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February 26, 2009

Rowland: Step on it, Batman ... just not too hard

Making things look shabby ain't easy in Hollywood. Just ask former Modestan Ben Page, a professional prop maker who has worked in Los Angeles the past three years.

Making things look shabby ain't easy in Hollywood.

Just ask former Modestan Ben Page, a professional prop maker who has worked in Los Angeles the past three years.

Earlier this month, the 28-year-old was tapped to work on the set for the opening number of the 81st annual Academy Awards.

The skit featured host Hugh Jackman singing and dancing his way through a series of recession-inspired sets for the nominated films.

So instead of the normal Hollywood special effects, these inexpensive-looking props were made of things like milk jugs. pizza boxes and mop handles.

"There was a problem with making it look too good and at times, it looked nicer than they wanted," said Page, a 1998 Modesto High graduate and former Modesto Junior College student. "It had to be dependable but still cheap-looking."

The set pieces included a low-rent "Slumdog Millionaire" set, a jury-rigged Batpod for "The Dark Knight" and knock-off wrestling ring for "The Wrestler."

Page was called in by friend Rob Schrab, an executive producer on "The Sarah Silverman Program," who co-wrote Jackman's Oscar hosting script. The prop work was done only the week before the telecast because the decision to have an opening number was made at the last minute.

Page worked on a crew of about eight to build the props for the number.

With the building and rehearsals happened simultaneously, Page had a chance to meet both Jackman and Anne Hathaway, who is pulled on stage in the opening skit.

"Both Anne and Hugh were very friendly, very open," Page said. "Hugh is not shy at all. And from what I saw, he was very pleased with all (of the props)."

While this is Page's first time working on the Oscars, he has experience in television. Last year, he worked on the set of the Emmy-winning AMC drama "Mad Men," as well as the HBO Tracey Ullman series "State of the Union." He will wrap up work on the HBO comedy "Curb Your Enthusiasm" in the next week, then move onto Schrab's series, "The Sarah Silverman Program."

"It was very rewarding working on the Oscars," Page said. "It was kind of rough during rehearsals, but seeing the finished result was perfect."

Elsewhere around the Scene:

Jewel 's March 10 performance at Turlock Community Theatre has been postponed until July.

The singer-songwriter had to postpone because of her inclusion in the new season of "Dancing With the Stars," starting March 9. She will appear with (but compete against) her husband, rodeo rider Ty Murray, in the eighth season of the hit ABC reality program.

Jewel will now perform at the Turlock theater July 26. All previously purchased tickets will be honored for the new date. Call 668-1169. ...

Central valley-based rock group Anthem released a new CD earlier this month.

"Year of the Dragon" features 16 original tracks produced by Mike Klooster from Smash Mouth. The band also shot two music videos and is in the process of shooting a short film. For more, visit ...

And finally, mark your calendars for March 6 for a blues benefit show at the Gallo Center for the Arts .

Popular blues act Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers will play, with all proceeds going to the Royal Family Kids Camp , a free summer camp for abused and neglected children in Stanislaus County. Tickets are $40-$60. For tickets call 338-2100.

Bee entertainment writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at 578-2284 or Read her blog SceneIt at

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