(td)squared Blog

Learn about what we’re doing, learning, and discovering as technical theatre students at the University at Buffalo.

Different Types of Glue and Their Uses in Model Building

There exist many types of glue and adhesives.  In the world of model building, there are many different ways to fasten or attach things.  For each of these processes, different types of glue can be useful.

Elmer’s White Glue – Elmer’s glue is your basic school glue. It generally dries clear.  It is somewhat thin, and therefore does not lend itself to the building of dimensional objects.  Elmer’s Glue is best for gluing pieces of paper to other pieces of paper.  One way to do this is by watering the glue down slightly.  This thins it to more of the consistency of paint, allowing you to paint it on with a paintbrush, therefore getting it only exactly where it needs to be.  Elmer’s glue does not take paint well, so any surface will need gesso-ing before painting.

Tacky Glue / Sobo – Tacky Glue is much thicker than Elmer’s Glue.  Therefore it lends itself easily to gluing together dimensional pieces, such as cut-and-fold furniture.  One major downside to Tacky Glue is its slow drying time.  You will end up spending a lot of your time holding pieces together, waiting for them to dry.

Spray Adhesive – Spray adhesive comes in an aerosol can.  It is best used for evenly attaching paper patterns to Bristol board or foamcore.  The upside to spray adhesive is that is applies quickly and evenly.  IF you use little enough, you can attach a pattern, cut the piece out, and then remove the pattern.  The downside to spray adhesive has the same origin as its upside.  Since it comes out of an aerosol can, it covers a large area at once, often a much larger area than you need.  This requires putting down paper or something else to protect your work surface, since another downside is that anywhere you put spray adhesive will remain sticky indefinitely.

Scotch Quick-Dry Adhesive – Quick Dry adhesive is like Tacky Glue without its one major downside; the drying time.  It dries twice as fast as Tacky Glue, meaning you waste less time sitting holding two pieces of Bristol board together.  It is a good all-purpose glue for model building.

Krazy Glue – Krazy Glue dries crazy fast.  It works well for quickly repairing pieces that have broken.  It comes in very small tubes, in liquid or gel form.  The Gel is often easier to work with, as it doesn’t drip all over the place.

Unconventional Costuming

Typically, when one thinks of designing costumes, you think of the fabric being used, color combinations, and textures desired.  However, sometimes, unconventional means are required in order to best bring the design rendering into reality. 


This semester, I was Costume Designer for the production of “Urinetown the Musical” at SUNY University at Buffalo.  With regards to the above, I am specifically referring to the female “Twah-lette” costumes that were created.  After discussions with the director and other designers, my thought process led me to want these dancers to appear show girl-like, but also to create the image of being toilet brushes, and included the image of toilet brushes on the bodice as well. 


Once the concept and rendering were complete, there came the complication regarding the dancers’ choreography; specifically, they were to be dancing and moving on the floor.  The initial problem I saw with this, were that fabric (even fabric supported with boning and other stiffening agents) would not keep the desired shape.  Through discussions with the costume shop, it was determined that the best course of action would be to use foam with fabric adhered, in order to create the desired shape, which would hold up under the choreographed decisions that were made.


The gathered foam created the perfect layers, which not only allowed the dancers to move as required, but fully transformed my rendering image into reality.  Throughout this process, I have learned that unconventional materials are sometimes the best materials for the job at hand.  It has also inspired me to create a cross-referenced table of unconventional materials and their properties, so that in the future, I’ll have a list of materials that can perform different tasks, and inspire greater costumes.

A Reflection on the Process of Creation.

The first step for me is to get motivated.
If I can find a reason to get excited to start something the next steps become so much easier. This is usually a moment in a show that catches my imagination while I read it, or even trying to solve the puzzles that the playwright gives us. Such as in Urinetown, I found that my motivation for the show was finding out what made each side tick.

