The author would like to thank the following organizations for their support of this project:

University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee

Skylight Opera Theatre

Actors Theatre of Louisville

Milwaukee Repertory Theatre

Seattle Repertory Theatre

Guthrie Theatre

Children’s Theatre Company- Minneapolis

Dallas Theatre Center

Intiman Theatre

Seattle Children’s Theatre

ACT Theatre- Seattle


This site was authored by Sandra J. Strawn   

Associate Professor,  University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee

Properties Design and Production 

Contact me:            


    I have been teaching properties design and production classes at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for over two decades. Prior to that, I worked professionally as a properties director, properties artisan and designer when UWM recruited me to start a props training program in the professional training tracks.  Students came to the theatre department with a passion for technical theatre having hung lights, built scenery, or run a show in high school or community theatre.  However few were familiar with props or had even an inkling a professional properties career was a possibility.  Each class of students sifted out a gifted few who excelled in the props area.  These students have gone on to have highly successful props careers in various regional theatres around the U.S. and abroad.

    While at the university as my students learned the skills and techniques of being a professional properties director, they would often wish for a text book or place to seek out information on how to be a prop master beyond what we had covered in class.  Books are available to teach sewing, casting and molding, furniture construction, welding, plastic work, floral and craft work etc - all the skills of a prop artisan.  What my students wanted was a handbook to guide them through the entire process of managing a prop shop and a show this site is intended to address that far more intangible skill of being a properties director....for students, prop professionals, and prop enthusiasts.

    The idea for this site was formed in discussions and e-mail exchanges concerning the future of education for prop people and at the SPAM (Society of Properties Artisan/ Managers) 2006 national conference when working to edit a prop chapter for a general theatre text.  Numerous people have contributed in a variety of ways from offering suggestions about content, allowing photos to be taken in their shops, contributing forms and documents, and lending a supportive voice as the project progressed from a rough outline to this final form.  I am in your debt.  Thank you.

    My continued deep appreciation for content assistance and general editing goes to my close friend, Lisa Schlenker  (Skylight Opera Theatre- Properties Director ) who from the first was a strong advocate of my intent to write down this process and who has been unfailing in offering her advice and editing suggestions.  A virtual flood of documentation and photos poured into my computer over the months of working on this project to help me illustrate what I was writing.  This site is far richer from Lisa’s generous support.  You’re the best- thanks.

    I have also been assisted by  Mary Kay Stone (formerly of Cincinnati Playhouse- Prop Master) who read my first rough drafts and offered helpful suggestions and encouragement.

    Acknowledgement for documentation, photographs, and their cheerful willingness to be interviewed or provide information/assistance goes to:


    Mark Walston  (Actors Theatre of Louisville- Properties Director)

    Doc Manning  (Actors Theatre of Louisville- Properties Master)

    Lisa Schlenker (Skylight Opera Theatre- Properties Director)

    Jolene Obertin  (Seattle Repertory Theatre- Properties Director)

    Rick Gilles (Dallas Theatre Center- Properties Director)

    Elizabeth (Freed) Friedrich (Intiman Theatre- Properties Director)

    Marne Cohen-Vance (A Contemporary Theatre- Properties Master)

    Edie Whitsett (Seattle Children’s Theatre- Properties Director)

    Jim Guy (Milwaukee Repertory Theatre- Properties Director)

    Cindy Lee (American Repertory Theatre- Properties Director)

    Members of SPAM  (Society of Properties Artisans/ Managers)


    Special thanks to George Abraham for his enduring patience and goodwill as I have worked these many months on finalizing this project and to my son, Jacob Garst, who let me help on all his school projects and Halloween costumes over the years and who gave me computer lessons so I could build this webpage.  It’s made on a Mac.

Strawn biographyABOUT_files/Strawn%20Biography.doc