St. Marys artists are key contributors to Festival’s amazing props
By Stewart Grant
A well-attended reception at the Station Gallery on Friday, June 7th marked the opening of the “Fabulous Fakes” exhibit, which features the some of the incredibly realistic prop creations from the Stratford Prop department and Archives which have been used in past seasons at the Stratford Festival.
Cameron Porteous, Curator of the Gallery, spoke with great enthusiasm about the exhibit which will be on display through to July 20th.
“This is a very special exhibit to have here in St. Marys,” said Porteous in his opening comments.
Remarking on the importance of well-designed props to a successful theatre production, Cameron said, “As an actor, you have to be grounded in your performance somewhere. Most actors will tell you that they draw their energy from the floor and what’s around them. It’s important to actors, that these props are so real that they can draw the energy from them for a great performance, and so that you as an audience member believe that it is a real thing and not a fake.”
In reflecting on the latest exhibit, Porteous gave thanks to the Town of St. Marys, the Mayor and Council, for giving permission to have the gallery hosted at the railway station in the first place. “This was a courageous thing for them to do, and it’s working,” said Cameron. “We’ve become a destination, with people coming in from all over the place. Even today for example, our guest book includes visitors from Tennessee.”
In addition to appreciatively acknowledging the contributions of local sponsors, businesses and Friends of the Gallery, Cameron highlighted the many individuals in attendance who helped create the amazing props on display. Some of the Festival team members live right here in St. Marys, such as senior prop builders Heather Ruthig, Ken Dubblestyne, and Jennifer McDonald, along with buyer Tracy Fulton.
Those in attendance at the reception had a chance to mingle with prop builders and learn about the process of developing such realistic props.
During my visit with Heather Ruthig, I asked her about the lifelike “sheep” prop which she built for the Festival production “As You Like It”:
“It (the sheep) was based on a Salvador Dali painting,” said Ruthig. “The frame is all welded together because it had to be sat upon, and it had a lot of action onstage! People were sitting on it, laying on it, doing all kinds of things on it. It’s basically an upholstered bench. There is a metal frame all inside it going up into the neck. The face I carved out of foam and then fibreglassed. These are actual taxidermy eyes. I molded the eyelids out of a sculpting compound. We found this beautiful fur and then it gets some paint in it and some gel to give it the right look and texture. It took a few weeks to make it.”
Over 100 different props are on display at the Station Gallery’s “Fabulous Fakes” exhibit, each one being the culmination of hours and hours of painstaking work by talented props builders.
The St. Marys Station Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Be sure to check out the “Fabulous Fakes” while they remain in town. For more information, visit the Gallery’s website at www.stmarysstationgallery.ca.