Recently, I had the opportunity to present a few questions to Steve Barikian, Assistant Prop Person of the touring company of Matthew Bournes’ musical adaptation of Edward Scissorhands. As you’ll see, to carry off such a production requires many heroes. One of which is Steve Barikian.
For those unfamiliar with stage productions, how would you describe the job of a props manager?
Well, actually I am the Assistant Prop person on this show; Andrea Sitler is the Head of the department. This show actually opened in London at Sadler Wells Theatre on November 23, 2005, before embarking on a UK tour which also stopped in Japan and Korea. So basically all of the props were already created and just shipped to us before we started the American run of the Show. The job entails maintaining the quality of the props used in the show, which may sound pretty basic, but if you could see the way some of the pieces have to travel in the truck, you would understand that it is no easy task.
What material is used most for the Edward set? What material gives you the most trouble?
The biggest headaches are the Christmas Tree and, of course, The Hands. The tree is too tall to store on a truck, standing straight, so we have to lay it on its face every time that we travel the show. I'm sure you can imagine how great it looks when we take it back off after it has spent a 22 hour drive resting on its branches. The ornaments break, the branches are crushed...it’s a mess. The hands, on the other hand, travel nice and neatly in their own box-but they get their wear and tear every time one of the boys puts his hands in them. From seeing the show, you can imagine the beating that those hands take every night. A lot of pressure is put on to them so a lot of upkeep is required to keep them working properly.
Logistically, a stage production such as this must be quite trying. Can you provide any details as to man hours of set up & take down; when does your day begin & end?
This show closed in Toronto on Saturday, April 7th at 10pm. We started breaking the set apart and loading the trucks at 10:30pm. We finished packing all of the trucks at 5:00am Sunday and headed straight to the airport in order to catch a 6:30am flight to Saint Paul. We got in to Saint Paul around noon and had the rest of the day to ourselves. Then Monday morning at 8am, we started loading the show into the Ordway Center. The load in took from 8am-7pm on Monday with a 1-hour dinner break. Then we came back in the next morning at 8am [and] worked til 1pm. We took a 1 hour lunch break from 1pm-2pm and then came back to prepare for a 3pm dress rehearsal. So basically it takes 15 hours to set the whole thing up, and about 6 and a half to take it down.
What is your go-to, fix-it-on-the-fly product of choice? (Mine's hot glue.)
Well, hot glue is incredible, but it takes too much time to heat up. If a piece breaks in one scene and then needs to go out again 2 minutes later, there is no time to let the gun heat up. So tape is actually my-fix-it-on-the-fly product of choice. The most distressing repair is always going to be THE HANDS. In order to fix the hands you need to go through a process called brazing [which] is a process of adjoining two pieces of metal. It requires the heating of two pieces of metal to extreme temperatures while melting a lighter metal alloy onto the pieces. The lighter metal melts easily but once the heat is taken off it hardens to about 1/3 of the strength as the metal that it has joined.
The most tedious part of brazing the hands, though, is having to strip the hands of each handle and blade every time a finger breaks and then reattaching them all after the finger is fixed. The high temperature torch would melt the handles and the blades very quickly, so obviously they need to be stripped from the hands before I can take a torch to the metal. So in order to fix 1 finger you have to strip 5 fingers of their blades and handles just to reattach them all again 5 minutes later.
If you could, what item from the production would you 'borrow' for your own personal use and or enjoyment and why?
Hmmm... tough question. The obvious answer would be the hands. I do not know if I would say for "personal use and enjoyment" but I would like a pair for nostalgia-and also how cool would it be to just have a pair of Scissorhands! BUT -For some reason the "Edward Leg" that is attached at the beginning of the show always amuses me. It seems like a lot of work went in to creating this leg- a knee like joint is actually in the leg to make it move and look as human as possible. But you never see the leg bend or anything... The Inventor just holds it up and sews it on. So that piece amuses me. Also when I'm bored sometimes I'll just sit on the beaten up couch and bend the leg...I don't know why I just told you that--since it is a completely random, time consuming thing to do. YES, Backstage Really Is That Exciting!!! Most of the props in this show are just basic furniture or regular things that you can buy from the store. So I would say that if I could take anything with me (AND I AM NOT GOING TO), it would be a pair of the hands, but if I were to take any two things, it would be the hands and the Edward Leg.
(I think, technically, that’s three things, Steve!)