Bob: A life in 5 acts

Keri

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Texas
So I'm a High School student director and the show I'm working on right now requires a car that can drive onstage. Also, the trunk of another car, plausibly big enough for a person to fit in. I have no idea how to accomplish this effectively, and I would really hate to end up putting a cardboard cutout of a car onstage. Does anyone have any ideas that may help?
 

RonHebbard

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Waterdown, ON, CA
So I'm a High School student director and the show I'm working on right now requires a car that can drive onstage. Also, the trunk of another car, plausibly big enough for a person to fit in. I have no idea how to accomplish this effectively, and I would really hate to end up putting a cardboard cutout of a car onstage. Does anyone have any ideas that may help?
Let's ease into this with a few questions:
- Will your stage support the weight of two suitable cars?
- Is your stage large enough to accommodate two suitable cars within acceptable sightlines?
- If the cars are stripped of flammable fluids, your fire marshal will likely find them acceptable.
- Is the sound of the running motor(s) important?
I've lit at least one production with three late model cars parked on stage above a full width trap room, albeit they were all stripped of flammable fluids and batteries, parked for four weeks and never had to run while in the theatre. Fortunately they were all delivered to our loading docks on flatbeds and manually pushed into position. I've also toured a musical production with seven motor cycles, all of which had to start in the wings, rev' up and enter simultaneously from both sides in a blackout with their lights lit and their drivers gunning their engines. We produced and opened this in Toronto, toured it to western Canada then down to SanFrancisco for a month then to Broadway's Shubert where I sat with the production for six weeks before heading home and leaving the show in local one's hands. You should be able to organize the use of a car or two with appropriate insurance and a contra-deal for program credits. Do your cars need to be brand new? Can your car be pulled onstage with an aircraft cable winched from the opposite wing, a driver in place to steer and an appropriate sound effect? C'mon! Put your creative brain in gear, begin with what you CAN do, NOT what you can't, then progress to your acceptably achievable solution. NEVER start from a position of defeat.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 
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kicknargel

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Denver, CO
It would help to explain more about the use; what the cars need to do; realistic or stylized, etc. Almost no stage would be big enough to steer a car via it's regular steering, unless the path was very simple.

Run some searches on here; there have been quite a few threads over the years. In addition to "car" try "Greased Lightning" and "Crazy for You." One option is to convert a golf cart, or build from golf cart parts. Or build up an electric wheelchair. Or build from scratch and "flintstone" the thing (use your feet sticking out the bottom). You can make it as realistic as your time, budget and talent allow.

More of a story than advice: for Full Monty we took a non-running car (my old Geo Metro) and posted on craigslist for someone to strip all non-visible parts (engine, tranny, muffler, gas tank etc.) They did the work and got to keep the parts. Then we welded heavy-duty swivel casters to the axels. This proved difficult because as you transfer the weight, the suspension changes the geometry. Next time we'd find a way to disable the suspension first. But we ended up with a car that could be pushed around the stage like any piece of scenery. And I took a deduction for donating the car.
 

seanandkate

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If I may suggest an alternate approach: often new directors get caught up in how to make things realistic. Especially in your situation, to get a realistic car to do the things that you might want, it could be excessively cost / labour / etc prohibitive. So switch gears. If you could only do it with lights, sound and the props / set pieces you already have on stage, how might you go about it? Use the imaginative power of the audience. It's what makes live theatre special. A semi-realistic car will usually feel like an incomplete car, whereas if I just put 4 chairs on a rolling platform pushed by clearly visable actors accompanied by car sound effects, the audience will know exactly what I'm doing and won't be bogged down by the fact that it doesn't look like a car. They know it's a car. I theatrically told them so.
 

RonHebbard

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Waterdown, ON, CA
If I may suggest an alternate approach: often new directors get caught up in how to make things realistic. Especially in your situation, to get a realistic car to do the things that you might want, it could be excessively cost / labour / etc prohibitive. So switch gears. If you could only do it with lights, sound and the props / set pieces you already have on stage, how might you go about it? Use the imaginative power of the audience. It's what makes live theatre special. A semi-realistic car will usually feel like an incomplete car, whereas if I just put 4 chairs on a rolling platform pushed by clearly visable actors accompanied by car sound effects, the audience will know exactly what I'm doing and won't be bogged down by the fact that it doesn't look like a car. They know it's a car. I theatrically told them so.
@seanandkate And the driver's holding a steering wheel in his hands and miming steering and leaning into the corners, right?
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 
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microstar

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Lawton, OK
You could go to a friendly auto salvage yard and ask if you could borrow the front end sheet metal (fenders/hood/bumper) of a small car and set them on a castered platform. Don't bother with the seat and steering wheel, just use a bench or chair.
 

RonHebbard

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Waterdown, ON, CA
@seanandkate And the driver's holding a steering wheel in his hands and miming steering and leaning into the corners, right?
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
@seanandkate Back in the 1970's and / or 80's a genuine British panto' used to tour in every year usually hitting Hamilton and Ottawa during the Christmas / New Years season. One year a police car was supposed to drive on stage. They went abruptly to black, a recorded siren effect wailed in from a distance getting louder and closer then suddenly there were a pair of car headlights and a rotating alternating red and white beacon racing about the stage. After having been in black for 10 seconds or so, scene lights restored to reveal a supermarket shopping cart containing a 12 volt car battery, a four foot wide by one foot tall plywood plank affixed horizontally across its front, two of the old 7" sealed beam automotive headlights secured within holes cut in the plywood and the cart being pushed helter-skelter about the stage by a clown wearing a battery powered rotary light on his head, the sort of light you'd normally find on a police car. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, the clown may have been hand-cranking one of those old fire sirens we used to find in our public schools back in the 1940's and 50's. It was a great effect, never failed to startle the patrons and ALWAYS brought the house down when the lights came up to reveal the clown with his modified shopping cart.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 
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RonHebbard

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Waterdown, ON, CA
You could go to a friendly auto salvage yard and ask if you could borrow the front end sheet metal (fenders/hood/bumper) of a small car and set them on a castered platform. Don't bother with the seat and steering wheel, just use a bench or chair.
@microstar @seanandkate @Keri While you're at the wreckers, you could always score a steering wheel without the steering column for the driver to hold in their hands and mime driving. Possibly you could get a wheel from before the air-bag era as it would be lighter to hold and with no risk of the pyro detonating.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 

kicknargel

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Location
Denver, CO
It's worth noting for the OP's sake that you can barely fit a person in the driver seat of the Geo Metro, muchless the trunk :D
Poppycock! I still drive a slightly newer, CHEVY Metro (4 whole cylinders!) which is plenty roomy in the front and with the back seats folded down, a pretty good hauler. I once shipped the set pieces in this picture in it, ground support and all. Granted, my rental scenery is cleverly collapsable. Never underestimate the hatchback! </hijack>

IMG_2137.JPG
 

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