Thursday, September 4, 2008

To Make Stage Blood

Sure, you can buy good stage blood from the theatrical outfitters, but I prefer to make my own. Here's the recipe I fall back on:

Put 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour in a small saucepan. Measure two cups of water, then mix it into the flour by tablespoons, coming first to a thick paste, then a thin paste, and finally a viscous fluid, consistent throughout with no lumps. Bring this to a boil, stirring regularly, then reduce to a simmer and let it cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. It will cook down to a cup or so. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

When the mixture is cool enough to handle, stir in one ounce (2 tablespoons) of red food coloring, and 1/8 teaspoon of green. The green is important; it darkens the mixture so that it doesn't look pink. It will keep for at least three days at room temperature, but may start to break down after this.

I find this is a really excellent blood to work with. It "clots" a bit on skin and looks scary-real when applied well. If you're sending someone on covered in blood, it's best to either apply directly before the entrance, or else have the actor sit perfectly still for ten or fifteen minutes to allow it to "set" a bit. It stains light fabrics especially well, but can look pinkish on colored fabric if not applied with a sufficiently heavy hand. Wet on any fabric, this blood looks awesome. It's non-toxic, of course, and washes out of clothes pretty well--better with a little bleach, if you can manage it, and you can assist this by mixing a teaspoon or so of liquid detergent into the blood before application.

The one downside is that it stains skin a bit, and so is not well-suited to actors who need to clean up backstage between scenes--not a good bet for the Macbeths, who have to look presentable by the end of the porter's scene. If I had to come up with something for that, I might try half the volume of food coloring, and see how that worked.

Why the recipe corner, my friends, after so long an absence?

Well, for the first time since 1993--and that is a piece of time, dear readers--I just stepped back on the stage, in a very small way. A small band of friends and I gave a scene from Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 3, starring a batch of Craig's home-style stage blood. I was pleased with the reception--the quality of the gore no doubt smoothed over the rough patches in my elocution.

Life's been packed full of a lot of stuff lately, and not just my vainglorious attempt to recapture something of my youth. I hope I can share with you a little more tomorrow, but damned if it's not back on another airplane for me Saturday morning. Bear with me, a little? We've still got a lot of Middleton to talk about.