunny gets “the hook”

Corny Material
Unsophisticated, simple, sentimental, cheesy; all of these describe what many people thought of the humour that came from the small-town country performers in the circuit. Originally the phrase was “stuck in the corn” but as with most slang, it was shortened, becoming the “corny” phrase we know today.

Fozzie Bear's pun-riddled comedy is the epitome of "corny".

Fozzie Bear’s pun-riddled comedy is the epitome of “corny”.

Tough Act to Follow
You want the number before you to warm the audience up, but if they get too hot, chances are you’ll get the cold shoulder. Waiting in the wings would’ve been nerve-wracking for any performer, and if you see a great act just before yours, you know you’ll have a tough time getting the applause you crave.

“Knock ‘Em Dead”, “Lay Them in the Aisles”, “Slay Them”

A little gruesome, sure, but hey kid, that’s showbiz. The theatre world is full of hyperbole which is likely why performers talk about “blowing audiences away” or “knocking them dead” with their stupendous performances. While the exact reasoning behind these rather violent terms isn’t clear, it’s likely due to the fact that in a high-stakes world like theatre, you need an extreme reaction to guarantee you live to play another day. A number that has them laughing so hard they fall into the aisles, or one that gives them a near spiritual experience, knocking them flat, is exactly what any performer would dream of.

Hoofer
Hoofer is the term for a professional dancer, often a tap dancer, whose dance style is close to the floor, emphasizing foot movement over arm or upper body. The term originates from the Vaudeville performers who would pound their feet on the ground prior to coming onstage in order to give the band the proper tempo. This sound, much like a horse pounding it’s hoof, gave rise to the term “hoofers”.

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was one of the greatest hoofers of his time.

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was one of the greatest hoofers of his time.

Blue Comedy
While Vaudeville’s roots were based in low-brow art forms and could get pretty risque, at the turn of the century there was a big push for “polite Vaudeville”, creating a cleaner version that was suitable for women and families. Many theatres took this very seriously and issued warnings to performers who crossed a line. Vaudevillian Sophie Tucker recalls the dreaded blue envelopes that would deliver the news;

“Between the (Monday) matinee and the night show the blue envelopes began to appear in the performers mailboxes backstage . . . Inside would be a curt order to cut out a blue line of a song, or piece of business. Sometimes there was a suggestion of something you could substitute for the material the manager ordered out . . . There was no arguing about the orders in the blue envelopes. They were final. You obeyed them or quit. And if you quit, you got a black mark against your name in the head office and you didn’t work on the Keith Circuit anymore. During my early years on the Keith Circuit, I took my orders from my blue envelope and – no matter what I said or did backstage (and it was plenty) – when I went on for the Monday night show, I was careful to keep within bounds.”

Hence the term, blue comedy.

Give ‘Em The Hook
I found this one hard to believe. Despite having grown up very familiar with the hook trope, the concept of someone actually using a crook to pull a person offstage seems far-fetched. However, there is some evidence to suggest that the phrase and its tradition originates from 1903, at Harry Miner’s Bowery Theatre. Check out some people arguing over the origins here.

Break a Leg

I know everyone and their mother has a theory about where the origins of this line really come from, but the one I tend to go with is one of the simplest, and I think that generally means it’s most likely closest to the truth. Theatre managers would book more acts than they could fit into a show, since audience response would dictate whether or not a bit got to run to completion (we all remember the old Loonie Toons where someone gets pulled off stage with a hook). There was no pay for those who were overbooked and waiting in the wings; you crossed your fingers, hoped the number before you would bomb and that you would break a leg, ie. go past the “legs” (part of the curtains) and get to perform onstage, thereby getting paid. In a business where everyone just wants their shot in the limelights and to make a buck, I’ve gotta believe that’s the right origin.

Red Carpet
This one has a few different origin stories, ranging from Agamemnon walking on a carpet fit for the God’s, to the 20th Century Limited train company rolling it out for its distinguished passengers. But I’ve found a couple sources that link it to Vaudeville, so we’re going to include it in this list. Apparently, headliners and bigger acts often had expensive costumes, and working 8+ shows a week meant they were difficult to keep clean, so a red carpet would be laid down backstage along the path the stars would walk; it was easy to spot if this was clean or not, and so they knew that their costumes were being protected. A little far-fetched? Maybe.