The second step is to gain my own direction.
Once I have solved the issue of getting motivated I need to find a problem to solve. I can usually do this by defining parameters by which to contain the design, this creates an isolated problem in which I can work from many directions to find a solution. To define these parameters I like to break down ideas in the show   into one concise, poetic statement that defines some aspect of the show (action, mood, themes). I can use this as a grounding for my view of the show while talking to designers and directors.

These two steps lead to a great place jumping off point to create any kind of design. It boils down the show to the essence of what is happening to constrain it to the text, while be flexible enough for the director to make decisions on how the overall productions will look.

I have found an issue with this beginning process, I will create an analogy within the concise summary statement that is difficult to alter if the director views the show fundamentally different than I, which of course plays into my natural stubbornness.


Above and beyond the Arduino

There is a lot of hype about the Arduino in the theatrical world right now. The open source microprocessor provides a platform to base new design ideas and different solutions for old problems like triggering sound effects on an action. The Arduino allows for electronics that can be completely customizable to a large extent, and is very affordable, however at the lower price it starts to suffer from functional shortcomings.

First and foremost being memory. The chip can only hold so much information on it, and this isn’t just how large the program uploaded is, but also the buffers and allocated memory that the program needs to run. To make an LED blink is a simple program, however when we get into more complicated actions, such as communicating through midi or DMX the program becomes much more complex and needs to hold large amounts of information.

Secondly, the timers and the logic has some latency problems. The timers can only be so accurate and when pushing the processor the it tends to slow down in its computation, like an computer.

New solutions are emerging however, the Raspberry pi (http://www.raspberrypi.org/) is the next step. This board is more like a computer. It has a graphic user interface and allows for USB connections and ethernet connections built in. The board boasts a better processor, better networking capabilities, and easier integration with store bought technology.

These both have their Pros and Cons, but in a world that is becoming more integrated with technology and where more people are willing to learn rather than buy, i foresee these boards become very powerful, very quickly, and having many more uses in theater than we know now.


Costume Challenges

With UB’s production of “Urinetown the Musical” came the challenge of building two costumes for the female Twah-lette dancers. The design idea was a corset-type bodice with a tutu. The challenge came with the news that the two dancers would lie down on the floor during their routine, so the shop needed to find a material that would spring back into shape after being flattened.

After a brainstorming session with the costume shop managers and the designer, the idea of fabric covered foam came into being. Three layers of cartridge-pleated foam with confetti dot fabric glued onto it became a flexible tutu.

In order to make the bodice washable, the decorative toilet brushes had Velcro sewn onto the back of them for easy removal.

The Twah-lette costumes are a  rather unique challenge to add to my theatre experience and I am happy to say that they turned out to be just what the designer wanted.

The original mock-up of the foam tutu.

The original mock-up of the foam tutu.

Skirt under layer with first layer of foam tutu.

Skirt under layer with first layer of foam tutu.

All three foam layers with tulle in-between to hide the exposed foam.

All three foam layers with tulle in-between to hide the exposed foam.

Final bodice with green glitter stripes and brushes attached with Velcro.

Final bodice with green glitter stripes and brushes attached with Velcro.


The USITT Upstate meeting that took place at the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts was an amazing experience. Han Lixun, the designer of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was the headlining speaker. Hearing him speak was very interesting. Han brought up some of the issues faced and how the design team was able to create solutions that were visually stunning. What struck me the most was how the design process that they used was very similar to what we do here in the United States.  Han’s English was very limited. However, when showing some of our work, he could easily understand what we were doing and what our paperwork meant. This really proved to me how design is a language of its own. After hearing him talk and going to some amazing workshops, we were able to attend dinner with everyone, including Mr. Lixun.  At dinner, we learned some more about his background and what it was like to be a designer in China. As the evening was coming to a close, Han went on to offer a visit to his studio in Beijing! Hopefully one day I might be able to take him up on his offer! Overall, this was an amazing event that I am very glad I was able to experience. Hopefully something similar to this will happen again in the near future.

