Magazine article Stage Directions

Don't Go Cuckoo

Magazine article Stage Directions

Don't Go Cuckoo

Article excerpt

One props artisan went back to his childhood to quickly prototype the exploding cuckoo clock for Crazy for You

Anyone familiar with the musical Crazy For You knows it contains a number of trick props. One particular tricky bit involves a cuckoo clock which "cuckoos" during a scene. A few moments later, a cowboy shoots it and it "explodes." The challenge is to come up with a way that it can not only cuckoo and explode on cue, but for it to be easily reset for the next performance.

The design of the set for the particular production I was working on allowed for a crew member to operate the clock from behind. This allowed me to design a mechanism that could be operated or triggered by hand, thus simplifying a great number of details. I was imagining some sort of spring-loaded mechanism (sort of like a mouse trap) where a spring held in tension would suddenly be released when a pin was pulled, allowing various parts of the clock to pop out in a comical fashion. At the end of the scene, the parts could simply be pulled back together and the pin placed back in to make it ready to go again.

Of course, having the idea and making it a reality are two different things. Working out the mechanics of the various pivot points, hinges or other moving parts can be a nightmare to design. Even if you figure it out on paper, the properties of the materials may introduce unforeseen problems. You may pull the pin and find out the mechanism gets caught up, or cannot move the way you want it to. …

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