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Blood as Stage Property

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So, we've all heard about pig's blood in bladders, used as a special effect on the early modern stage. And we've probably all heard the naysayers-- those who suggest that costumes were far too valuable to risk staining in such a fashion.

However, I can't recall reading about these arguments, just hearing about them from professors (both at MBC and a professor where I am now, in AZ. Said AZ professor can't recall reading about these arguments either.)

So my question to you, oh illustrious former and present MLitters, do you know where any of these arguments or commentaries are played out? Who suggests that blood was used on stage and who suggests that Nay, it could not be?

(I'm writing a paper on The Fatal Dowry which is likely to become either an article and/or a chapter of my dissertation. I'd never dream of asking others to do my work for me, but this question regarding stage blood came to me late in the game (at least for this first draft, for a class) so I thought I would appeal to all of you.)

Any help would be appreciated!

(Also, you might be interested to know that a paper of mine, much of which involves the ASC productions of Fall '07, is going to be published next year in Shakespeare Bulletin. I'm waiting to tell Ralph & Co. 'til I have official offficial confirmation. But it should be seen that though I have left you, oh MLitters, I have not abandoned Original Practices!)
Current Mood:
curious curious
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On December 11th, 2008 01:56 am (UTC), lizabethanqueen commented:
I think the stage blood being a pain in the ass is a modern convention. Real blood is way easier to clean out of clothes than fake blood. Especially if it's fresh and not dried on. Fake blood has dyes that set into the cloth and you end up turning everything pink in the washer in the end... As a props person I would rather have to clean up real blood than fake corn syrup and dye blood. Of course we live in a world of germs and blood diseases so I might not be so keen on it...
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On December 11th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC), eilonwy replied:
This is very interesting. May I cite you in my paper? (My paper will have such interesting citations-- yesterday I interviewed another close friend who had studied forensics, to ask about the smell of blood and dead bodies!)
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On December 11th, 2008 02:28 am (UTC), lizabethanqueen replied:
Sure! I am a professional props master now.
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On December 11th, 2008 04:15 am (UTC), eilonwy replied:
Which is how I shall refer to you in my paper. :) You are so cool, by the way.
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On December 11th, 2008 03:38 am (UTC), luciernaga commented:
I actually was about to say, I've gotten lots of questions from people who want to make blood stains SET (I don't know why, they were crazy ren fair/anchronism thingumy people).

Blood is actually crazy easy to wash out, particularly out of natural fibers.

I mean, now, your dry-clean only stuff, I wouldn't try it. Pigs blood would be pretty super. Other than the icky factor.
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On December 11th, 2008 04:15 am (UTC), eilonwy replied:
Yeah, I'm not suggesting we go about dousing each other, 'cause, y'know, ew. But I've always heard how difficult it is to get blood out of fabrics, so this is really useful information, for natural fibers. Thanks!
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On December 11th, 2008 04:07 pm (UTC), lizabethanqueen replied:
I can send you swatches of stuff (I have so many silk and tapestry scraps at my disposal...) if you want to test stuff for yourself... But yes, blood comes out of silk and cotton way easy. I think the key is not letting it cake on and dry for a very long time.
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On December 11th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC), lizabethanqueen commented:
So I got a CFP about props and thought about this paper you're working on...

*The Prop's the thing: Stage Properties Reconsidered*

The Southeastern Theatre Conference
Theatre Symposium 2009
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
April 3-5 2009

Humble stage properties are objects which often escape notice when they
are functioning properly. The 2009 SETC Theatre Symposium will focus on
stage properties, the "things" used onstage. We encourage a variety of
approaches to the topic---from practical to theoretical. How are stage
properties created? (How are objects constructed, acquired, stored?
altered for use on stage?) How are props used? (by playwrights?
designers? directors? actors?) How do properties convey meaning? (as
signs? through their materiality? through their movement in space and
time?)

*Keynote speakers* for the event will be Andrew Sofer, author of /The
Stage Life of Props/, and Bland Wade, Director of Stage Properties at
the University of North Carolina, School of the Arts.

_Papers might explore:_

historical considerations---the use and significance of stage properties
on the Elizabethan/Jacobean stage, in melodrama, naturalism, symbolism, etc.

properties within specific theatrical traditions---Beijing opera,
commedia dell'arte

dramaturgical issues---ways props are used to expose character and
relationships

the translation from page to stage---(from word to object)

individual plays/productions with interesting prop requirements or
impressive use of props

prop as iconic experience/tradition (slapstick/ seltzer bottle)

prop challenges---consumable props, weapons, props that have to break,
trick props

protean props---single objects used to represent many other things on stage

mimed props---the absence of expected objects

training actors to manipulate objects on stage

real objects--handling props of historic or other significance/ props
with significance to actors (real skulls, objects passed from one
performer to another) vs. meaning for an audience

Please send one page paper abstracts by *January 12, 2009* to:

Dr. J.K. Curry
Editor, Theatre Symposium
Department of Theatre and Dance
Wake Forest University
P.O. Box 7264 Reynolda Station
Winston-Salem, NC 27109

curryjk@wfu.edu <mailto:curryjk@wfu.edu>
336 758-3941

Submissions by email attachment are encouraged. (Word document
preferred.) Selected papers from the symposium will be published in
/Theatre Symposium/, the annual journal of the Southeastern Theatre
Conference published by the University of Alabama Press.
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On December 12th, 2008 05:58 am (UTC), eilonwy replied:
This... looks like something I'll be applying to. thank you.
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On December 12th, 2008 05:08 am (UTC), elostiriel commented:
As far as assertions about the actual use of blood, I think I remember Gurr mentioning the bladders as a given (for what that's worth). I also recall reading about the use of vinegar rather than blood.

The Cambridge Intro to Shakespeare's Tragedies and their History of English and American Lit reference Preston's Cambises, which includes fairly descriptive stage directions (using vinegar) for achieving the illusion.

There are actually more references to the French using real blood on their stages (before Shakespeare) and I have a bib somewhere with a book that delves into great detail on the execution of such on stage. I'll have to go dig it up if you're interested.
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On December 12th, 2008 05:57 am (UTC), eilonwy replied:
In the book with Ichikawa, Gurr mentions the bladders as a given. As per usual, I've misplaced my other Gurr books, but doubt they'd say anything different. (I can never find Shakespearean Stage or Playgoing when I need them. Probably because I need them so much.) I'd not know anything about vinegar, and will have have to look into -- that's interesting though because one would think that the smell of vinegar would give it away as, well, vinegar, pretty much immediately. Interesting. I won't trouble you for the references re: the French unless this paper goes further and the committee type people want more, but thank you muchly for the offer.
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