Alley-Oop
A term for a gymnastics routine, often one that involves launching performers into the air. Many of these circus acts were by European performers, and it is likely that the phrase came from the French word “allez” meaning everybody and a vocalization like “hup” to cue when to jump.

The Ziegfeld Follies show off a spectacular acrobatic routine.

The Ziegfeld Follies show off a spectacular acrobatic routine.

In The Limelight
While the phrase today simply means “the centre of attention” this phrase has a very simple origin. A Limelight is better known as a Drummond or Calcium Light and was a popular stage light in the days of Vaudeville. A cylinder of quicklime is heated by an oxyhydrogen flame, creating an intense illumination. Electric lights have long since replaced these, but the term lingers on.

Think we’ve missed any? Tweet them to us at @BygoneTheatre #Vaudeville, and keep posted for more information on Bygone Theatre’s Vaudeville Revue, coming June 2016!

-E.

What It Really Costs To Be An Actor (and to put on a show)

I came across an interesting Business Insider article today on the costs associated with working as an actor; even as someone who is well aware of the small return on a huge investment (of both time and money) I was shocked by some of the numbers.

Consider the cost of training and promotional materials, for one;

School: some go the 4 year BA route, which will cost about $20 000 in total, but even if you are forgoing traditional education for workshops or conservatory programs, expect to spend thousands here.

Headshots: these are essential for any actor and can cost a pretty penny. Expect $500+ to have them shot, plus the cost of printing. It isn’t unusual to spend close to $1000 for good quality headshots, and then of course they need to be updated whenever you change your look.

Personal Website: while free avenues like facebook and wordpress are frequently used, a lot of people choose to have a custom domain name as well; add another $100 or more a year for this.

Then of course there is the cost of any additional training you do along the way, things like haircuts, makeup etc. to keep you looking pretty, expensive dance shoes – you get the idea. It’s not cheap. And there is really no guarantee of a return.

It was the author’s salaries in the article though that really caught me by surprise; even at the high end, performing at Madison Square Garden in a multi-million dollar performance, the author was only making $527/week. $527/week for 52 weeks in a year is a whopping $27 404 annual salary; not exactly a celebrity lifestyle. Plus, consider the fact that not only do most actors not get big gigs like that, but the majority of actor’s contracts are not for a full year. So even if you’re raking in big dough for the duration of your contract, you may need to stretch 2 months of pay over an entire year.

The author was only making $527/week. $527/week for 52 weeks in a year is a whopping $27 404 annual salary; not exactly a celebrity lifestyle

Our upcoming production of Rope is certainly small budget compared to the shows mentioned above, but it’s still a considerable amount of money for those of us who are funding it while working minimum wage jobs. Our overall budget is $4500.00, and that does not include paying the actors. You can see a detailed breakdown of our budget on our FWYC campaign page.  As someone who is certainly used to working for no pay (I put hundreds of volunteer hours over 6 years into theatre work on campus before finally getting a paid, part-time position this year) I went into this knowing I likely couldn’t pay anyone involved, but still feeling really guilty about it. So that’s why we started a Fund What You Can Campaign.

Our goal is to raise the entire cost of our production – $4500.00 – so that any money we make on the show itself can be split among the cast and crew. Of course there is no guarantee of ticket sales, but if we were to sell out all of our shows we could potentially be paying everyone about $380; not a Broadway level salary, but it’s a start. To put that further into perspective, all of actors are putting in about 14 hours of performance time plus 40-60 hours of rehearsal time. So let’s say that they are working a conservative 54 hours and make at the very most $380; that’s still only $7/hour. Considerably below minimum wage.

Our goal is to raise the entire cost of our production – $4500.00 – so that any money we make on the show itself can be split among the cast and crew…that’s still only $7/hour. Considerably below minimum wage.

As a producer it is important to me to put on a successful show and to compensate those involved. As an artist and student myself, I do not have the money to do that on my own. That’s where you come in. By making a donation to Rope you will be helping to further the careers of 8 talented actors, our wonderful stage manager and Bygone Theatre itself. Every little bit counts and gets us one step closer to realizing our dreams while earning a decent wage.

