THE PROPERTIES DIRECTORS HANDBOOK  

 PROPS for the THEATRE

 

  

     Once the prop list is defined the "build" can begin in earnest.  Depending on the availability of the designer to make many of the choices, the properties director must juggle the decision between pulling, building, buying, or borrowing depending upon what is in stock, the availability of items in the community from other organizations or theatres, what is within the skill of the prop shop personnel to build, the advisability of altering stock pieces, the availability and expense of materials to build the props, the necessity of having the item in rehearsal quickly, or the expense of purchasing the item or the materials needed to build                                 


      Many LORT theatres get design information on the next show coming up while building the first show...and get information on the third show while building the second...and so on.  In the best case scenario, the design information is communicated far in advance of the build allowing the budgeting and preliminary work to be completed well in advance of the show entering the shop. Some theatres work six to eight months in advance of shows staring to be built.  This is often the case for opera and musical theatre where designers are contracted and designs completed in a more timely manner than the regional theatre process. 

           
Click HERE to see timeline for Skylight Opera’s I DO, I DO

    

    Regional theatres also tend to have multiple performance spaces with the prop shop juggling several "builds" at a time.  Regardless of the venue or the company, hand props are almost always added in the last weeks of the rehearsal process so their completion is pushed to the end.  Fortunately hand props are usually the easier things to find or make as well.  Large prop items such as furniture are usually defined at an early stage when the “bigger picture” of scenery and the overall design are being determined.  These large set items and the designer determined set dressing tends to be the focus at the beginning of most builds until rehearsal notes start giving more specifics about the hand props.


  The production timeline allows the prop shop to have expectations for information holding the designer to the specified date.  If the deadline is missed, the production manager can step in to push the project along, explaining the budgetary and calendar consequences.  Previously the information about props often came later, far after the decisions about what the set looks like and the drawings were completed for scenery.   Having the information at the same time so a preliminary budget can be created showing what has to be built and the anticipated expense of the build allows a negotiation to occur on what items should have priority and alternate solutions offered.  Having drawings allows the shop to plan the build taking into consideration the difficulty of what is proposed to be built balanced against the other items on the prop list to be pulled, rented, or bought.  Keeping an open communication with the designer during the process and being proactive to advance the process, whether through finding pictorial research showing various options, pulling things for consideration from stock that could be modified, doing sketches / drawings for response from the designer, swatching upholstery / curtain fabrics for consideration and getting character fabric swatches from costumes to coordinate the look of things – whatever needs to be done to get decisions made, the properties director should do.


    LORT theatres tend to have a three to five week rehearsal period.  This corresponds to the shop "build" as well.  As the run crew goes into technical rehearsals on a show, the prop shop artisans move to start the build on the next production.  The properties director juggles back and forth between the two shows- one getting ready to open, one going into rehearsal - supervising the shop as well as attending technical rehearsals.  According to a SPAM survey completed in 2007 many properties directors work sixty to eighty hours a week managing the technical rehearsal week shift. Hopefully the properties director has been given enough information to complete the preliminary work on a show prior to the actual build weeks allowing the shop artisans to move forward even during tech week for the other show.

 

  Click to move to next “chapter”:  Production TECH PROCESS

THE BUILD PROCESS

HOME     INDEX     COMMENTS     ABOUT     PHOTOS

Click here to view sub-topics:


Build            Buy               Borrow            Pull

Each prop is considered as being completed in one of several ways:


pull


build


buy


borrow (rent/find)

Click here to view sub-topics:


Build            Buy               Borrow            Pull

     Using the divisions of build, buy, borrow, and pull a prop show build can be accomplished bringing an on-time, on-budget, to-the-satisfaction-of-the-designer conclusion.  Working as part of the team in the shop whether as artisan, shopper, or properties director the ultimate goal is to manage the work load so all involved are equally engaged, to build high quality professional level props fulfilling the action needed while creating the designed "look", and to be ready to move into the theatre for the technical rehearsals when all parts of the production come together.  The show moves out of the shop and on to the stage, into the hands of the run crew.  The juggle of the build and final closure on the show build is ended at opening...then, on to the next build, the next juggle of build, buy, borrow, and pull.