Introduction: Building Audrey II Finale Pieces

About: I am a theater artist with a taste for the unusual. Bones and metal, iconography and the media, rough textures, blatant symbolism, and a slant towards the surreal, I limit myself to no media or style. I'll try…

While Phase IV is the final form of Audrey II, in order to finish out the finale as dramatically as possible, it was asked that she could somehow 'grow' further, and sprout large woody arms to menace the audience and kick Seymour down her mouth. In order to accomplish the 'growing' effect, very large leaves were set to rise up at the puppet's side, much like a frilled lizard (or the version of the Dilothosarus seen in the film version of Jurassic Park). While attaching these to the base and rigging a pull-rod system would have been ideal, because of the limitations of space, storage, and transportation, I decided to leave them removable. They are manually lifted into place and slotted into flagpole holders at the base of the main puppet. These brackets have adjustable angling and perfectly fit one inch PVC pipe very snug.

The arms are even more simple than the leaves, but require control of two puppeteers, one for each arm. Therefore building both the long arm and it's attachment to the base of the puppet and suits to cover the puppeteers (as the director did not want actors or crew in blacks performing the role) was required.

Also for the finale but not directly tied to the puppet, there needed to be a final effect of large vines dropping over the audience. As the theater in which this show will be performed includes a catwalk over the middle of the audience, this effect was accomplished by the very simple effect of several crew memebers dropping large bundles of vines over the audience hung from the catwalk.

Step 1: Materials

The leaves, arms, and vines all use a fair length of material, as they are so large. The leaves are made from:

  • Chartreuse Spandex

  • 1” Diameter PVC Pipe

  • Steel Wire

  • Hot Melt Glue

  • Thread

  • Acrylic Paint in Red, Purple, Dark Green, and White

The Arms are made from:

  • PVC Pipe

  • Nude Spandex

  • Steel Wire

  • 1” Upholstery Foam

  • Acrylic Paint in Brown, Apple Green, and White

  • Thread

  • Hot Melt Glue

The Puppeteer Suits are made from more of the same fabric and sewn together along with some black mesh for the face to not hamper visibility.

The Finale vines are made from the remaining scraps from the production, various green fabrics, and any leftover paint.

Step 2: Part 1: Leaf Construction

The leaves are constructed very simply. Two pieces of one inch PVC were cut to the same length, and a rough outline of the intended shape was laid out in chalk on the floor. This provided spaces to mark where wire 'veins' would be added. The PVC was drilled, wire fed through, and them more wire wrapped around for stability. With the wire twisted firmly together, base construction was complete.

Step 3: Part 2: Leaf Skin

Because of how large and self-supporting these are, no foam was added before skinning them. A large leaf was cut out of fabric, larger than the frame support, and edge finished with a zig-zag stitch. This was then glued to the armature base by first carefully laying the armature down in the correct position, then pinching fabric around it and adhering it with glue around both the central pipe and the wire veins.

Step 4: Part 3: Arm Construction

The arms were constructed similarly to these leaves from somewhat larger PVC. As these are held directly by actors/puppeteers there was no need to compensate for them attaching to anything, and I simply used what scrap I had. The wire pattern is somewhat more complicated, meant to brace itself into a hand like shape. The pipe constitutes the main 'finger' while the wire makes a second finger and thumb. These two digits are composed of the same wire with the thumb being somewhat shorter. The two longer fingers are joined by an extra wire that helps block out the 'palm' of the hand.

After the armature is complete, foam padding was added to the palm, fingers, and base of the hand to bulk it out. This was applied in a 'sandwich' for the palm, and wrapped around the fingers individually, then hot melt glued into place. All of this was trimmed down to bevel the edges when the glue was dry. Some foam was also added to the base to make the arms a little more robust at that point, it's quite rough, but as the fabric is intended to be draped loosely, it does not make much difference.

Step 5: Part 4: Arm Skin

These were skinned in a similar fashion to everything else, however, in order to simplify the process, the 'hand' and 'arm' portions were sewn separately. First the hand, much like a very simple glove, was sewn, turned and added, then a long tube-like arm, these were ladder stitched together at the wrist for complete coverage. A floppy bit of fabric was added to the base of the arm to attach it to the base of the main part of the puppet. Velcro was sewn on, and the opposite side screwed on to the base.

Step 6: Part 5: Puppeteer Covers (Ghillie Suits)

To disguise the puppeteers that hold the arms, I built to 'ghillie' like robes/drapes to cover them. These are covered in dangling roots to help conceal their human forms. It is not a strong decit, but it is enough to draw attention away from them as they flail the arms.

Each suit consists of a simple made of a long body piece, two arms (with covered over hands, as fine dexterity is not needed) and a hood closed off with black mesh. As with the coveralls in Phase III, with the base construction sewn (all done in a zig-zag stitch for stability) various small tapered and branching roots were sewn then stitched to the suit by cutting vertical slits in the suit, feeding the roots through, and sewing off the ends.

Step 7: Part 6: Vine Construction

The vines were constructed similar to the roots of the previous phase, and were the very last thing I built. They consist of a 10' taper sewn of fabric, then turned. They are stuffed with scrap materials, then sewn off at the ends in a clean fashion, and then punched through with two grommets which will allow them to be tied to the catwalk.

Step 8: Part 7: Painting

The leaves and vines are painted as the others previous to them:

  1. Dark green spray and splatter

  2. Dark green brushed veins

  3. Purple brushed veins

  4. Red and White brushed highlights and details

The arms and puppteer suits are painted in the same manner as roots before:

  1. Brown Spray and splattered

  2. Brown brushed details

  3. Green splattering

  4. White highlights

Step 9: Conclusion

With no final assembly to be done, the various finale pieces are ready to help Audrey II Phase IV grow into a huge and monstrous presence on stage. With her leaves lifted in place and her arms ready to move, she's a real terror.

There are, however a few final things for the production, and these last few items help dress the cast for their last number, and one last prop consideration for the last part of the show.

On to Flower Heads, Buds, and Vines...