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Giving them Props: Swords in The Critic

We’re sure you’ve noticed that when you go to plays, the actors always seem to be holding things, exchanging things, fighting over things, or even, sometimes, fighting with things. Props are the unsung heroes of theatre—they help to establish the world of the play and for whatever the actors are going to do, props help give the actors something to do it with. But you hardly ever hear about all the work that goes into acquiring, building, maintaining, and perfecting those props, and we think it’s time to give our audiences a sneak-peak into just some of what is coming from our Props Department. It is time to give our Props Department, well, props.

For example, take a look at some of the work that went into the making of the swords for our production of The Critic.

Swords for The Critic 
Photos and descriptions courtesy of our Leads Prop Artisan, Chris Young.

We needed to trim the quillions (see diagram). This was done so that the sword would remain intact when the actor is disarmed in The Critic.


The bright orange color in the photo below is produced by a welding screen. These are all of the materials once the swords have been disassembled and the quillion ends have been cut.



Once the quillions have been cut, we have to grind the ends until they are smooth, just like you see in the photo below.


Finally, we have to reassemble the swords, making sure they are in proper condition to be used on stage.


Here is a sword we used in rehearsal that wasn’t robust enough for the disarm:


This sword is actually one of the older weapons in the Shakespeare Theatre Company prop-stock. It was made by Alan Meek who made the swords used in The Princess Bride. All of his weapons have his mark:



If you would like to see the swords in action onstage, The Critic and The Real Inspector Hound are showing at the Lansburgh Theatre from January 5 to February 14.


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