Author Topic: Chicago  (Read 3298 times)

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« on: Feb 09, 2007, 08:23 pm »
I am a high school student hoping to do theatre at University here in Glasgow, Scotland (UK).
This year, my final year, we are doing Chicago which I am SM'ing and we have been discussing props etc. over the past few weeks of rehearsal. The show opens on the 20th of June so i will keep this post as a running list of problems ive come up against which will be a good chance for you guys to "Flex your stage managing muscles" i guess.

First few issues -

Request for chains to run between a raised part of the stage and the lower part for the "cells" in the jail scenes. I suggested plastic/styrofoam but the directors (Thats right director X 2! :P) would like metal ones so the light can reflect off them. This is a good idea but looks to be expensive (around 1.70 per Metre - thats around $2.50) and we have a limited budget.

Second - We are going to have a truck for Billy Flynns office which will roll on now and again. This is something i have not done beofre - what are your tips for trucks?

Third - Newspaper. The script calls for Roxie to be holding a newspaper that reads "ROXIE ROCKS CHICAGO!". Any ideas on how to make a realistic one? I did come up with the brainwave of getting our local newspaper to sponsor the printing of the programmes in a newspaper format. That way we could have the audience with a programme in the style of a newspaper with the cast lists etc. and Roxie could use that on stage too.

I will keep this list updated to keep us entertained!



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Re: Chicago
« Reply #1 on: Feb 11, 2007, 10:23 am »
Regarding the chains, you can mist them with metallic spray paint and/or apply fine glitter just to the part you want the light to catch. It's a little silly and low-budget, but it will catch the light. It might look less than great up close, but onstage under lights it should do the trick. You can also usually pick up leftover real metal chains from a junkyard, or borrow them from various friendly companies - a hardware store or construction company might be willing to lend them out for free. Ask around.

Working with trucks is not so complicated, really. You should use the best casters you can afford, and be sure your carp uses crazy casters (that can roll in any direction) or straight casters intelligently. This will make steering much more consistent and ultimately safer. Also, be sure the truck locks into place securely - this can be trickier than it sounds. You will also want to spike the offstage locations of the truck at its various placements. Spiking onstage is generally useless, as the truck will be pushed from offstage. Be sure that props and actors on the truck are secure. Giving the actors something to hold on to (a chair back, a secure shelf) will help them feel safe and look solid as they travel. Try securing any props and dressing (pictures, desk accessories) with putty or nails - they might not always roll, but at the worst possible time they will decide to jump off the wall/desk/whatever. These kinds of finishing touches will make the truck's movement look magical, not clumsy. Also, depending on your crew capabilities, be realistic about how fast the truck can travel. If the director wants it to disappear in 2.5 seconds, and you only have one wimpy crew dragging it off with all his might, practice until it's as fast as possible and then accept that it will not get a whole lot faster. Be safe!

It sounds like you've got the newspaper solved. You can usually get blank newsprint from a local printer or newspaper warehouse. You can then carefully run it through a xerox (not all machines can handle it, but most can these days).


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Re: Chicago
« Reply #2 on: Feb 11, 2007, 12:09 pm »
Most metal chain is not shiny, or at least the stuff my budget would accommodate isn't. Plastic painted with silver paint and a touch of glitter would likely be much more useful. What looks good up close frequently doesn't make it on stage! (How I wish more directors were like the ones I've worked with recently. "Tell us what you want, let us do our best to figure out how to do it within our budget and time frame, accept our best effort.") It's actually up to Scenic department to deal with that kind of thing, but in school/community theater that usually does, indeed, fall to the stage manager.

Building for the stage is its own science. Trucks (or wagons in some theaters) should be sturdily built. Overbuilt, if possible, with plenty of support so they don't flex or warp. Suggestions of buying the best casters you can afford can't be overstressed. Soft wheels are preferable to hard. Most should swivel, for ease of placing the truck, but using non-swivel type in combination with the others can be a benefit and save money if placement of the truck will allow. Depending on how large your truck, you may need six or even more (as opposed to just 4, one on each corner), possibly in the center, to keep it stable. Clearance under the edge should allow for uneven stages or other issues. Removable or hidden Push bars will help with large trucks. Some kind of brakes or locks will be necessary for safety and for keeping them in place. Actors WILL jump on and off of them, if only in rehearsal, and they will move. They may also need weights (ballast) for balance if they are built up unevenly or are oddly shaped.       

Have a great time getting your show together. It's a peculiar mania that we suffer, but I can't imagine life without it.
All the world's a Stage...


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Re: Chicago
« Reply #3 on: Feb 11, 2007, 11:47 pm »
Definitely make sure your truck has enough ground clearance.  Pushing a truck offstage when it has high-centred and grounded out is no fun at all, and won't do any good to the paint on the stage!