Little Shop of Horrors Dentist Gas Mask

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ShawnHallDesign

New Member
Hey Folks,

My RHPS shadowcast, Formal Dress Optional, is doing a production of Little Shop of Horrors next month and I will be playing Orin Scrivello, D.D.S.

My big project for this is making the gas mask that Steve Martin wears. I found it interesting that through all my searching I could not find anyone who had actually replicated this prop, just many different concepts on the mask for productions of the play.

Reference Shots
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ShawnHallDesign

New Member
Progress So Far: Wednesday night I created the base harness out of a $5 Home Teapot mixing tub that I cut to shape and then heated to curve. I'm thinking I might make the paddle part behind my head a slight bit smaller but I'm unsure. I also am considering covering the piece with a leatherey material, as it looks like the original has a bit of texture to it.

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ShawnHallDesign

New Member
Now I'm hunting for all the bits and bobs to add to this beast. It is surprisingly hard to find Nasal Hoods that aren't in a huge bulk quantity, but I've got a bid on an 8pk, and with any luck that will be here on the 2nd. The thicker parts of the silver tubes I'm thinking will be sink connector hoses, though I haven't decided what to use for the thinner parts. The two gas canisters will be faked with Smart Water bottles, and I'm thinking the piece between them with the wing nut on top will be a short water bottle as well.
 
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Gixxerfool

Well-Known Member
The thinner tubes you could use brake line or fuel line. You can source lengths from almost any auto parts store. There are lengths that are easier to bend, they are labeled such.
 

DocNewborn

Well-Known Member
I've acted in three productions of LSOH, and directed one myself back in 2012.

The problem with replicating the film design for the stage, as we attempted in a 1991 show, is that in the play version, Orin has an additional song to sing WHILE he's suffocating. This was omitted for the film.

Covering your mouth/nose and singing are not the easiest two requirements to fulfill simultaneously.

Putting a mic inside the mask just amplifies the muffled quality.

Will your production be keeping "Now (It's Just the Gas)" or will that song be omitted in favor of Steve Martin-style dialogue?

Alex
 

ShawnHallDesign

New Member
Were going to be shadow casting it, the same way we do Rocky Horror, so we'll have the film on the screen and act it out at the same time. So I'll be doing exactly the lines Steve Martin had.

I'll take a look at fuel lines. Thanks!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

DocNewborn

Well-Known Member
My bad, I somehow missed the word shadowcast in the first post.

I was in a shadowcast of Ghostbusters last year for the 30th anniversary, as Venkman. We mostly lip-synched (except for the occasional added riff) to the picture.

It was a total blast. There were moments when I'd see my costars doing a gesture so perfectly in rhythm with the original cast on the screen above us, I felt like I was inside the frame.

Playing a Bill Murray role was familiar; I'd also played his masochistic dental patient from LSOH three times... in 1989, 1991, and 2008. Even though it's not in the stage script, we've always snuck it back in.

Are you shadowcasting the theatrical release or the director's original ending, which is also the 'unhappy ending' from the play?

And how is your show handling the part of my other favorite role, Audrey II? (Voiced it thrice, puppeteered it once.) Will you be using a series of ever-larger puppets, or will it be someone in a costume?

Alex
 

ShawnHallDesign

New Member
That's awesome! I've seen the cast in NYC perform ghostbusters a few times and it is always a blast.

Another person on cast is taking in making Audrey II but I believe her plan is to build off of one of those toys that that is an animal head on a stick and when you squeeze the handle the mouth opens for the small one. Then for the medium one she's building a hand puppet. Then for the large one it will technically be a costume but the control will be puppet like. The guy inside will do a lot of bowing to open and close the mouth.

We're doing the directors cut, which is going to be awesome. We've decided that for the final scene where the plants take over the city we will just drop the lights and let that happen on the screen since we can't feasibly do that on stage without spending a ton of cash on multiple large Audrey IIs. During it we are going to sneak out plant up close to the audience to jump up when it bursts through the screen though.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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DocNewborn

Well-Known Member
I got to see the director's cut on the big screen in October of 2013, the year after it came out on Blu-Ray.

No shadowcast, sadly, but I was amazed how good the final 'burst through the screen' effect looked when properly projected.

It's definitely a diminished effect when seen on home video.

I can share some pics and tips on how our two largest puppets worked, if you're interested.

Alex
 

DocNewborn

Well-Known Member
These puppets are rentals, originally built by my buddy Ryan Sims when he was 17 years old for his high school production of LSOH. The puppets were 25 years old when I inspected them for my own production in October 2012, and had just been refurbished in February of that year by Donnie Bryan, the director for whom I had played the Voice three times.

In the stage show, the puppet has four sizes which are referred to in the script as Pods One through Four. Here's a pic of Donnie holding Pod Three, with Pod Four visible on a table in the background, its nose pointing upward.