Check out our Fund What You Can Campaign for Rope to make a donation to the production.

-E.

1920s Food Inspiration – Making Faux Food for “Rope”

Our director Emily Dix is busily making props for our upcoming production of Rope. She consulted the fabulous website, Food Timeline, for some ideas and then scoured pinterest for pictures of things that looked doable. Here are the results so far.

They may still need a few tweaks – I think the caprese skewers could use some “balsamic vinegar” – but not bad for a first go.

A Tip Of The Hat: Conveying Character With Hats

Every costumer knows that it is their job to create an outfit that showcases the actor’s character onstage. While every designer has their own method, it is doubtless that all put in hours of research trying to find just the right colours and styles. But the actor too can make small changes to the clothes they are given and in doing so drastically alter the meaning of the pieces, especially when it comes to hats.

I am currently taking a millinery class at Stratford Off The Wall. You can see some of my how-to tutorials on making hats here. Today in class while we were creating our patterns an interesting point was made; depending on the angle someone chooses to tilt and wear their hat, a variety of personalities can be conveyed, all with the same costume piece. Take for example, a man’s fedora;

In the first image, Cary Grant looks sexy and sophisticated. Maybe a business man, or even a gangster. He wears his hat tilted and low down on the brow.
Bob Hope wears his hat a bit further back on his head and at a less severe angle. This gives a more laid-back vibe, almost tired or lazy and somewhat comical.

Finally, Ray Bolger wears his at the back of his head, giving him a clownish appearance that works well with his goofy, snarky farm-hand character.

A similar effect can occur with mens’ bowlers;

The first image shows a man wearing a bowler the “correct” way, sitting right atop his head. This is a serious, sophisticated and very vintage look.

In his Boardwalk Empire outfit, Steve Buscemi looks every bit the classy gangster, thanks in part to the casual backwards tilt of his hat.

Once again, a hat worn on the back of one’s head immediately creates a clownish look, as does an ill-fitting hat, as seen in this Laurel & Hardy shot.

Women’s hats can do the same thing;

For a serious, mysterious look, Joan Crawford wears a severe looking hat, tilted low on her brow with a minimal side tilt.

Lucille Ball looks sultry and sophisticated in a hat with a fashionably jaunty tilt.

The smiling woman also wears a hat tilted far to the side, but hers is further back on the brow, giving a playful, energetic vibe.

Finally, Judy Garland is the picture of youth and innocence in this cap that sits at the back of her head, wrapped around her ears.

When costuming it is always important to remember not just what your actors will be wearing, but how they will wear it. Subtle changes in attitude can be reflected through minimal costume changes; a man could start the play with his fedora tilted low, looking professional and suave. After a frantic day, he may push it further back on his head, while wiping his brow. During a madcap comical scene later on, the hat could end up right on the back of his head and even slightly squished (likely combined with a loosened tie or un-tucked shirt). That’s just a random example, but you get the idea.

So if you feel your costume is lacking a little “something”, give your actor a hat and let them play with it. It may just top things off perfectly.

Want to make your own vintage hat? Check out our A.D. Emily Dix’s tutorial on how to make a custom hat pattern from scratch!

-E.

Underneath It All: A Brief History of Women’s Underwear, 1900-1970

When dressing a period show, it is important to remember that it’s not just the clothing the audience sees that makes the look authentic. To really capture a realistic period style, the proper undergarments need to be used to help achieve the accurate shape or silhouette.

For those doing a show set in the first half of the 20th century, the following crash-course may be of some assistance.

The 1900s

As you can see in the photos above, the early 1900s embraced a truly “feminine” shape; big hips, large breasts, and a very cinched in “wasp waist”. The look was not quite as extreme as it had been in previous decades (where, in some cases, women may have had ribs removed to try and make their waists smaller, though this idea is debated), but it still required tightly bound whale bone corsets and layers of heavy petticoats.  Little attention was paid to the breasts; push-up and padded bras did not exist, instead the curved upper torso was created by cinching in the waist, so that while the upper body appeared fuller, it did not yet have the definition that would be seen in later decades.

