by Caitlin Howle

With the 2017-18 season officially over – we thought we’d let you behind the scenes as to “how we did it” with two of our shows, Othello and Native Gardens.

During Othello, there was a scene in which the ceiling appears to open up and a thick sand falls from it to to the floor to simulate the scene change from the city to the desert. Obviously, we couldn’t drop sand from the ceiling – it would get in everyone’s eyes (and would definitely burn!) and be terrible to clean up. The production department tested many different items, including crushed walnut and ground cork before they finally arrived at a brilliant idea – ground corn cob! The substance was used to mimic the appearance of sand, all while being a safer alternative and completely biodegradable. The “sand” drop was comprised of 10-12 bags of this ground corn cob and featured over 480lbs of the substance for the five-week run.  How cool!

Take a look at this photo below, the “sand” that you see below the actors is the corn cob in use.

Stephen Thorne, Charlie Thurston, and Daniel Duque-Estrada in OTHELLO. Photo by Mark Turek.


Now, what about our show Native Gardens? How do you make a garden in the middle of a stage? Easy, you use dirt! No fancy gimmicks behind this one – the garden on the stage for the show was actual, real-life, dirt! Other options were tried though, the production team used grub and husks from cocoa beans, but it didn’t look as authentic. They also thought of using ground rubber but, again, it didn’t look as authentic.

Over two yards of dirt was used to make the garden of Native Gardens. It was so real that we actually had an ant problem for a few days and had mushrooms growing on the stage. You might even remember the “rough” looking yard (seen below) which was where a majority of the dirt was.


NATIVE GARDENS stage. Photo by Mark Turek.


There’s your behind-the-scenes look at how Trinity Rep used two different substances for its shows this season. The next time that you’re looking to mimic sand, use corn husk, and remember that there’s no substitute for actual dirt.