Sunday, January 29, 2012


This blog post is dedicated to the mayor of East Haven, CT. Oh, I'm kidding, calm down. Wait, you're not riled up? You don't follow the news in Connecticut? Oh, well, um....carry on then, never mind.

There are people who go into theater with great ambitions.  There are actors who dream of moving an audience to tears with an emotional performance, designers who contribute to the elegance of a well told story, and directors who aspire to shed light on the human condition and pay homage to our common experience.  And then there's me, and I dream about making fake tacos...

....and my dream came true.

This taco is for 'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged" which just opened this weekend.  It was a quickie, given a bit more time, I might have worked on the shell texture a bit longer, but I think it does the job.

The delicious meaty filling of this taco is made out of good old bead foam. I like the bead foam because of its texture.  I carved the rough shape of the taco filling, and then broke off bits of the foam, leaving the lumpy shape and texture of ground beef.  I gave this a coating of flex glue to prime it for painting, and then used acrylic paints to make it beef- colored.
Taco blanco.
The shell of the taco is made of Fosshape, a felt-like thermoplastic material. (You can buy it at Dazian.) I cut out the shape of the shell, pressed the Fosshape, steamed it into shape, and painted it with Design Master sprays.  Once dry, I used hot glue to attach the filling to the shell.

The shredded lettuce in the taco is fake lettuce that I cut up with scissors, and the fake cheese is made of scraps from the acrylic caulk cheese in the last post.  I sparingly used fabri-tac to glue the lettuce and cheese into place, doing my best to place it securely and convincingly.  Then, I found a stage management intern on which to test the believability of the taco.

It passed.
Happy Propping, y'all.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Materials: White Latex Acrylic Caulk, Acrylic Paint, Spatula

Well, all, I promised you cheese for our sandwiches and, unlike most of my other 'Part One' posts, I'm gonna give you the part two for this one!

You might remember another post about cheese that I wrote a while back.  That cheese was made with hot pour vinyl. The vinyl cheese has an incredibly 'cheesy' look to it. It looks greasy and wonderful. The caulk cheese (insert 12 year old- like guffaw) can be glued to things, and is a little more shelf stable. Plus, if you don't have hot pour vinyl in your shop, you can make this for a lot less money.

The sliced cheese is actually incredibly simple to make.  Basically, all it is is colored caulk left to dry flat.  First, tint the caulk to the desired color. I used acrylic paint for this batch, but any water based tint should do it.  Then, spread the caulk out until you have a thin, smooth sheet of it.  I did my first batch on wax paper, but that got a bit wrinkly. Aluminum foil or plastic seem to be the best way to go, but make sure to avoid wrinkles. 

Then, I let the caulk dry to the touch.  It's going to have to dry on both sides, so plan to peel the backing off and let that side dry, too.  You should be able to judge pretty well when the caulk is dry enough for you to peel off the backing, and you can always test by peeling off a corner.  If you let it sit too long, it will be harder to peel off, but it shouldn't be impossible.

Once the cheese was dry on both sides, I cut it into 4" squares.

It's the best thing since sliced bread!

Happy Propping, y'all!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Wunda Bread

Materials: Latex, White Upholstery Foam, Design Master Sprays, Bread Bag,
Special tools: Electric carving knife

Hey all, I thought we'd start off 2012 here in the Fake-n-Bake kitchen by making some sandwiches, cheese sandwiches to be exact.  Let's start off with the bread, we'll get to the cheese later.  This bread was made for our recent production of 'Next to Normal' for a scene in which a woman is making sandwiches on the floor. You know, like you do.

I had a lot of fun playing with all of the samples over at Active Foam Products, and I chose an upholstery foam with a color and texture similar to angel food cake. After putting in an order for a thick slab of the foam I wanted, I began plotting my bread loaves.

The first step was to carve the foam into shape. I did this using the band saw, the foam saw, and my trusty Olfa knife.  The foam will dull the utility blade quickly, but you can help to mitigate that by putting a little bit of sewing machine oil on the blade to lubricate the cuts. It helps make cleaner cuts, as well.  (That's a tip I learned from Marit A. Thanks, Marit!)  Otherwise, change the blade often. I also highly recommend using a curry comb for carving. It shapes very nicely, but does leave grooves in the surface of your foam shape. Since the bread was going to be reset in the bag every night, I tried to make the loaf as uniform as possible along its length, and square off the ends to avoid oddly tapered end pieces.
The carved loaves.
To make the crust, I went with my bread crust go-to, latex.  I used casting latex from Cementex, but any liquid latex should do the trick.  I gave the foam several liberal coatings, letting the latex dry between each. I wanted the crust to be smooth enough to look....well, to look like crust.

Once the coating is complete, it's time to add color.  Design Master Sprays are, of course, a staple in any prop shop. I love the Honey Stain- I think it's exactly the color of "fresh out of the oven, golden brown" so I use it liberally. I also used a bit of Glossy Wood Tone to darken some areas, but it's wise to be conservative with this color because it can end up looking dirty.  (Insert joke about dirty conservatives here.)

The next step, and the fussiest, is the slicing. I was really hoping to slice these bad boys on the band saw: set up a fence, zing them on through. Alas, the band saw grabbed at the soft material and ripped it to bits. After attempting a few other methods, I found one that worked.  After carefully measuring out half inch slices, I used an X-acto knife to cut the thick latex crust on the top of the bread. Then, I very carefully used the electric carving knife to finish slicing through the loaf.  The carving knife slices very evenly, but you have to be careful to keep it going straight, or your slices will be all wonky. Once the slices were done, they were still a bit too smooth, so I took a rasp to them to give them some texture.

The one on the right is the real one.
The final touch on any processed-food prop is the packaging. Bread packaging is easy, you go to the store and buy a loaf of bread. You take the real bread out of the package, wrap it, and put it into the green room. This works well for everyone: you get a bread bag to use, and the interns get free toast for a few days. Hurray!
Not bad, huh?

There is something else I should note, here, and that is the problem of oxidation. The white foam that I used yellows over time when exposed to air.  It is likely that I won't get more than a show's worth of work out of these slices.  I would like to do some tests in the future to find out if a sealer of some sort would prevent this, but I didn't have the extra time on this show.

So there you have it folks, bread ala Anna. I've had a good little run of food projects lately so I've got cheese, olives, and tacos coming your way soon.   Happy New Year, and Happy Propping!


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