Tea service with fake cakes, scones, and sandwiches.  HAYFEVER     UW-Milwaukee

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          Load-in               Technical rehearsal        Open/run        Strike

Click here to view sub-topics:


          Load-in               Technical rehearsal        Open/run        Strike

Consumables and Perishables

    Consumables and perishables are the items used up, eaten, destroyed, broken, manipulated or handled in such a way that they are only good for one performance.  These items must be replaced every performance and an adequate supply provided to the run crew for the entire run of the show. 

    Consumable hand props can run the gamut from simple letters that get opened each night to pieces of pottery being thrown and smashed.  Flower bouquets made need to be “arranged” with fresh flowers or candles replaced in lanterns after burning down each night.  Checking cigarette lighters for fuel or insuring the seltzer water dispenser is charged, all live on a “consumable” list.   For consumables, it is usual to check in whatever is most convenient to be stored safely.  In the case of a torn up letter, often an entire runs worth of letters can be checked in with the multiple copies in a clear plastic bag for safekeeping and labeled with the prop number.  Larger items may require only a few items to be checked in and the run crew then accesses the rest on an as-needed basis from the prop shop over the run. 

    Perishables such as food or fresh flowers are usually not checked in until later in the technical rehearsal time. Policies vary as to when food is introduced into the technical rehearsal process but unless it is critical to the action of the scene it is best to keep it until
later rehearsals when the scenes are not being stopped to work on light or sound cues and the food can be preset for use on a timeline that would mimic
an actual performance run.

    Food pre-set backstage should be appropriately stored- safe from tampering by others and with appropriate refrigeration.  If food must be cooked or otherwise “handled”, a safe food handling area must be provided to guarantee the food is kept at a safe temperature and free from contamination during the preparation time. 

Seattle Repertory Prop Run Kitchen


    Food and drink props require special concern and handling.  Anticipating any difficulties, stage management should determine any special requests or allergy preferences when actors are required to consume food or drink liquid on stage.  Some people will not eat meat and if their part requires them to consume a meat sandwich then a substitution must be found.  Many actors also prefer to only consume things that can be easily chewed and swallowed.  It would be rare to have peanut butter or dry crackers that crumble making a mess on stage. 

    Many performers also prefer low fat or diet foods.  Decaffeinated coffee and tea is usually preferred.  It is common to substitute plain water tinted with food coloring or use tea for wine or other alcoholic beverages.  Special thought should be given as to how much and of what the actor will eat on stage.  Many scenes that seem to require food can be supported by a minimal quantity of actual food consumption.

    For example, scenes that are set in Victorian times often have tea served and while an entire tea service may be presented the sandwiches and other items may all be fake with only a single plate of cookies being edible, giving the necessary visual appearance required by the script but limiting the action to easily consumed and easily managed food. Other plays such as The Art of Dining, set in a restaurant kitchen where actors must prepare and cook full meals which are then served in the restaurants dining room to other actors acting as patrons of the restaurant, requires an entirely different approach. The provision for that level of consumables is enormous and requires considerable forethought and an appropriate level of funding to comply with safe food handling rules and regulations as well as appropriate training of the actors preparing the food and of the run crew in pre-set and post show handling of the food and cleaning of the stage kitchen area.


     Often prop food is entirely faked.  Styrofoam and plaster can be made up to create beautiful pastries.  Rubber bands painted beige make realistic noodles.  Fish and poultry can be carved from foam then painted to look like complete meals.  If the show has a short run often times the food can be real food, refrigerated at the end of each performance, and disposed of at the end of the run.  The expense of buying real food and using it over and over, when NOT consumed, is often a more cost effective option than the time and expense of manufacturing fake food.  It is of critical importance however that everyone including the crew understands the food is a prop and not to be consumed since the food will not be safe after being pre-set and out under stage light for several performances.

    For a truly excellent site on making fake prop food please check out Anna Warren’s blog: FAKE N BAKE   Anna is a graduate of the UW-Milwaukee theatre department and presently works at Milwaukee Repertory theatre as the crafts artisan.  For the past few summers she has also worked at Santa Fe Opera in the prop shop.

    When any food is eaten onstage, it must be kept at safe storage temperature and any food handled should be dealt with in ways guaranteeing the safety and good health of those who may eat the prop.  Provision for keeping food both cold and properly heated is important.  Many regional theatres provide a prop run room including a prop kitchen with refrigerator, stove, microwave, and sink to allow for the safe storage, preparation, and run of prop food.  When a prop run kitchen is not available a separate clean "kitchen" space should be set up to handle prop food.  Using food onstage during technical rehearsals is especially problematic as the length of the scenes are often not true to the actual action causing food to set longer in pre-set or under the lights onstage as various technical problems are worked out.  For this reason food is often not introduced until the technical rehearsals are able to move at a "run" pace.


    Having a list of all the consumable/perishable items needed to be replaced, fixed, checked, or “made/cooked” helps the run crew keep an accurate way of knowing they have adequate supplies on hand and can quickly communicate any needs to the prop shop when supplies run low.

    To see an example of a consumable run list, click HERE- CONSUMABLES- Milwaukee Repertory Theatre- Cyrano.



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