My buddy John Givens (in glasses) went with me to Donnie's high school in Nashville for the inspection. John had more professional experience as a puppeteer than I did, and was one of the first people that I contacted after the theatre board approached me about directing this show. On the table in front of him are Pods One and Two, used in the songs "Grow For Me" and "Don't It Go To Show Ya Never Know" (replaced in the film by "Some Fun Now".)



For Pod One, I had a crazy idea of constructing a 'table' that would conceal a puppeteer just within the space of how far a tablecloth drapes. In essence, it was a coffin on stilts, with some poor schnook curled up in the fetal position, operating the puppet through a hinged panel in the fabric.



Yep, there's a person hidden inside that table! We had borrowed a solid unit from another theatre that already had hidden openings for a puppeteer's arms, but I went ahead and had this one specially built because I didn't want anything that looked *obviously* large enough to be concealing a puppeteer. It was vital that the audience see their legs underneath the cloth.

But when I realized the table was visible from the top of the show until the "Grow For Me" song approximately twenty minutes in, and that the puppeteer would have to be in place for the duration, I volunteered to be the guy entombed inside of it night after night. For the four performances of the show, I spent a cumulative eighty minutes of my life inside that box, to do a grand total of four minutes' worth of puppetry.

My friend Amber Rhodes played Audrey, decked out in a blonde wig. She would sometimes reach into the fake table and pat me on the shoulder for encouragement. But the funniest story of this experience came from Mr. Mushnik, played by Randy Pettus. (Randy had played Seymour in the 1989 production that I was in.) One night he's standing right behind the box, while some other song or dialogue is happening downstage, and he leans in and whispers, "Hey, Alex... have you ever seen Police Academy?" I immediately got the reference and was having a claustrophobic fit trying to stifle my laughter without visibly shaking the box.

By the way, these photos-- both those from the inspection tour and then during an actual performance-- were all taken by my friend Jaime Hitchcock, herself a puppet-builder, who was able to replicate one of Ryan's quarter-century-old puppets in a week's time for a certain switcheroo special effect I wanted to add, to help sell the illusion that Twoey could move on its own.

Pod Two is a neat trick... its puppeteer is actually Seymour. It's built into a jacket with a fake arm and hand.





The only problem is, the audience quickly figures out the trick and gets a little bored with it. But if there's one thing I learned from Jim Henson, if you keep changing the way the trick is done, it makes the illusion of life much easier to accept.

By having an additional Pod Two constructed to match, we started off with Seymour entering, holding the plant. He sets it down on a table. A hidden puppeteer makes it move by itself, and we can see both of Seymour's hands freely gesturing. He picks it up and exits, does a quick-change into the phony-arm-rig and re-enters with what looks like the same puppet, still appearing to move on its own. People asked me after the show if it had been achieved with a remote control puppet.

Here's a great pic from after the show one night... Jaime on the left holding her reproduction Twoey Two-Bee, and Ryan on the right holding his original 25-year-old Pod Two.



I know somewhere I've got a better pic of the two puppets side by side that shows their similarities better, just can't locate it in a format that's already online.

MORE TO COME!

Alex
 

DocNewborn

Well-Known Member
Pod Three, the puppet that sings "Feed Me"/"Git It", is built like a huge sock puppet, except the puppeteer's torso is bent sideways inside the upper jaw, where a normal puppet would contain the four fingers of the hand. Meanwhile, his other arm is inside the lower jaw, where a small puppet would only have a thumb.

Here's a candid shot that Jaime snapped of me demonstrating the Pod Three stance without the puppet on!



John played this particular size of Audrey II... but he was so tall and the actor playing Seymour was so short that even with John bent sideways he was still a head above.

Here's John the very first time he tried Pod Three on, standing up straight with one arm stretched out inside the upper jaw. You can see what a crouch he had to be in to sink down to the height of the actor, who was about the same height as me.



John said he could do it from his knees, but this adversely affected his balance and made him slightly TOO short. If only there was another joint mid-shin that he could have flexed. I asked how he felt about radical surgery, but he declined.

Our last-minute solution was to build a sliding section of floor that would allow John's feet to be a full twelve inches below where actor Dillon Green's were. It really helped it look much less like a human inside a puppet, too. Jaime came to deliver the extra puppet one night-- Pod Two-B, or "Twoey Two-Bee" as we dubbed it-- and didn't even realize how we had cheated John's height to sell the effect.

I cast several members of my improv comedy troupe friends as the various 'guest star' roles (John Candy, Bill Murray, Jim Belushi) and one of them, Michael Hill, as Steve Martin's character Orin.

His mother Diane is also my seamstress, having done several sewing projects for me in the past, including patchwork for my Ghostbusters flightsuits. On this show, she got some unusual sewing requests, though!

I had Diane construct giant leaves of foam, which I spray-painted, and I puppeteered those from a kneeling position directly behind John, with my torso and face concealed by additional foliage. This gave the plant a great deal more life and again broke up the obvious 'guy in a suit' outline of how it was being manipulated.



I was also proud of that "This is Audrey II" sign that I personally constructed, styled after a prop in the film. It was one of my souvenirs after the show was over.