The 1910s

As the century progressed, silhouettes began to transform into a leaner, straighter shape, and the corsets and bustles of the previous decades mostly disappeared. What corsets were still in use now were longer, coming down past the hips and up to just under the bust, helping to achieve a streamlined look. The waist line rose to an “empire waist”, just below the bust, and as the ankles were now often visible, the length of slips shortened. As the petticoats slimmed, bloomers were replaced with a closer fitting underwear, more similar to what we see today. It is also during this time that we see a change in the overall aesthetic of undergarments; they were truly becoming lingerie. Machine-made lace was more readily available, and so decorative underwear could be purchased for a more reasonable price. The ads of the time no longer looked like a textbook page on what was available, but began to embrace the beauty and sensuality of the products.

1920s

The 1920s saw the change from a “womanish” figure to a “girlish” one; the bust, hips and waist were slimmed to a straight, narrow, almost boyish look, and hemlines shortened dramatically. We begin to see some two-piece undergarments, but the bras still are not lifting or defining the breasts. As hemlines were shorter, decorative garters and stockings became popular. Tube-like corsets were used to help curvier women attain a straighter silhouette.

1930s

Two-piece undergarments were the norm come the 1930s and slips were less common. Curves again were being embraced, and women with round, curved hips were adored. Tight-fitting girdles were sometimes used to shape the hips, and early versions of the bras we wear today are seen. Hollywood began to have a major part in the popularity of women’s styles, and ads of the decade catered to those looking for a glamourous silhouette.

1940s

The war had a major effect on women’s fashions as many materials were rationed. “Make do and mend” was the motto, and women were encouraged to sew their own clothes and update their old ones to match the current styles. The limits on fabrics meant that a more angular, fitted look defined the decade, and hemlines were once again shorter, hitting just below the knee. Military styles were popular, and women’s suits came in fashion. Nylon was one of the casualties of the war, as it was needed to make parachutes, and so nylon stockings disappeared from the stores. In an effort to maintain the look, some women drew black “seams” up the back of their legs, giving the illusion of wearing stockings. As many women went out to work in factories, they traded in their dresses and skirts for trousers and overalls, a style that required more form-fitting underwear. Silk was also unavailable because of the war effort, and so slips were less common. To make up for the simplicity in clothing, women’s hairstyles became more elaborate, and accessories were used to decorate an outfit rather than wearing a whole new garment. While there were new styles in 1940s undergarments, keep in mind that many would not have been purchasing them, and would have likely used what they already had instead.

1950s

When the war and its rations ended, fashions embraced the new availability of fabrics, and the female silhouette returned to a fullness it had not seen since the turn of the century. Fitted tops showcased a full bust, and pointed bras lifted and accentuated the breasts. The waist was cinched with a girdle, and full skirts were ballooned with petticoats and bouffants. Stockings were again available, and new “seamless” ones were on the market. Underwear ads became increasingly sexual, and there is a noticeable turn in the marketing which now aimed itself more at men (purchasing for their wives) than women.  Most women were back in the home, and so fashion could again take place over practicality. The ideal women was one who, as Audrey sings in “Little Shop of Horrors”, “cooked like Betty Crocker and looked like Donna Reed”; feminine, fashionable and a devoted wife and mother.

1960s

While many in the 1960s still embraced full skirts, girdles and push-up bras, as feminism blossomed many in the fashion world began to lean towards more natural silhouettes and more comfortable clothing. Skirts got very short, cut high on the thigh, and so slips and underwear shortened as well. Late in the decade and into the 1970s, some women stopped wearing bras and by that point most had long abandoned the corset or girdle. When dressing the 1960s, there are several ways you can go, so before looking for undergarments, ask yourself; is your character a Glamour Puss? a Hippie? a preppy teen? There are many ways to go.

Earlier Decades:

While we here at Bygone tend to focus on the first half of the 20th Century, when it comes to underwear, earlier periods have some of the most interesting articles. Want to learn more about women’s unmentionables? Check out some of these articles:

Mental Floss – A Funny Approach

Hosiery History – Stockings Through The Years

Vintage Lingerie Ads

Elizabethan Costuming

 

-E.

