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“Who Gets the Props?” from Paul Barrois

In Assistantship, Paul Barrois, Props on January 30, 2013 at 6:08 PM

OSF Props

Props are such a mysterious part of theatre. The thing I love most about props is that they are completely undefined. They range from a king’s scepter to road kill. Each show has its own demands for specific props. All the things that the audience sees onstage in a show are either made or found by prop artisans. The time that goes into each one of these props often goes unnoticed by most of the audience.

Most of the audience confuses what is part of the set and what is a prop or part of a costume. One of the first things that happen during a production is a meeting between all the designers and shop managers where they go through the script item by item deciding who is responsible for what item. Most of the time an item falls into a clear category but sometimes they fall into a grey area. For example, whenever a sword is worn by an actor onstage the sword is usually created by props and the holster is made by costumes. Each item is negotiated between the departments.

In the end, props covers anything an actor might touch or manipulate on stage, such as curtains, ceiling fans, food, tables, garden weeds, kitchen cupboards, rugs, restaurant booths and lampposts. The best way I have found to describe to people what props covers is to imagine the process of moving into a house. The scene shop is responsible for the house such as doorknobs, paneling and stair rails while props are responsible for everything else that arrives in the moving van.

Between hand props (which are props that an actor can hold in their hand like a remote control), set dressing (like a 50’s jukebox) and consumables (which are props that are used up each performance like a hamburger eaten on stage) there can be hundreds of props needed for a single production, but since the goal of props is to create something that will blend in with all the other elements on the stage to create a complete picture, many of these props are used without the audience ever being conscious to the work that went into making them.

Paul Barrois

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