The Properties Director should be at the first rehearsal on stage where the props are used as many notes are often generated during the course of working through the play on stage using the real props. 

    When there is time, this is often done in what is called a “spacing” rehearsal without lights or sound but on the completed stage setting. The “spacing” rehearsal allows the director to make adjustments in the blocking and staging and gives the actors an opportunity to experience the stage space in full light to understand how to move in the space both on stage and off.  All furniture should be in place.  Prop tables should be set up off stage and hand props available for use during this rehearsal.  The stage is usually dressed with at least the minimal dressing that might impact the actor’s entrances, exits, movement on the stage, or action. 

    Prop department input in the collaborative problem-solving process with the director and designer is critical during this process of staging.   Offering what can be done to make an action easier or suggesting options that are available when a prop is not working as hoped goes a long way to making the technical rehearsal process support the overall goal of creating a complete production.  The intent is to be helpful and each design/director team has a different dynamic. Some teams work in an open process accepting ideas from the technical staff while others prefer to keep the discussion within the design team.   The properties director probably has a notion of how to best present options based on  prior interactions with the director and designers.  The properties director must always step in when a situation endangers the safety of people on stage or the integrity of a prop. While the director may desire a specific action or visual, the properties director should suggest ways to handle or move props to insure the prop is not broken or damaged.  If that is not possible, then the risk (and expense) of breakage should be discussed and evaluated in the context of budget, personnel, and time needed to repair or replace the prop if it should be damaged.  Many directors are able to compromise to an action that allows for a safe handling of the props on stage.

    At the first full technical rehearsal when the elements of light, sound, and scene shifts are added the “spacing” rehearsals value becomes evident, as many of the prop notes have already been solved.  Those theatres that lack the time to have a “spacing” rehearsal will need to deal with the prop notes in the technical rehearsal layered with the challenges from all the other areas.

    Notes from the designer for additional toning or aging of props are common at the full technical rehearsal as the effect of light makes evident the need for adjustment to color or distressing.  Low light levels or the length of scene change music complicates scene shifts that worked in full light without music.  Actors suddenly have difficulty with a prop that worked the previous day. 

    This is all normal and usual as the elements of technical storytelling layers onto the rehearsal process. Keeping a supportive and pleasant attitude to resolve the challenges helps makes the time more useful and less stressful for all involved.

    The Properties Director also assists in the scene change choreography to help insure the safety of the props and to suggest ways that might assist in an efficient prop run. This might include providing a special padded box to assist in the strike of stemmed glassware, placing small tabs on a circular tablecloth to allow the scene shift person to feel where to place it on the table, or showing a crew person how to pick up a chair from the seat and NOT the arms. This process should always be worked out with the stage management person responsible for organizing the run crew.  Beyond working with the scene shift crew, the prop shop might be asked to work with an actor who has to handle a specific prop to help solve a particular problem or to show the actor the easiest way to manipulate the prop.  If weapons are being used, the properties director often watches the first fight run-thru in the space to work in the safe coordination of the weaponry with the director and/or fight choreographer in relation to the audience and stage setting.

As the technical rehearsal progresses the Properties Director makes notes of things that need to be altered or adds that are requested. By closely watching the play and how the props are used, often the properties director is able to make suggestions for simplifying or altering the way a prop is used in support of the full show experience.  It may be something as simple as making a letter smaller to allow the actor to access it from a costume pocket more easily, to lining a tray with a non-slip surface to keep glasses from sliding around as the actor carries the tray.  It might also be toning props down into the scenic palette or adding additional color or trim to a prop to connect it to a specific character or costume.

See the note before it becomes a note. 

The designer may give notes as observed during the rehearsal or hand them all off at the end of the rehearsal.  Those requests should be clarified and discussed along with any notes the Properties Director has made or received from the director, designer, and actors.

By opening night, everything must work together and the technical rehearsal process is the time to work together to sort out what has to get done, by whom, on what priority, and how.  It is the best of times where all of the areas of production mix together and create the world where the actors perform.


Costumes are often added later in the technical rehearsal process bringing additional difficulties unforeseen until the layers of wigs, make-up and clothing go on the actors.  Adjustments to hand props are common to accommodate a pocket that is too small or to allow a movement that the costume requires.  So even when a prop has worked previously, until all elements of the production process have been added, it’s best to keep an open eye to the props and a generosity of spirit as to what might get added, changed, or cut.

Click on notebook to see example of “tech. notes” and prop response:


There is generally a mini production meeting following each tech rehearsal attended by the director, production management, stage management, department heads, and all designers. The purpose of this meeting is to communicate the notes, collaborate with other departments, confirm the following day’s schedule and space usage, and prioritize notes to be taken care of the next morning.  Problem solving in the group with all of the production and design team available allows for the greatest collaboration to find solutions to any challenges that might have occurred during the rehearsal.  This process will continue at least through the first preview and in some cases all the way through opening.   Stage management may publish production notes from these meetings and distribute them via e-mail to be sure everyone is aware of changes, adds, priorities and scheduling requests.


Tech notes are accomplished by the prop crew prior to the next rehearsal when at all possible. Letting stage management know when a prop has been removed from the storage cabinets in order for it to be worked on or altered is important.  Many companies use a check-in/ checkout system allowing for that communication to occur via some method of notation on the door of the cabinet where the prop was stored. Allowing for “dry” time in painting and toning should be planned for and an alternate “rehearsal” prop provided when the actual prop cannot be repaired, painted, altered, or fixed in time for it to be returned for the next technical rehearsal.  Any new props added must be “checked-in” to the run crew via stage management and appropriate notation on prop lists, storage cabinets, run tables, and tracking sheets completed.


Furniture in place for Hayfever “spacing” rehearsal on stage.  Note unfinished state of scenery and work light conditions.

The technical rehearsal process is not the time for ego and exclamations about budget or defensive posturing about lack of planning on the designer’s part or poor communication from rehearsal.  Offering solutions and finding a way to support the requested change in a professional and positive manner is best and ultimately, what is easiest.

Click here to view sub-topics:


Load-in        Consumables               Open/run        Strike

Click here to view sub-topics:


Load-in        Consumables               Open/run        Strike

Technical Rehearsals

Click to see next “chapter”: The Prop Shop