How to Make Greek Stage Props

Written by andy klaus
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How to Make Greek Stage Props
Masks are but one part of a complete set of Greek stage props. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Greek culture and theatre are traditions which have survived the ages. The comedy and tragedy masks seen in most theatres are merely a relic of the stage performances from ancient Greece. The distinct aesthetic of this legacy is something that even modern theatre aficionados can recognise at first sight. For the stage production manager, recreating this look is a unique challenge. But with the right tools and equipment, you can set the stage for an award-winning Greek performance.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Reference pictures
  • Black magic marker
  • Bottle of paste
  • Four 6-feet-by-6-feet sheets of half inch cardboard
  • Box cutter
  • Gallon white poster paint
  • Gallon black poster paint
  • Quart bowl of water
  • One broad paintbrush (approximately 4 inches wide)
  • One narrow paintbrush (approximately a 1/2 inch wide)
  • Two terracotta vases
  • Small hammer
  • Six plastic grape vines

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Instructions

    Columns

  1. 1

    Trace the outlines of two to four columns approximately 18 inches wide on cardboard using the magic marker. Keep the designs simple, following the traditional Doric style of column, using reference images as needed.

  2. 2

    Cut out the column shapes using a box cutter. For each column, cut out a rectangular shape approximately 3 feet high and a foot wide. Glue these rectangles perpendicular to the centre bottom of the back of each column to act as a brace and support.

  3. 3

    Wait for the column supports to dry enough to support the column's weight. After the glue is dry, stand the column up to be painted.

  4. 4

    Cover the entire front surface of the column with white poster paint using the wide paintbrush and up and down strokes. Allow the white paint to dry before proceeding.

  5. 5

    Outline the column with black paint using the narrow paintbrush. Add column details such as vertical column lines and column flourishes at the top and bottom as needed. Once dry, your column is a serviceable prop. Add grape leaves as needed for an accent.

    Masks

  1. 1

    Trace the shape of your Greek masks upon the cardboard sheet using a magic marker. Utilise reference images if needed.

  2. 2

    Cut out the masks with your box cutter using the outlines as a guide.

  3. 3

    Cover the masks in white paint using the wide brush. Allow the paint to dry before proceeding.

  4. 4

    Detail the mask with black paint and a narrow brush using a reference picture as required. Use the magic marker to add small details if needed.

  5. 5

    Cut a notched rectangle to make a hanger for the mask. Glue the hanger to the reverse central portion of your mask with the notch pointing down. This will allow you to hang the mask from a nail or hook as soon as the glue dries.

    Plinths, Tables and Statues

  1. 1

    Trace the outline of the plinth, table or statue upon the cardboard with a magic marker, using reference images as a guide.

  2. 2

    Cut out the object with the box cutter along the outline. For complicated shapes such as statues, it may be easier to cut out a crude approximation of the overall shape before working on detail areas such as arms or legs.

  3. 3

    Cover the surface of the object with white paint using the broad brush. Allow the paint to dry before proceeding.

  4. 4

    Outline the object with black paint using the narrow brush. Use the magic marker to detail the statues, and the narrow brush to detail the plinths and tables.

  5. 5

    Cut multiple rectangular shapes about half the height of the plinth, table or statue and about one foot wide. At least two per object. Fold the rectangles lengthwise until they form an L shape and glue them to the back sides of the object as supports.

    Vases

  1. 1

    Create small cracks and chips at the top of the terracotta vases using the small hammer. This creates a aged and weathered appearance.

  2. 2

    Mix a tiny spot of black paint with a brush full of white paint into the quart bowl of water to create a grey wash.

  3. 3

    Apply the grey wash to the terracotta vases and allow to dry. Add layers of wash until the colour is a muted orange tone.

  4. 4

    Add details with the narrow brush using black and white paints in separate layers using reference images of Greek vases as a guide. Use the magic marker for fine details as required. The result should be three-toned vases with silhouetted figures.

  5. 5

    Drape the vases with grape vines for an accent.

Tips and warnings

  • Arrange the items at various distances from the audience to give a sense of dimension to otherwise flat props.
  • When using the box cutter, wear gloves and utilise safety precautions to avoid cutting yourself.
  • Take care when using the hammer to weather the vases to keep the chips out of your eyes.

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