PCS Blog

PCS Props Wizardy: A Custom-Built Crystal Chandelier

Posted by Alice Hodge | 04 February 2014

Lead Props Artisan Rachel Peterson Schmerge gave us the play-by-play on building a six foot custom chandelier for Chinglish.

Recreating the environment of a Chinese business class hotel for PCS’s production of Chinglish was a lesson in ostentation, larger-than-life furnishings, and custom-building a 6’ chandelier.  Since our other 6’ stock chandelier did not fit the aesthetic Scenic Designer Tim Mackabee had in mind, the Props Department either had to buy one (for $8,000!) or make one from scratch. It was a pretty obvious choice.

Building props often tends to be a collaborative effort and this was no exception. Props Master Michael Jones sketched out a design to work from that specified the dimensions and what kind of materials would be used. He bent and welded metal rod into the ellipses that make up the tiered dome. Rather than using circular rings, we had to adjust the shape into ovals so it could fit in our fly space between all the lights and drops. This functions as optical illusion since it still looks like a full circle from the audience’s perspective.



I took over from there, welding the rings to the center column and creating a sturdy connection point on top so it could be properly rigged. I also welded on all the lamp parts that the light fixtures attach to and started the wiring process.

Props Artisan Shawn Mallory re-wires the chandelier.

Wiring our chandelier got a little more complicated than we anticipated, partly due to a short we had trouble locating, so after tripping the breaker a couple times we had to take it apart and re-wire it … twice. Props Artisan Shawn Mallory jumped in to help finish the job and spray paint it gold.


Shawn strings crystals.

Now came the fun part, adding all the crystal prisms and swag to create the bulbous shape. Props Artisan Teresa Pilar Huarte helped me piece together remnants of our stock swag until the strands were long enough. We used over 350 feet of crystal swag to decorate our chandelier. Bling it on!
All we had left to do was get it to the theatre, hang it up, and plug it in ...  or so we thought. Designer Tim preferred a cooler blue light rather than the warmer white lights we had used, so we made a last-minute trip to the Lightbulb Lady for blue lights, and also added two extra circles of Christmas lights to emphasize the shape. 



Chinglish runs now through February 9. Tickets available HERE.


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