THE PROPERTIES DIRECTORS HANDBOOK  

 PROPS for the THEATRE

 

         Properties production is the one area in technical production that seems to rely most highly on getting information directly from the day-to-day rehearsal process.   Hand props not mentioned in the script get added.  Furniture is used in a specific way impacting how it should be built or reinforced. This information cannot come from the designer, the script, or research.  Information flow is critical as the play is staged when props are added, cut, use is changed or stage action altered.   Getting the information from rehearsal and open to discussion by all involved parties allows the prop department to build the props in support of what needs to happen for the show.   This information is communicated in the daily rehearsal report.

 

THE REHEARSAL REPORT

        Since prop people can’t be everywhere, God made Stage Managers.  They are our eyes in rehearsal and our advocates in the production process to directors, actors, and run crews. 

            Stage managers generate the rehearsal reports and send them to all involved parties. Rehearsal reports contain who, what, where, when, why and how of what’s happening with the entire rehearsal and staging process, including props and all other technical areas.

 

The rehearsal report should include:

What part of the play was rehearsed

Changes to calendar, rehearsal schedule or actor “calls”

Requests for upcoming rehearsals

Notification of meetings scheduled

Rehearsal notes listing by department:                          

                Adds  

                Cuts

                Changes in use

                Maintenance issues

                General information/questions


In the area of props it is especially important that stage managers communicate specific details that can have an impact on the prop choices.   This might include timing factors such as the length of a candle burn time, actor allergies or preferences for consumables, special needs for weapons or special effects with the audience or the stage space, or difficulties anticipated for scene shifts due to actor availability, weight or size of items, or storage space backstage. It is of equal importance that stage management define the situation or problem and not the solution when giving notes (Ex: “The actor needs to be able to sit on the stool with both feet on the floor and the stools used in rehearsal are too tall” NOT “Please cut four inches off the stool legs.”)


Rehearsal reports may also be sent out specific to area when the information does not impact another production area.  These notes are often communicated via e-mail from stage management to the prop shop.  The information is usually copied, however, whenever a full set of rehearsal notes are sent out.

 

 

The director should approve all rehearsal notes. Notes from actors must be cleared through both stage management and the director before they are put on the rehearsal report.  Not only does this keep the director in the loop about any requests but guarantees the notes accurately reflect the directorial viewpoint.  Some actors make requests the director would not want or need in the scene and this "clearing" process keeps the communication free from any confusion.

 

Rehearsal notes are often e-mailed out following rehearsal to facilitate the best communication.   The Properties Director reads the report, updates the prop list as necessary, sending on additional requests or information or design concerns to the Scenic Designer.   Requests should be discussed with the designer and the shop in a prompt manner and decisions made in collaborative discussion with the production areas. Those requests that can be immediately answered should be responded to by way of return e-mail to the Stage Manager.   The Properties Director prepares questions for the designer/director/cross-departmental concerns to be addressed in the next production meeting or might seek out information/assistance on a project by meeting separately with another department or colleague.   Meanwhile in the prop shop, changes to projects that are in process will need to be discussed with the artisan in charge of the project and work may be redirected until answers can be provided that affect the project in question.


Rehearsal notes form the basis of most of the discussions that occur in the weekly production meetings. The production meeting is the venue where all areas can share information, clarify the needs of the department, establish deadlines, and work on creating a schedule  with consideration for each departments priorities.



   In the world of props many items are dressed onstage to give the appearance of real items but they do not require the need to work.  However, some items do need to emit sound, light up, turn on, or turn off.  These props are called "practicals."  Practicals are any device that gives the appearance of actually working. Most do work to some degree with the sound emitting from the speakers inside, the light bulb illuminating, and the switch turning power on or off.  But not always, as the theatre can also only give the illusion of reality. The coordination of practicals requires the prop shop to work closely with their colleagues for electrics collaboration and sound collaboration.


 

Working on a show with the other speciality artists found in the various shops around the theatre is where the collaborative nature of theatre-making sets the theatre world apart from other "trades" that might utilize similar skill sets.   As the artists share in the process of solving the problems by offering solutions, using their ideas and skills, working together to build the world of the play, the enormous creative support provided behind the scenes adds a dimension to the production unimaginable to the average theatre viewer.



                   


Prop Notes (Daily 1-22-08)

Prop Notes #6                                                                                      


ADDS

We will be tossing somewhere in between 15- 20 apples (3407)off the balcony each night.  I will do my best to recycle the unbruised and unbitten ones.  However as of now we will be going thru a significant number of apples during the run.


CUTS

We will only need one fighting fish ( 2121) in a bowl (2123)


INFORMATION


Jon would like to see both color comics (1601)and black and white. 


With the Yew tree being as large as it is will we need some sort of stand off stage right to hold it upright?



Rehearsal Needs:

We would love to get the plants back for the run thru tomorrow at 4:15pm but we can certainly make do if you need them for longer.


More “rehearsal” apples PLEASE… 


We need something closer in size to the bouquet of flowers



“DAILY” prop note sample.  Courtesy of Mark Walston, Actors Theatre of Louisville

 

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Production Meeting         Rehearsal Props       Costume Collaboration         

      Electrics Collaboration                   Sound Collaboration                  Scenery Collaboration

Click here to move to sub-topics:

Production Meeting                                           Rehearsal Props

  Costume Collaboration        Electrics Collaboration           Sound Collaboration        Scenery Collaboration

THE REHEARSAL AND PRODUCTION PROCESS

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