Pod Four, the one that sings "Suppertime", is a Volkswagen-sized behemoth weighing 140 pounds.

It's very counter-intuitive to manipulate because it works completely the opposite of a hand puppet. You hold its lower jaw shut except when you allow gravity to drop it down to speak, pushing it closed again on the off beat.



Originally designed for a theatre that had the ability to fly in scenery, we were using it in a building that was designed as a moviehouse first and only recently converted to a stage. Its ceiling wouldn't support the weight, and was too far overhead anyway. Plus, every time I've seen this thing suspended on a wire like a gigantic marionette, it's ruined the illusion for me.

I doodled a sketch for my engineer friend Robb Girnus of a possible way to support it from directly behind on a moving boom. Robb said, "This reminds me of something..." before the eureka moment struck him and he said, "Alex, you've drawn an engine hoist!" He made a phone call to a friend, and 45 minutes later, an engine hoist arrived, and we quickly had the 140 lb. puppet up and rehearsing.

I was the puppeteer for Pod Four, mainly by dint of having played the Voice three times previously. It somehow gave me a better intuition at that awkward counter-intuitive lip sync timing, and as a happy accident this allowed John the chance to get some face time, as Mr. Bernstein during the song "Meek Shall Inherit".

My sons were both in the show, as part of the "Skid Row" crowd scene. One night I was lamenting the fact that there was no way for me to operate the tongue of Pod Four, which was an arm-sized sleeve built into the lower jaw. Inspiration flashed, and I called backstage for my then-nine-year-old to join me INSIDE the gargantuan puppet. He was the perfect height to stand right beside me and operate the tongue, almost like it had been designed exactly to our sizes.

The only downside of the engine hoist system was that we lost the ability to quickly raise and lower the puppet, which is necessary for scenes where it eats people (Mushnik, Audrey, and finally Seymour) because otherwise their weight would rip the lower jaw completely off. So, I would have to lift its entire 140-lb. weight to give the backstage crew enough slack to unclip it, then I would set it on the ground for the eating scenes, and then somehow I was able to dead-lift the puppet back up to full height for the crew to re-attach it. Three times a show, four performances that week... not bad for a guy who's had two hernia surgeries in his life. I lost two inches off my waist that week.

One more funny note on the 'eating' scenes. The lower jaw has a fabric flap that the actors can crawl through. When the puppet is in this configuration, there's much less room inside, so my son would step out through the hole in the rear wall.

We had both Mushnik and Seymour going through the plant's digestive tract head-first. But I really liked the feet-first way that Audrey is eaten in the director's cut-- which came out on Blu-Ray the same week our show opened, how's that for synchronicity?

So we had Dillon reverently place Amber into the plant's mouth feet-first. As I made the upper jaw chomp down over her, the actress who voiced the Plant, Emily Borden, would take Amber by the ankles and pull her slowly down the gullet.

One night, somehow we got Amber's feet on either side of a central support pole, the very thing that you use to open and close the lower jaw, instead of going to one side of it like we normally did. Emily is pulling, doesn't realize there's about to be a rather painful and embarassing stoppage once Amber's hipbone tries to go to both sides of the pole simultaneously. Amber's character is already dead, so she's used to just being limp in this scene, has no clue what's about to happen.

I did the only thing I could think of. While still controlling the upper jaw with my left hand, I thrust my right arm into the tongue-glove and grabbed Amber's lower leg and pushed it away and around to the other side of the pole, so she would slide past it instead of straddling it. I have no idea what this looked like to the audience, but Amber sure wondered why the Plant had gotten a lot friskier that night than ever before! Once I explained what I'd *prevented*, though, she thanked me for the quick thinking. LOL

Anyway, sorry for derailing the thread a bit. But maybe some of these puppetry stories will inspire you guys for additional tricks in the shadowcast. Enjoy!

Alex
 
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ShawnHallDesign

New Member
Alex, those are awesome, thanks! It looks like we'll be working on Audrey II on Sunday.

I had to set the gas mask aside for a little bit until I got paid but now that that's happened I can finally go out and buy all the stuff I need to put on it. My peach nasal hoods came in this morning and I'm excited to build off of it. If anyone else is going to make one of these and interested, I had to buy an 8 pack so I have seven more individually wrapped and nothing to do with them.

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ShawnHallDesign

New Member
Ok, running out of time and cash for this job. Bought a bunch of random things from the dollar store for their shapes and decided to go with PEX pipe since it was quick and easy. More on how I use all these as it progresses, if all goes well in the next hour or two.


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- - - Updated - - -

Oh and the smart water bottles. I filled them plus another smaller bottle with expanding foam two days ago with no result as I was an idiot and put the lids on while they tried to cure. Today I learned that water makes the foam aggressively cure, even if it is days old. I poured some in a bottle and holy crap it filled up fast. I had to stab a hole in the bottom to relieve pressure. Biggest fake zit ever. Blegh.
 

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