Monday, October 22, 2012


"Peaked caps and jodpurs and black uniforms, swastikas armbands and Lugers in hand, totenkopf lightning bolts Art Deco wings; these are a few of my favorite things..."

My browser history is filled with material about the SS right now.  Plus a lot of the early history of W.W.II, particularly the anschlu├č, and a whole bunch of material on radio procedures in the heer and cryptography and so forth.  I have several pdfs on the hard drive and DropBox space, and -- even more scary -- videos of rallies and marches.  My dollar mp3 player is filled with German marching songs and other martial tunes.  I've been brushing up on my own spoken German, and have even learned to sing a verse or two of the Horst Wessel lied.

I work in musical theater.

All of the above has nothing to do with any National Socialist leanings on my part, but signifies only and exactly that the current production in tech is "The Sound of Music."  And is probably neither the first nor the last time theatrical activities can or have led to what looks like suspicious interests.

There's a great story I was told by a props person once.  They needed a bunch of accurate-looking modern weapons for a production, and a friend of a friend of the director worked for one of the big suppliers for Hollywood.  They would loan the guns needed to the production for a nominal charge, but....they didn't want to drive all the way up to the Bay Area.

So arrangement was made that each would drive half-way.  The meeting was to be in Barstow, a fairly small town in a rather barren stretch of near-desert.  And the convenient spot was outside of a Denny's on the outskirts of town.  And the convenient time was slightly before midnight.  And the guy from the prop house, and my prop master friend, both showed up at this darkened parking lot in the middle of nowhere driving black windowless vans, and as they were transferring lots of shiny (but completely non-functional) rifles and machine guns, the thought went through my friend's head that this would be a really bad time for the local police or sheriff's department to drive by.

I'm actually surprised no techie of the geekier bent (like myself) has gotten grabbed at an airport or somewhere else where bags filled with mysterious bits of wire and electronics and blinking lights raise the red flags for security. least it hasn't happened to anyone I know yet.  There are certainly stories around the Maker community of such things.

 Well, I'm not designing any other shows at this very second, and none of them have elements that are particularly charged.  My last show I was researching chocolate and the manufacture of confectioneries, and the show before that I was interested in pirates, Gilbert and Sullivan, and sleepy little English seaside resort towns.  And Atom Punk and Teddy Boys.  It was a strange production!

On the other hand, my current history is a lot of CBW stuff; readings on strontium 40, weaponized anthrax, the pan-atropine auto-injector, Castle Bravo and the Tsar Bomba...  But then, the friend I'm building this prop for is looking even more like some sort of crazed survivalist in his Morrow Project research.

Theater is a strange duck.  Although in an ordinary life it is easy to walk backwards into what will become a life-long fascination with something completely esoteric, theater is more distinctly imposed.  You may have no particular interest in the birds of Austria or Change Ringing or the Luytens bell or how to blow a boatswain's whistle, but the show of the moment demands you learn enough to allow the audience to suspend their disbelief. 

And maybe a little more...I haven't worked a production "The Wizard of Oz" yet in which we didn't trade a few bits of trivia about The Movie (or about the books, which are truly weird.)

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