Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What the Heck is a Squib?? And Other Fun Items in Theater Gore…


Contributed by Guest Blogger of the Week, Stephanie Cox-Williams.


First off, a squib is a receptacle of fluid to be disbursed at a given moment by hand or electronics in an explosive manner….or as I like to think of it….splashy, splashy gory fun blast!

Eh, hum.   Moving on.

Now, two things, one I loved that when working with a particular group someone said how much they loved the word “squib”.  I believe so much that saying the word “squib” repeatedly became part of their acting vocal warm up.  Another thing, notice that I said fluid.  I have had to make squibs where the fluid was not fake blood, but, for instance, brain fluid.  Or a theatrical look at what brain fluid could artistically look like, as fluid from your brain is probably more clear or yellowish if you were to strip away the blood red color.  And, I’ve gone too far in explaining right?   Anyway, a “squib” can hold any type of liquid and is the preferred method by me to release said fluid in a splashing or startling manner.

This is my own personal definition.  You can google squib if you would like a more official one.

I say it is my preferred method as over the years I have found it to be the easiest way to choreograph a gore scene.  I was taught to use plastic baggies.  Plastic fold over top sandwich baggies to be exact.  Cheap, easy and it gets the job done.  For those of you that work with me, I usually have 3 terms for the size of the squib.  The grape (small), the strawberry (regular size) and a small heart (large).  I have also gotten adept at making the pea size one.   So if you just need a small burst that leaves a few drops sky rocketing through the air and on the actors fingers and, the tiny squib can usually fit into the front passage way of an ear for hiding.

Now all this talk about gore as probably a.) got you hungry or b.) wanting to add gore to your next Christmas Carol.  Well there are a few things to consider when doing this and the first question is….is the moment in your show really going to be achieved by adding blood/gore to it?

The stage directions could read, “blood fountain comes out of Billy’s mouth” or  “the head is pried off the actor and shown to the audience”.  However, once you have the script in hand, is that moment really necessary to telling the story? 

If that answer is an unequivocal yes, then move on to these thoughts.

Can the budget afford it?  Sure one can make and or buy some fake blood.  One can buy devices or design a device to make that blood fountain come out of Billy’s mouth.  Those are easy.  The hard part is making it believable 100% of the time, every performance and having a back up plan (if the trick is difficult).  So, that means doubling your recipe for fake blood, doubling your solution and the actor only has one costume for the whole show, so one may want to double up on that costume.

Oh, and laundry.  I can’t stress enough how much you need a solution for this.  For a lot of people I work with, there is a system where one person is the laundry lad or maid, agreeing to take the soiled clothes home every night and washing them.  Excellent.  Also remember that even manufactured store bought blood will not come out 100% of the time. Doing laundry for these shows, just like a lot of other things, will come down to a particular method of soap, water and stain removers, basically, your own personal laundry science.  A few fabrics that fake blood – any type – seems to come out of are silks, synthetics and loose weaved shirts (think dollar store type clothing).

Are you working in rep or is that space yours everyday for the run of the show?  This will decide whether you are having geysers or squibs.  Also, what are the materials the space is made out of?  Is there a lot of brick or fabric or unpainted wood?  What is your plan when a squib that has fired every night far away from the white projection screen suddenly gets on it?

Next post – my favorite question and answers.  Basically, “help, I’m doing blood effects in a show” Q&A.


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