Friday, March 20, 2015

Prop Scavenger Hunt

Are you familiar with the story of The Lottery? If not I highly recommend you go and check out the short story here. It's one of my favorites short stories, I love the character development and all of the wonderful symbolism. When I had the opportunity to direct the play adaptation of this story I was thrilled. It calls for no setting (seriously, a completely bare stage, but I have added a tree stump because I think it looks ridiculous for Belva to be knitting while standing) and very minimal props. Because the props are so minimal, I want them to be spot on. The major prop I'll be focusing on is the black box (again, if you have't read the story, I highly suggest you take a moment to venture over and do that, otherwise the extreme significance of the black box is well, less extreme.)
So, one of the goals I had for this spring break was to find a box for this prop, or more accurately the inspiration for making one. I didn't expect to find the perfect one, because, well, I am self admittedly pretty picky. However, when I was digging around at one of the flea markets I found this gem.

It's pretty close to perfect (except for the fact that it's not actually black and that I would have to paint it) however, the price tag is very far from perfect. Because of the age of the box (estimated mid 1800s) it fits perfectly with the story, but, that would also mean that I would be defacing an antique and I'm not really okay with that. I much prefer to recreate props if alterations need to be done to them over stripping a piece of it's value. So, thanks to my moral code of antiquities I didn't come home with the box (heaven knows if it had been black I would have dropped the $47 and brought it home even though that is way more than I normally spend for props).
So instead, I'm going to be spending some time in the shop next week with the help of my incredibly talented shop friends creating a box that looks to be at least 150 years old and slightly dilapidated. That was actually one of the things that would have made this box better (and probably cheaper!) if it looked like it was coming close to major repairs or replacement.

One of my favorite parts of this box is the way the lid works. First of all, check out those completely awesome leather hinges that have been nailed onto the box (note to self, we need to find some aged leather). I'm thinking that this was done out of convenience, that the original creator probably didn't have the metal hinges in the barn, or shed or whatever and so they used a bit of spare leather (maybe from a set of reigns or an old belt - it seems to be about the same width) (second note to self: look for an old belt at second hand stores to make into the leather hinges). The hinges add a wonderful handmade look. 

But the real thing I love about the way this box opens is the fact that only half of the top opens. This may seem impractical (heck, I have no idea what the original intent for this box was) but for my purposes it's perfect. The lottery is all about a drawing, one where it's best if the person selecting their bit of paper isn't aware of what's on it in advance. By making the opening smaller it makes it much less likely that an individual could look inside the box as they were churning the papers around and be more selective about just which one they pulled out. Of course, it doesn't say anything about such a design in the story or the props list for the play, but remember what I said about having a thing for the symbolic? I crave symbolism, I want things to have a deeper meaning than what lies on the surface. I honestly want the audience to be able to watch the show (any show I work on) multiple times and catch something new each time they see. it. The construction of this box is no different. Plus, we'll be working on a much smaller stage with a much closer audience for this show. Every minute detail becomes increasingly important the closer the audience is to the action.

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