DIY Whale Prop for Concert
I’ve been off the map these last couple weeks because I’ve been so busy doing camps with kids! A few weeks ago I was teaching music for theater camp with Theater in the Park, then I went home for a camp for abused and neglected kids called Royal Family Kids Camp, and this last week I was caught up with drama and music camp at my church. Lots to do and lots to make happen on a shoestring budget!
This most recent camp was Music and Drama camp. We had a blast with about 70 kids from my church (Village Presbyterian Church) and the surrounding area and survived a whirlwind of music, prop creation, line learning, and making a big whale! We performed a really fun show called “Oh Jonah” by Alan Pote. The show was easy to quickly learn and super singable even for our varied group. We had one or two campers who had just finished kindergarten and the ages went all the way up to a couple who had just finished 5th grade. It’s quite the age range but everyone found a place in the show and I can guarantee that everyone had fun.
There’s a lot I could say about the show and the production but most of all I wanted to share one of our biggest and most exciting props, Jonah’s huge whale! Our drama camp director, Jenny Hull, came up with this great idea to make a huge movable whale prop to pull along the skirt of the performance area during the show. Inspired by old parade floats, this ginormous whale was fun for the kids to slowly put together during the course of the week. It’s something that you could TOTALLY pull off whether you’re making a prop that’s ocean themed or some other sort of monster, character, shape, etc.
Creating the Whale Prop
It started with the base (which is one of those big Rubbermaid carts) with a large exercise ball taped on the top and a reinforced pool noodle for a tail. All of that was covered with chicken fencing/chicken wire and carefully pieced together with twisty ties. That formed the base of the whale and made a general outline of the whale. Jenny made sure that this whole apparatus could be pulled/moved easily and she taped it down/tied it down so that nothing fell off when it was moved. She also attached a rope to the cart and strung it through the fishing wire so that a kid could pull on the rope and pull the whale once completed. DON’T wait until the end to add this detail otherwise you’ll be in trouble!
Then came the napkins! Jenny was inspired by old parade floats with their fluffy, textured shapes and props. She toyed around with the idea of using tissue paper to fill all the little chicken wire holes but that would become really, really expensive. She happened onto the light blue dinner napkins at the grocery store and a lightbulb lit up! The kids took the napkins and then cut them in half (a full napkin was too big) before they twisted, scrunched, and pushed the napkin into the holes of the chicken fencing.
The napkins work so well because they fill the chicken wire holes and don’t easily fall out (the tissue paper did come out pretty easily). Napkins also provided a wonderful texture! Filling out the whale’s body took a couple hundred napkins, a lot of kids, and time. We had to make sure the kids knew how to put the napkins in, otherwise you’d have to go back and redo them which wasted a lot of time. Once the kids got the knack of it they were off to the races!
Finishing touches came in the form of black tissue for the whales mouth, two huge googley eyes (thanks Michael’s for those!), and a sparkly balloon weight from Dollar Tree to serve as the whale’s spout/blowhole (you could also use one of those table centerpiece things). All in all, the whale came together quite well. It lasted through the dress rehearsals, performance, and an extra appearance outside of the sanctuary Sunday morning.
The only complication came when the whale’s tale started to sag. We quickly fixed this by tying some wire to the whale’s head and then anchoring the tale to the head with the wire. It was sorta like a tightrope wire connecting the head to the tail that stayed taught and kept the tail from sagging. Oh, and he molted/lost about 4-5 napkins whenever he moved. I think I told kids a couple times that it was just barnacles coming off the whale. Then I picked up the napkins and pushed them into the side of the whale.
Super fun show, great kids, and an awesome idea for a future prop to use in the classroom! I’m definitely inspired by this and can already think about 5 or 6 things I could make using this technique. Can you think of any other ways that you could use this technique to create a prop for your upcoming performances?