Volunteers Take Center Stage In Trailer Restoration

Sam and his cousin Sasuke make templates for plywood that will be used to cover the walls and ceiling.

With graduation over, work on the Trailer Trash restoration has heated up.  The 1951 Spartan Royal Mansion left it’s CalArts home on June 15 and was towed 10 miles to a canyon on the the outskirts of Santa Clarita, where lizards and coyote are almost as plentiful as motorcycles rushing to the Angeles National Forest.

In June, Sam’s cousin, Sasuke, came from Japan to help out.  A recent graduate in geology from Kyoto University,  he spent a month working with Sam inside the trailer.  (Sasuke has an interest in nuclear energy and hekept us posted on recent happenings at the Fukushima nuclear reactor.)

The task at hand was to the walls and ceiling.  First, Sasuke attached wooden strips to along the ribs where the cabinets and closets will eventually be installed. Then he fashioned carboard templates which will be used as a pattern for the plywood that will cover the walls. The job isn’t  as easy as it looks; it requires lots of measuring, precision and patience.  Although he had little building experience, it is hard to imagine how Sam would have gotten the job done without Sasuke’s help!

If you are considering volunteering your time with The Trailer Trash Project, this slideshow might show you the kind of work we’re involved with now: 

This post is part of a series documenting Sam Breen’a Spartan Restoration Project. Please see his first post here and check out the archive here. The CSPA is helping Sam by serving in an advisory role, offering modest support and featuring Sam’s Progress by syndicating his feed from as part of our CSPA Supports Program.

Ripping Out The Floor – And Ceiling

Here are some remarks comes from various discussions groups and web sites about ripping out the floor and ceiling. The first post comes from Frank @

July 6, 2010

It’s fourth of July weekend. Not exactly a weekend I want to go up for a day because of the traffic on the tollway. After sitting home all day on the 4th watching TV I decided to go up on the 5th to do some work instead of repeating a day of TV.

I bought myself a respirator mask that filters out asbestos and furnace filter from Menards to make a air filter from my box fan. Maybe it will filter some of the stink out!

I washed out the inside of the upper kitchen cabinets with pinesol and water. I couldn’t tell if this made a difference since I had the mask on the entire time I was there.So I tested some of the floor by walking on it. It appears the floor under the side windows are the softest. Some spots are actually so soft you can put your foot right through the floor.

After cutting the 3/4 plywood from the floor with my circular saw it reveals the insulation. You can see the holes in the insulation where little critters made tunnels in the past. I will remove the insulation from these areas as well since removing all the floor and insulation is not a feasible option for me.

The belly pan is fairly complete. There is one spot toward the front that has rotted away and that section of pan is now loose and hanging a bit lower. Perfect “doggie door” for animals big and small to make a home. That needs to be repaired ASAP.

I noticed a drop of water hitting the floor and it was too far away from me to be the sweat poring off me. The light fixture in the dining area had a steady drop of water coming from it. This ceiling panel is scheduled to be removed and discarded anyway so no better time then the present to remove it. I cut the power to the light, removed the screws from the underside of the fixture and carefully took it down.

The panel is also held up partially by the decorative room divider which divides the kitchen from the living area. I carefully removed the divider since I want to restore this piece of non painted wood. I removed all the screws from the panel and pulled and tugged and was pelted with mouse pellets until it was down and out the door it went.

The worst part of demolition is the removal of the old insulation. It is falling apart, full of mice droppings and sometimes wet. I am never fully prepared for the job and most of the time have on short sleeves and I am left with itchy arms for days.

This post is part of a series documenting Sam Breen’a Spartan Restoration Project. Please see his first post here and check out the archive here. The CSPA is helping Sam by serving in an advisory role, offering modest support and featuring Sam’s Progress by syndicating his feed from as part of our CSPA Supports Program.

Childsplay Theater’s Sustainability Survey Notes & an invitation

Thank you to the 40 theatres that participated in Childsplay’s sustainable materials survey. Here are the results:

  • The majority of respondents (20 theatres) purchase 100-500 sheets of luan plywood per year…that’s roughly 75,000 linear feet of wood that is sourced primarily from tropical rain forests.  If only 20 theatres are using 75,000 linear feet, imagine how much our entire industry consumes on an annual basis!
  • 58% of participants throw away most or all of their scenic material at strike.  At our summit, most shops estimated filling at least one large container per strike…added together, that’s quite a landfill.
  • Not surprisingly, the most common reasons for not saving materials are lack of storage space and the labor costs associated with dismantling/moving materials.
  • Of those theatres that send materials to external recyclers, steel and aluminum are far and away the most common choices.  Steel and wood are the materials most frequently saved for re-use.
  • 30% of participants are already researching or implementing “green” material alternatives: using MDF in place of luan wherever possible, looking for less toxic materials, etc.
  • 66% of participants report re-using at least some stock pieces.
  • 50% of participants would be willing to budget 5-10% more to purchase sustainable materials.
  • 55% of participants would partner with other theatres for bulk purchasing of sustainable materials; another 42% would consider it for specific projects.
  • Less than 20% of participants recycle wood during a strike.  There is a common mis-perception that the wood and steel from flats or other structures cannot be recycled unless they are dismantled and stripped of hardware.  We learned from a regional recycler that not only could we recycle our flats without completely dismantling them. Paint and fasteners were also not an issue for recycling. These are new developments (at least in AZ) that have occurred within the last three years. Many recyclers will actually send a container to your site, reducing both labor and transportation costs.

Since sending you the survey, we have made a contact at a bamboo product manufacturer who is willing to take a look at our needs for the luan replacement.

On February 26th, we held our first sustainability summit. You can read about our first meeting at the TCG blog:
Childsplay will be recycling or keeping the majority (if not all) of the scenery from our final show of the season. I’ll report back to you all about how stage-to-recycling goes at the end of May.
And finally, we have two more days of sustainability meetings coming up in May. We will explore the production process from the initial idea stage through opening night. The focus will be on opportunities for open and synergistic communication between production staff and designers.
anthony runfola
production manager | childsplay
480.921.5721 (o) | 480.921.5777 (f)
Sybil B. Harrington Campus for Imagination and Wonder at Mitchell Park
900 S. Mitchell Dr., Tempe, Arizona 85281