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Shooting a Crossbow on Stage

Printed From: Community Theater Green Room
Category: Producing Theater
Forum Name: Props, Scenery, Costumes and Makeup
Forum Discription: For how-to's and where-can-I-find
Printed Date: 4/26/18 at 5:10am
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 8.05 -

Topic: Shooting a Crossbow on Stage
Posted By: benhamtroll
Subject: Shooting a Crossbow on Stage
Date Posted: 9/19/07 at 11:29am
We're doing a production of Deathtrap, and we're being a bit stymied by the crossbow. 

How have other folks handled it?  Have you used an actual, function crossbow and fired a real bolt, or some home-made apparatus, or something completely different.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Posted By: Topper
Date Posted: 9/19/07 at 8:58pm
We used an actual crossbow, but the bolt was lightweight plastic with a bit of putty on the end so it would fly straight and not puncture anything (or anyone).

The script describes the bolt being fired into the wings -- and not directly at anybody. Rehearsing this business tends to weed out the inattentive actors and crew who might be lurking backstage.

"None of us really grow up. All we ever do is learn how to behave in public." -- Keith Johnstone

Posted By: biggertigger
Date Posted: 9/19/07 at 11:07pm

We did it with creative staging.  The one actor runs up an enclosed stair case (the audience only sees the first landing) and the other actor follows and fires from the first landing into the stair well.  We used a stuffed dummy at the stop of the stairs to be it with the arrow (makes a realistic sound) as the other actor applies the mock arrow behind the safety wall at the top of the stair well. 

It was important to reinforce the top of the stairs and create a safety "box" for the arrow.  We had the wall nearest the audience and back wall as permanent walls, then a moving wall for the other actor to hid behind for safety and a partical roof to stop an errant arrow. 

This worked for us, but can be easily adaptive for other theaters.  Hope this helps.

The two greatest days in a theater persons life, the day you start a new show and the day the damn thing closes.

Posted By: benhamtroll
Date Posted: 9/20/07 at 11:03am
Thanks for the ideas.  We've just picked up a replica medieval crossbow, so that part is good.

I'd be interested in knowing where you got a plastic bolt.  That sounds like the best bet for our situation.


Posted By: Topper
Date Posted: 9/20/07 at 1:22pm
One can usually find plastic pieces at a good hobby shop or crafts store. I believe our props person fashioned the bolt from a cast-off "turning rod" from a discarded set of venetian blinds.

"None of us really grow up. All we ever do is learn how to behave in public." -- Keith Johnstone

Posted By: benhamtroll
Date Posted: 9/20/07 at 5:14pm
That sounds workable.  What kind of putty did you guys use?  Just some sticky-tack, or something completely different?

Posted By: Gaafa
Date Posted: 9/20/07 at 11:38pm
This won't be much help, but a mob here used a dinkum crossbow & ended up iknee deap in it!
From the local Wooden Tops [Bobbies] for using a weapon. So they had to prove on inspection that it was inactive & palm the prop bolt & similate it in much the same fashion as Bigtigger & topper.
I believe they even experimented with fishing line, springs & counterweights, for the bolts flight. But that was over complicated for the luvvies, they just used sound effects for the click, woosh & thud.
It happened so quickly it was left to the punters imagination. I believe it worked well?

Western Gondawandaland
turn right @ Perth.
Hear the light & see the sound.
Toi Toi Toi Chookas {{"chook [chicken] it is"}
May you always play
to a full house}

Posted By: Topper
Date Posted: 9/21/07 at 9:58am
I believe it was artist modeling clay. Be sure to get the oily kind that has a dull grey color and remains pliable.

Any kind of putty should work; all the putty does is add enough weight to the tip of the arrow to make it fly true (be sure you've got tail feathers) and you can sculpt it into a pointed shape that will look convincing onstage but become blunt immediately should it strike anything.

"None of us really grow up. All we ever do is learn how to behave in public." -- Keith Johnstone

Posted By: TimW
Date Posted: 9/25/07 at 12:34am
We did similar to Biggertigger. When our actor went up the staircase, he stepped off to the side for protection. I considered using a hinged door to close behind him and if I did this show again I would. I don't remember what we fired the bolt into, but be warned, it is a flying instument designed to do harm. Take all necessary pecautions and safety measures then go further. A little more work is always better than someone getting hurt.

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