Owen E. Parmele 1956-
Eugene Forbes, Owen Settles, Francis "Frank" Owen, Luman E., Lucius Seth, Seth, Giles, Jeremiah, Lemuel,
Nathaniel, Nathaniel, John, John


New York Times, Friday, May, 15, 2009


Owen E. Parmele, prop master, 'The Norman Conquests'

By Steven McElroy, staff writer

New York -- Fortunately Owen E. Parmele feels at home in the kitchen. For the Alan Ayckbourn trilogy "The Norman Conquests" his mandate is to ready all the props for each performance -- including the edible ones. So in addition to maintaining a long and varied list of objects, as he would on most any production, he also prepares food.

And makes wine.

"Parsnip, dandelion and carrot are the three flavors of wine that are supposed to be homemade," Mr. Parmele said, referring to the varieties mentioned in the script. "

And there are combinations or recipes, so we get three different colors." The pear juice, papaya nectar and other liquids he uses to make the show’s wine is stocked in a refrigerator backstage at the Circle in the Square.

Elsewhere, in a dressing room turned makeshift kitchen, Mr. Parmele pointed to a wall covered with close-ups of plates of food. One showed a salad topped with two chunks of ham, a prop from a London production of the show. “We don’t have this size ham in this country,” he said of the picture. So he painstakingly recreated it, with a mold that had been fashioned from what looked like half of a can of soup but was actually the mutilated shell of a canned ham, a British one.

Mr. Parmele makes stew for another scene -- "two cans of potato leek soup and half a can of potatoes, sliced in quarters" -- and he even buses the table. "There’s one cue where Joe and I clear off after the stew scene," he said, referring to Joe Caputo, who assists him. In 15 seconds they have to "clear all the stew, plates, dishes, placemats, flowers, glasses into bus trays off the table; wipe the table down; wipe up the floor; reset the chairs; and go off."

A prop guy may not ever get a Tony nomination for such an effort, but sometimes his work is noticed. "It’s a very theater-savvy audience in New York," Mr. Parmele said. "One night Joe and I actually got applause for that set change."

Photo credit: Sara Krulwich / The New York Times

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