Sunday, November 18, 2007

theatre magic 101: how to ricochet a rock off somebody's face

I saw Lifeline Theatre's The Island of Dr Moreau on Friday. It was violent and disturbing -- and that was just the walk to the theatre through the Rogers Park neighborhood. Zing!

I loved the show. Charlie, who built the set, showed me this little trick. There's a part in a fight scene in the play when one character throws a baseball sized rock at another character's head, when Predick is fighting off one of the Manimals. The rock ricochets off the character's head, and hits the ground (the rock, not the head) with a convincing weight. It happens so fast in the midst of the fight, and it looks (and sounds) so real that the detail might not register.

The rock -- not a real rock, but something that would hurt a crap-load if someone chucked it at your face -- is tethered to the stage floor with a length of fishing line. The actor throws it and it snaps back at the end of the line, and the rock smacks the ground with the thud of a real rock. The actor on the receiving end of the rock sells the hit to the face with his proper placement -- likely a bit downstage from the trajectory of the rock -- and the reaction of getting hit in the face with a rock. Voila. It looks amazing. You can try that at home.