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Knowing more about Theatre Magic

This year, the Arts Mobile we designed is more than just a “Mobile Stage”. It is also a mini venue for a backstage exhibition, where stage props and costume are showcased. The exhibits are made by students and teachers from the School of Theatre & Entertainment Arts of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, as required by their lessons and performances.

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This plush monster figure is as large as an adult. How can its huge head and body be supported? The secret lies in the “skeleton” within. The skeleton is made by a method called “frame work”, in which thin bamboo or cane strips are used to outline the shape of the monster. After the skeleton’s frame work is done, sponge and fabrics are layered on top before the fake fur finishing is added.

The eyes of this dog are round and convex in shape. To achieve such an effect, a method called “vacuum forming” is used. It is done by heating a hard plastic sheet plane until it is soft. Afterwards, a concave or convex shape can be created by suction.

Materials for making props are diversified and some are rather unexpected. For instance, this cello looks real at first glance. In fact, it is made entirely of paper— different shapes of paper created by laser cut.

These two period pieces were costumes for performance of students from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Art. To fulfill the show’s requirements and to incorporate innovative design, the designer integrated the designs of Elizabethan petticoats and corsets, which sculpt women’s silhouette, and the characteristics of folds, laces and floral pattern of the Baroque era to create this dress.

This wide-sleeve outer garment is called “Houppelande”. It was men’s outfit during the Renaissance in Italy. It has embroidery, gold and silver trimmings and jewelry as ornaments. This piece of costume was made for Romeo’s father, Lord Montague, in Shakespeare’s well-known play Romeo and Juliet.

This wooden jumbo audiotape is a beginner’s assignment for students in prop-making. Students were required to choose a piece of everyday object and enlarge it proportionally with different materials. In the production process, students must calculate the measurements accurately, while having a clear understanding of the object’s structure. Otherwise, it would be impossible to produce a perfectly magnified audiotape.

This silver frame is called “truss”. You must have seen it in pop concerts or performances in shopping malls. It is usually used to hang audio speakers or lighting equipment. As trusses are lightweight, safe and easy assemble and disassemble, they are also often used in theatre productions, especially in outdoor performances, where they can bring their advantages into play.