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The number can be done in several ways but a method easy to understand and implement is to use a 4 digit number with the first digit standing for the Act number, the second for the scene number and the last two for the prop number.  Hence, the first prop listed in Act 1, Scene 3 would be 1301.  If it had been in Act II, Scene 1, then it would have been 2101.  Having more than 99 props in a given scene would be extraordinary so the system works.  By simply looking at the prop number you can tell when the prop is introduced onstage.

Props are given a number the first time they are used in the play.   If a prop repeats it may be listed in the particular scene listing but it will track with it’s original number.  Most working prop lists only list the prop the first time it is mentioned.  Stage managers use the listings when they wish to track all the props in a scene and therefore may have props using all the different act numbers even in the final scene of the play.

The numbering system also allows an understanding of what works with what.  For example, if you had a suitcase brought in during Act I, Scene 2 and was the sixth item added in that scene, it’s number would be 1206.  This information is placed in the prop list along with the item name and whatever information is available.  The listing for the suitcase might look like this:


1206 Suitcase   Hard sided, brown, with leather straps, 22” tall, 30” wide, 8” deep

 

 If that suitcase was then opened in Act II, Scene 4 and had some items of clothing removed, that “dressing” would get it’s own number and it should have a notation to connect it to the right suitcase so the props people know which suitcase gets the clothing. On the prop list since it is seen for the first time in Act II, Scene 4 it would look like this:

 

2401 Suitcase Dressing   Placed in 1206, male clothing

 

 This kind of detail becomes critical when a request comes in for the suitcase in Act I to be stood on by the actors and it is fitted for an interior brace that has to be removed during the scene change and clothing added.  Then the listing would be:

 

1206 Suitcase   Interior bracing to allow for actor to stand on it.  Hard sided, brown, with leather straps, 22” tall, 30” wide, 8” deep

 

Or if the switch can’t be made then the suitcase has to be duplicated with an identical one for Act II.

 

2401 Suitcase dressing Placed in 2402, male clothing

2402 Suitcase Identical in appearance to 1206, dressed with 2401 

 

The suitcase dressing should have it’s own number because it may require specific information to track with it such as whether it is male or female, has some particular look to it, or color.  If something particular is requested such as a pair of red shoes to be part of the dressing then those red shoes should get assigned their own number:

 

 2403 Red Shoes Placed with 2401 in 2402, female, high heeled pumps, not worn

 

Some prop lists leave spaces between assigned numbers when making up the prop list in anticipation of props being added while others simply list the props in order and assign added props the next number regardless of their relationship to another prop.  The numbering system allows that connection to be made regardless of either method used.

 

Assigning a numbering system to furniture and set dressing is helpful especially when tracking items in a multiple set show. Some lists use a listing simply by “place” utilizing an abbreviation to notate the location and then a number for tracking. 

 

In a scene that takes place in a kitchen that rotates with a scene in a bedroom the prop list might look like this with K (Kitchen) or B (Bedroom), F (Furniture) and D (Dressing):


K F 1               Table                  painted, seats four

K F 2               Chairs                4 identical, painted, matches K1

K F 3               Stool                  24” tall, metal, padded seat, DSL

K F 4               Refrigerator        1950s, white, 32” wide

K D 1              Clock                 Cat clock, tail wags, red

K D 2              Curtains             Spring rod in doorway, floor length, floral

 

B F 1               Bed                  Twin bed mattress and box spring, jumped on

B F 2               Headboard        Painted black, goes with B1, must be strong

B F 3               Side table         Wooden, 20” tall, one shelf, one drawer

B D 1               Poster              Hung on same as KD1

B D 2               Curtains           Spring rod in doorway, solid blue

 

 

Several props of the same item, for example the set of 4  chairs above, may each have their own independent numbers, K F 2, 3, 4, & 5 or could use sub headings like K F 1 a, b, c, & d to designate they are part of a group but have a separate identity number.  This is especially helpful when tracking maintenance required on matching pieces and members of a group.

 

On a unit set the items can be simply listed as F (for furniture) or D (for dressing) with a number for tracking following it.

 

F 1       Chair               Side chair, upholstered, turned legs

F 2       Table               36” long, wooden, will be stood upon

 

D 1      Chandelier     Black metal, three arms, hangs center

 

Some lists break the numbering down similar to the hand props with a coordination between Act and Scene using the F or D simply before the number.  Whatever works most easily and allows an organized build that coordinates all the props is the ultimate end goal.


Some prop shops do not utilize a numbering system because the builds are small or do not require this level of organization. Do what works for you.  If the numbering system helps, work with stage management to make it a useful organizational and communication tool.  Decide how you will assign numbers and communicate  the information making it part of the rehearsal notes and tracking system for prop run.  This is simply another tool to bring clarity and organization to the list.

 

The numbering system for tracking props

UWM  Prop Master’s desk and soft goods room

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GETTING ORGANIZED

Using the Prop List                       Prop Bible

Tracking Numbers System

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