Set Design Inspiration – Art Deco

Recently I did a blog post on set design inspiration in a Mid Century Modern style  and referenced our production of “Dial M For Murder” that was set in the mid 1950s. As we start to get ready for our next show, Patrick Hamilton’s “Rope”, written in 1929, I’ve been thinking about another major design trend; Art Deco.

The term Art Deco refers to a visual design period that originated in France after World War One. While it was still seen into the early 1940s, the style is most commonly associated with the 1920s and 30s. It featured bold, geometric patterns, rich colours, metallics, and modern Machine Age imagery. It is associated with modern glamour and mass production (which did not have the negative connotation then that it often does today).

Now for a recap – when starting to research a period’s design aesthetic, I start by looking at the following three elements:

  1. Silhouette: What sort of general styles and silhouettes were common, and where can we find those in both vintage and modern pieces?
  2. Colour: What colours were popular at the time? And in particular, what colour schemes would have been used then that are rarely used today?
  3. Accents: Are there any accent pieces (lamps, phones, statues, vases etc.) that are frequently associated with the decade?

They always say there are three things everyone wants when putting together a show; for it to be good, fast and cheap. The catch, of course, is that you can only ever have two of the three. For most of us in the theatre world, “cheap” is a necessity, and personally I always want “good” as well, which means I have to put a lot of time into researching and sourcing materials. If you want to have a great looking set, start early. Very early. And take your time looking around not only vintage stores (they can be pricey) but thrift stores, garage sales, and hell, even checking out what people throw out on garbage day. You know what they say, “one man’s trash…”.

Time to start the research bit:

Art Deco Palette: 1920s and 30s Colours:

Colour schemes of the Jazz Age were anything but subtle; while many pastels and secondary colours were in use they were often used as a background against bold, contrasting pieces. Sherwin Williams has a great section on authentic period colours that you can check out for some specifics. Purples and blues were very popular, as were accents of red or orange. Black trim alongside a tropical colour like peacock blue or a bright mint green was common.

Possibly more important than the colours were the patterns used on anything from walls to curtains to furniture. Intricate geometric patterns, often featuring shell or fan shapes adorned often multiple pieces in a Art Deco room. Tiled floors in black and white were also a common feature.

 

Of course, not all homes of the 1920s and 30s were complete examples of the Art Deco style, however, many had some features that can be associated with the look; in the photos below, you can see examples of minimal Art Deco features (like the tile work in the kitchen floors or on the bathroom wall) alongside rooms that are the epitome of the look (like the gorgeous bedroom and the circular interior entryway).

Art Deco Silhouette: 1920s and 30s Furniture

Art Deco furniture is about glamour and bold statements; each piece is like a work of art. Complex geometric designs alongside beautiful organic curves created a look of extravagance. Often different types of wood were mixed within one piece, creating interesting patterns and design, and mirrored furniture and metallics were all the rage.

Art Deco Vibe: 1920s and 30s Accent Pieces

Bronze sculptures are a staple of the Art Deco look. Gorgeous women (often either naked or wearing a flapper-style outfit) sometimes held a light, or simple stood there as a beautiful accent. Greyhounds were the “it” dog, and are often seen on anything from lamps to ashtrays.  Panthers were also a common sculptural subject. The lamps of the period were more about artistic beauty than practically shining light in the room.

Bygone’s Art Deco – How to Fake The Look Today

As we prepare for “Rope” I have started a pinterest board collecting some of my favourite examples of Art Deco; you can see it here, and I will update this once our set design begins.

For those of you trying to do this look before then, here are some tips on how to fake it and do it on the cheap:

Painting a Art Deco design on a simple tray

Painting a Art Deco design on a simple tray

 

Art Deco Tray: The simplest and easiest way to create a Deco piece is with paint. If you’re new to stenciling, try starting with something small, like a tray, and if that is successful you can move on to a larger piece like a dresser. HGTV has a great tutorial here to get you started.

 

artdeco

Moldings create architectural detail.

