Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Propping Up "The Odd Couple"

How nice it was to see a prop gain attention in Susan Haubenstock’s rave review of The Odd Couple, now playing at Barksdale Hanover Tavern. “Terrie Powers and David Powers provide the shabby Manhattan apartment set, with the requisite swinging door to the kitchen,” Haubenstock comments in the Times-Dispatch. “There’s even an A&P grocery bag for authenticity.”

Well, actually there are three, sitting jauntily upstage center as the curtain rises (if we had a curtain), filled with authentic-looking garbage from the mid-60s. Judging from his rubbish, Oscar Madison has a bit of a sweet tooth (Junior Mints, Little Debbie Snack Cakes) and limited cooking ambitions (lots of crushed Campbell’s Soup cans, Lays chips bags, and empty egg cartons). He also seems to enjoy the occasional drink.

But what about those A&P bags? I decided to go directly to the source—the brother/sister design team of Terrie and David Powers.

“Actually they’re Ukrop’s bags,” confessed Terrie, “but I turned them inside out, removed the paper handles, ironed them, and then glued vintage A&P logos onto each bag. Including the staining (I wanted each bag to look like it had been there for a while, so I ‘painted’ grease stains onto the appropriate places), the three bags took me about five hours.”

“I didn’t know at first what grocery chains would be appropriate for mid-60s Manhattan, so I went on-line to research grocery trends during that period. I learned that A&P was a market leader in Manhattan throughout the mid- and late-60s. And when I researched A&P logos, I eventually found the 1964 logo that we’re using. Luck was with me. The vintage logo is red, orange and yellow (the one pictured above is slightly newer and all red). The orange and yellow worked perfectly because those colors and shades are in sync with the color palette I’m using throughout the set.”

“I transferred the logo onto Picasa, the image system I use on my computer, and blew it up to the correct size, adjusting the colors to be sure they didn’t fade as the image enlarged. I then printed the logos, cut them out and adhered them to each bag.”

“The part I hadn’t counted on was how wrinkled the bags would become as I turned them inside out. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t flip them without the wrinkles. So that’s when I decided to iron the bags, mainly so that the logos would adhere properly. With just a little bit of steam, the ironing worked perfectly. After gluing the logos on, I ironed them too, until they really conformed to the bags’ surface.”

As producers, we’re so appreciative of the hard work of our props staff. Our directors and casts need no “propping up,” but our productions do. Jay Dempsey’s props for Into the Woods, and Terrie’s props for The Odd Couple and the upcoming Disney’s High School Musical, show just how much can be achieved by going the extra mile.

When you go to The Odd Couple, take a minute to notice the 1964 Manhattan White Pages that sits on the downstage phone table. That was about a 6-hour project, and it’s authentic in its appearance, complete with cover ads for the New York World’s Fair.

See you at the theatre!

--Bruce Miller


Munchkin Mom said...

Ukrops bags are becoming somewhat ubiquitous at Barksdale and Theatre IV. During the run of The Wizard of Oz at the Empire, all of the Munchkins' costume pieces (hats, shoes, ties) were stored in Ukrops bags with each Munchkin's name neatly penned at each bag's top. Every morning when we'd enter the Little Theatre (the Munchkin's offstage home during the run of Wizard), we'd be greeted by 30-some Ukrops bags lined up like soldiers on the seating risers. They were a lifesaver. They not only kept all the Munchkins organized, they also reminded us to be thankful for the show's sponsor--Ukrops, of course.

Susan and Tim Jurgens said...

The night we were there, smoke just poured out of the "London Broil" pan. It was hysterical. How on earth did you make that happen?