CENTERVILLE — Convincingly pretending to kill people is hard work.
Gary Fowler, scenery production manager at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre, has spent the last month working out the magic trick of making an execution look real without being at all lethal. His creation, Madame Guillotine, will take the stage at CenterPoint’s upcoming production of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”
“I invented seven different devices to make this work,” said Fowler. “I want it to rival anything you’d see in Las Vegas.”
After pointing out one of the devices he’s created Р a pull system that allows the guillotine to be activated and re-set without anyone having to get on a ladder Р he points to the basket waiting at least a foot and a half beneath the neck hole. “It really is their head that falls in the basket,” he said.
When queried by the reporter as to whether she’d heard correctly, he laughed. “Yes, their real head.”
Fowler, whose experience was in film, commercial and display before coming to CenterPoint, is one of the people who transforms the theater’s stage into a haunted forest, a Dickensian-style village, or 18th century France every show. His skills cover a little of everything, from woodworking to Styrofoam carving, and when a set piece needs something new he heads over to the library and learns it.
“I was doing a parade float once that needed a steam whistle,” he said. “You can’t pick those up at a store. So I went to the library and figured out how to make organ pipes.”
When it came to making the guillotine, one skill set Fowler used was his ability to repurpose common household items. For the part where the head gets locked into place, he used a set of drawer pulls to get the smoothness he needed.
For more information check out the Sept.20 edition of Davis Clipper.