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Plunging into In the Next Room

posted by prop shop on Tue, Dec 2, 2008
in Prop shop

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Vibe 1a

It’s always nice to have a show up and running and get a chance to clean up, maybe take some time off (we work crazy hours putting up a show), and then start to work on the next one.

However the day we opened The Arabian Nights, I had to make time to meet with Annie Smart, the set designer of In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), to talk through the props in the play--especially the period vibrators we’ll be building.

I was motivated by our marketing department’s program deadline—they have to write the stories for the program before we even start building the shows, so our downtime is, unfortunately, their crunch time. And of course, they want to write a story on how we go about creating the period vibrators for this next show.

Luckily I started doing some research at the end of the summer, since I knew we would need to get a head start—and because I knew how crazy our schedule would be at this point. I contacted the obvious local collectors (again, as with that great local rope spinner I previously blogged about, there’s nothing like living in the Bay Area for finding alternative niche markets!), and emailed with Rachel Maines, the author of The Technology of Orgasm, the book that inspired the play.

Most of my leads were good starting places, but it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago, that I really pushed to get more information, motivated by that marketing deadline

That Friday, on my supposed day off, I went into San Francisco to see the collection at the Center for Sex and Culture, which was started by Carol Queen, PhD, and which turned out to be in a location shared by an acquaintance of mine’s performance space, Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory.

Vibe2 I didn’t get to meet Carol in person (we had previously exchanged emails), but Robert was extremely helpful and knowledgeable about the vibrators and the collection. He let me rummage through boxes of vintage vibes and photograph the ones that were the most useful to our show. This is the part of my job that I truly love (and why I was excited to spend my day off doing research). He then sent me to Good Vibrations on Polk St. to see the rest of their collection displayed in the store. So I rode over there and took some more pictures. And of course, I had to wander the store examining the differences between then and now (my favorite new item being the NaughtiNano—ingenious!).

Robert told me that today’s vibes are cheaper and more efficient than those created at the turn of last century (well, yeah), though I actually found one modern vibe that had attachments very similar to the old-fashioned ones, and made note of its name on my very official notebook, because I was there purely for research.

I had time to kill in SF, so I wandered across the street to the hardware store (I love hardware stores) to see what kind of parts I could find for this project. After seeing the real objects in person, I felt like they weren’t that far-off from machines and bits I deal with daily. I definitely found some parts that also look like the old vibe attachments—little rubber feet, shower attachments, hoses…I felt pretty confident we could recreate the vibes. My work done for the day, so I thought...

But the rest of my day continued to reflect my job. I guess I do what I like and I like what I do…so it’s inescapable. After leaving Good Vibes, I noticed a few Moroccan restaurants, and since we used many Moroccan things for The Arabian Nights (some of the lanterns and the throne were Moroccan imports), I thought I’d go in one and check it out. I had a great lunch and did see some pretty décor. Then I cruised up through Japan Town, where I have had many a prop shopping trip, and saw the perfect coffee pot for Joe Turner—it always happens that whenever I’m shopping for a show, I find what I couldn’t find for a previous show in some unexpected place (I love that hardware store in particular).

I then went through the neighborhood where I met with the artisan who spun our silk rope for Joe Turner, past some Russian stores that I shopped at for Slavs way back when, and then checked out an art opening of kinetic sculpture of this artist I admire, and to whom I was introduced at about the same time I met Sarah, who now works in our shop. Sarah is also an amazing sculptor and is working with us while she finishes her graduate thesis (which we have been doing an excellent job of distracting her from finishing).

Wheelchair Then I headed across town to the Mission, saw some more (DIY) art, and happened past a store, BellJar, which had in the window what looked like the perfect pram for In the Next Room, so I ran inside to check it out. It turned out to be a wheelchair and not a pram, and way too expensive for us to buy to re-configure, though I really wanted to!

I ended up chatting with the salesperson about her interest in working in the theatre, and about their interesting collection of things (prop people are always looking for and collecting things).

By that point I was running late to see a show at Theatre Rhinoceros that an ex-Berkeley Rep prop person, Jon, was directing a piece in. Yes, I do go see theatre when I’m not working. And I seem to work when I’m not working most of the time…What can I say, it was a good day, and so much nicer to be biking about the city than sitting in front of a computer.

Now I’m really taking some much-needed time off, if I don’t keep getting distracted…

More vibrator research photos can be found here.

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