Urinetown Electrics

Being the Assistant Master Electrician on Urinetown was a great learning experience and was not what I expected at all. This was my first time working on a musical of this size and scale. However, I still felt confident that everything would fall into place and would be done on time. I quickly learned otherwise. Even though we were able to get a head start on the electric process, a lot of the help that was given to us was very inexperienced. It was going to be a challenge to get everything done in the proper time frame.

Urinetown was also a technically advanced show. It took advantage of approximately 20 American DJ Mega Pars, 6 Vari*Lite VL3000’s, and 12 Wybron scrollers on top of the conventional units.

However, one of the hardest issues I faced as the AME was actually not with the equipment. It was more difficult for me delegate the labor force given to me.  It’s a special skill to be able to direct people around and have them work on different projects while overseeing it all.

Luckily, after much hard work and many hours, everything came together nicely and Urinetown turned out wonderful!

Urinetown: Two Sided Panels

The panels created for Urinetown uses different techniques that uses material beyond just paint for their surface treatment. There are two looks that the panels tries to capture: one is the ugc corporation bathroom tiles and the other is the grotty cement walls of the street/amenity.

Screen Shot 2013-04-27 at 7.04.39 AM
This image captures a moment in the show where officer Lockstock and Barrel meets Hope on the corner street. In the scene, you can see the texture that was created on the panels. The process used to create this texture starts off with adding a layer joint compound to areas on the panels that desires texture. The joint compound creates on its own a dimension and texture that can catch shadows. The joint compound was mixed with glue and sand so that it can stay on the panels better. The next step was using a sponging method to paint it. Max did a great job sponging the panels to add age and distress to them. The joint compound texture already on the panel help in trapping paint pigments in areas that had more depth.

Screen Shot 2013-04-27 at 7.03.17 AM
On the other side of the panels was used during the Urine Good Company scenes. It wants to look like bathroom tiles that had the logo UGC on it. The panels are MDF (Medium Density Fiber) boards that had groves cut into them to create a grid for the panels. The groves were cut using a V shape tooth so to give it a rounded look that you might see in the motar. After the panels are cut, they were painted white and black for the lettering. On top of that, glossy paint was added to the face of the tiles to give it a shine. It was consciously decided that the groves would not be glossed as they represent mortar which is typically matte.

The two painting techniques worked very well on stage. By working with the shop and the paint department, the paint treatment on the panels turned out to be a success.

Distressing: ‘Urinetown’

So ‘Urinetown’ had its 10 out of 12 on Sunday. It was the first time the actors were in full costume and under lights on stage,  so at the end of rehearsal, DJ (the director) had a few notes for the costume team. One of which was that the poor costumes didn’t look poor enough. They needed to be distressed. At first, I was rather upset, because I had thought that distressing would involve a large amount of work and that nothing would be done in time for the next dress rehearsal. On Monday, I was helped out Rachel, Donna, and everyone at the costume shop, and was then able to learn more about distressing. I never realized that the textile paint I was playing with in Costume Construction earlier in the semester was not only a fabric paint, but could also create these great effects on clothing, like pit stains, water marks, and other such gross effects. It turns out it wasn’t so scary after all, the costumes were done on time, and now I understand what is really involved in distressing clothing.I even got to help in distressing Gabrielle Petrosino’s hair bows for her Little Sally costume! *

Creation of the O’Bobby Painting

Everyone is aware of this graphic that became known in the presidential election. In the production of Urinetown, we want to imitate this style on our own hero of the show, Bobby Strong. The following are steps taken to achieve the final look.
Actor Jordan Hoffman posing in a heroic posture.
In Photoshop or Illustrator, make the image grayscale with 4 colors of grey.
In Photoshop or Illustrator, replace the four grays with colors. In this case a vibrant red, a dull blue, a black and white. The colors are chosen to imitate the original posture but also designed to be part of the visual language of the set.
photo (17)
The outlines of the image is simplified in the actual painting so that lines are definite and clear.