You may recall that when we were putting together Base Instruments for the first run at Arisia 2017, the challenge arose for us to somehow get the victrola prop that is a major presence in the story. While there are a number of record players on eBay and similar places that use the pressed vinyl disc, at this point in history the phonograph relied upon wax cylinders. It’s significantly harder to find even replicas of that older form of the technology. So we decided we would make one, and we’ll be bringing it to our performances at the 2017 Watch City Steampunk Festival.
When last I posted about this, I had a plan for it, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. I got a hold of all the pieces I thought could be put together for the final product— a clock crank, a brass horn, a sturdy wooden box, and the assembly from the top of a typewriter to stand in for the mechanism of the player. But it took assistance from Bernie, our technical director and the man with the knowhow to realize all these stories’ ridiculous stage needs, to actually build it.
First he drilled a hole in the side of the box to put the crank through, affixing it with a nut on the inside so it could spin. More holes were drilled in the lid so that the typewriter assembly could be attached with U-shaped bolts. He made a large hole, this time with a paddle bit, in the lid and got some interlocking pieces of PVC, which we sprayed gold to match the color of the brass horn. He attached half of it to the box and the other half to the horn, then screwed them together so hold it up as the speaker.
The final touch was provided by cast member Brian Rust, who brought us a fat black candle to serve as the wax cylinder. The candle’s scent, incidentally, was listed as “black cat,” which makes me particularly glad we needed it to stand in for a piece of our old timey not-record-player rather than burning it.
I was very happy with how it came out. It’s quite heavy, but fortunately it doesn’t need to move around much. It has exactly the right look I was hoping for, old-fashioned and attractive but a little bit industrial— perfect to add more design flavor to a fully-realized steampunk show.
Vivat Regina and Base Instruments by Phoebe Roberts will be performed at 2PM and 6PM respectively at 274 Moody Street in Waltham, MA as part of the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2017.