Having props in a production really elevates it. Whether it is a small scale student production to a whole school large scale production. Making sure that you all the relevant props for the actors to use gives a much more professional look to the show. However, they are also something that can easily be forgotten about or left to the last minute and then rushed. It is important therefore to manage your props and here are some suggested ways of doing just that.
Assign someone to be in charge
It is important that there is someone assigned to the role from the very beginning of the process. Try to make sure that it is someone specific and not just the stage manager. It is fine for the stage manager to oversee whoever is in charge of props as there will be a lot of communication between them and the stage manager anyway. But there is so much for the stage manager to do already, that it is difficult for them to take on the role of props manager as well. I’ve seen many productions not be as good as they can be because the Stage Manager is doing too much.
Understand the role
It is important that the role is understood by whoever is taking it on. It is also important that they understand that the role changes during the production. There are different phases of the role during the production run:
- Complete a Master Props List.
- Researching both the context and style of the production to understand what kind of props are needed.
- Buying, borrowing and/or making props.
- Monitoring their use during rehearsal and appraising their effectiveness
- Establishing a props script and tables so that actors have the right props during the technical and dress rehearsals.
- Monitoring, maintaining and storing props during the production run
- Cataloging and storing props after the show so that they used again in future shows.
With each new phase the responsibility held by the position changes. And anyone taking on this role needs to change and adjust to meet those needs. You need to have both an overview of the whole production and understand what is happening at each moment within the production. You need to be able to work to a brief given to you by the director and stage manager. You need to be able to work with a budget to buy and/or make props. You need to be able to stay organised throughout the production process.
Create a master props list
This is the most important and useful thing you need to do as being in charge of props. It will help you keep yourself organised at every phase of the production. You can download a version of mine on PDF at the bottom of this page but to create your own you need to use some or all of these suggested headings.
- Name of the production
- Dates of the production
- Key dates and deadlines for the production including technical and dress rehearsals
- Key contact information for director and stage manager
Details of the production
- Physical location of the play (London, England etc…)
- Historical period/s of the play
- Social context/s of the play
- Production Style as given by the Director
- Additional information given by the Stage Manager.
- Research links
It is good practice to write this part of the document in a Spreadsheet, with each prop being written on a row and information entered under the following column headers;
- Prop Name
- On Stage at start of scene?
- Carried on Stage by actor?
- Name of character / Name of Actor
- Page Number
- Stays on stage?
- Taken off stage by actor?
- Name of character / Name of Actor
- Description of prop (be as detailed and specific as you can)
- Source (Buying, Borrowing or Making)
- Buying details Cost and source
- Borrowing details: Who from and any special notes
- Making details: Logistics of making (who, when, where and cost)
- Sourced (Yes/No)
- Works in rehearsal or needs resourcing?
- Storage location outside of rehearsal?
- Location of prop during show (Stage Left Table, Stage Right Table, Dressing Room etc…)
- What maintenance has taken place on the prop during the rehearsal / production period?
- Does the prop need replacing?
- Final destination of prop? (Returned to borrower, kept in stores, thrown away etc…)
It is also a good idea to keep a daily checklist before and after the show to make sure that all the props are present and correct. Make sure that you do this in good time so that if a prop goes missing there is ample time to find it or source an alternative.
If there is anything you think that I’ve missed form this list, then post them in the comments box below.