Art Deco Molding: If you’re doing a show with flats, try adding some architectural detail above doorways or windows. This can be done with wood or even cardboard. For a great tutorial on this look (one meant for the home, remember, cheaper materials could be used onstage), check out The Joy Of Moldings.

 

1980s Finds: Finally, as always, when setting a stage on the cheap, your local thrift shop is your best friend. The 1980s saw a revival of Art Deco style and so you may be able to come across some pieces on the cheap. Look for things with the right “bones” – changing the colour of a dresser or adding a throw pillow on a sofa is easy, but you don’t want to take on anything that doesn’t have your desired silhouette. If you don’t have a lot of money for set pieces, but want to make an impact, stenciling designs on the flats may be a good way to go.

Again, not everyone in the 1920s or 30’s had art Art Deco home – country styles were common in the 1920s, and during the Great Depression of course, homes were rarely decorated with anything new. So before you start to collect deco pieces for your set, make sure that it fits the show – this style is associated with the upper class, new money, “modern young things”. A great look but not for everyone.

-E.

 

 

Vintage Labels: Creating Authentic Props with Public Domain Images

When dressing a period set, one of the first problems you may encounter is how to have vintage items that don’t look old. While your show may be set in 1920, you of course don’t want a can of beans that looks like it has actually been around since the 20s – rusted, peeling label, dents etc. And of course, to buy a mint condition vintage item you’re likely looking at spending far too much. Still, the importance of period-specific props shouldn’t be overlooked, so here are some handy hints on creating your own authentic looking props:

grapenuts1

  1. Research The Food and Packaging Materials Used In The Period: Foods come in and out of fashion, just like anything else. Start off researching what was popular during your period: The Food Timeline is a great resource for this. They even have a section on popular brands advertised during the decade. From there, look up how your items were packaged; looking at a show in the 1920s or earlier? You’re not going to see plastic. Go for cans, glass bottle and boxes. War-time also had an effect on the materials used, and women were encouraged to make their own preserves. If you’re setting something during one of the World Wars, try have some homemade items on hand.
  2. Think About What Your Characters Would Use: A play about a bachelor doesn’t need a jar of baby food, and a family-centered drama may have more crowded cupboards than one about a single man. You can of course go much more in-depth with this; read though carefully to see if there’s any references to food and think about what types of things make sense for your show when you consider cultural and ethnic background, socioeconomic status, trends etc. This can be a fun exercise to do with your actors too. Sometimes the more details you think of (ie. my character loves pickles but can’t stand mustard) the more nuances you come up with.
  3. Use Authentic Vintage Labels: Finally, nothing will help make an authentic prop more than a real vintage label. See below for my list of favourite sites to score great graphics.

My Favourite Sites for Free Printable Labels: 4964821_orig

  1. The Old Design Shop:  Not only do they have a section on labels, they have just about every category you could think of if you’re looking for some general inspiration. Check out the Food & Drink section and you can see what kind of bottle or can you should affix your label to.
  2. The Graphics Fairy: Beautiful vintage labels and other graphics, many of them turn-of-the-century French. Not as many food labels, but there are beautiful stock images of things like vegetables, if you were interested in designing your own.
  3. The Candy Wrapper Museum: If you’re looking for some authentic candy wrappers, look no further! This well organized site has everything you could need from just about any time period. The only issue is they are scans of old (often crumpled) labels, so I would suggest using them as a guide and photoshopping them to clean them up a bit.

Of course, if you’re handy with photoshop, you can always google vintage labels and try to replicate one yourself. There are lots of free fonts and filigrees to help  you out, and that way you can customize your prop exactly how you want.

6a00d83451ccbc69e201a3fced05fe970bRelated Sites:
If you’re looking for vintage posters, say to decorate a store front or to put in a replica magazine or newspaper, check out Free Vintage Posters. They also have some great WWII ads.

Another good resource is Free Vintage Art, again, not for labels, but for some other beautiful, free vintage stock photos.

And finally, if you’re finding the whole concept of “public domain” a little daunting, check out Public Domain Treasure Hunter; they spell it out for you 🙂

 

For this post, I focused simply on creating canned and boxed goods, bu you can make things like cookies and sandwiches as well. Stay tuned for another post on authentic, non-packaged period foods.

-E.