Big Props: Paintbrushes

Dear Constant Reader,

For the next installment in the Big Props series, the paintbrushes. A few years ago we designed a touring show called The Fine Art of Burlesque. The structure of the show was such that it could be done by any three dancers plus Scratch plus a local special guest, so we only needed one car and one hotel room.

Betty created a jewelbox number in which could be done by any three dancers. Some of us learned just one part (that would be me), others learned two, so any combination of us could do it. And to make sure that the audience really got the Fine Art theme right off, we were all dancing with staves that looked like great big paintbrushes.

Photo by Rich Jarvis at the Coolidge Corner Theatre

The brushes are made from PVC pipe, a popular material with us, because it’s sturdy, light, and doesn’t need specialty tools to cut. The “bristles” were made from black feather trim. The “handle” was capped on the end, painted, and decorated with silver foil tape. I think they came out pretty nicely.

Scratch built a wooden box in which to carry them and also the picture frame backdrop (more on that in another missive). The box was perfectly designed to go on the roof of the car, but it took almost all of us to heft it up there and get it secured. That was always an amusing end to loading out.

Pros: Looks good. Exactly what we wanted. Easy to handle. Inexpensive to make. Pretty easy to transport. I think they’re about 5 feet and change long, so if we’re not transporting an entire show’s worth of people and gear, they can go inside the car.

Con: The only one I can think of is that they’re not very versatile. We’ve only ever used them for that one number. There’s not a lot of call for over-sized paintbrushes. It was the dance that turned out to be more versatile. We’ve since done it with something like five different designs of staves and it’s one of our go-to group numbers.