WEB research

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       Research                    Preliminary Prop List





Most search engines like Goggle allow the user to specify between Web and Images on the top bar near the search window.  If images are all that is needed, click on the Images request and only pictures of what is requested will be found.  If web pages of vendors who might sell item of interest are required, click on Web and the search will locate web sites.  These web sites may contain pictures or drawings that will be equally helpful as the Images.  Utilize both ways of searching if one doesn’t seem to be giving good results.

For example, if the show being built requires a counter of extravagant desserts set in a French café most designers will simply request a display of French pastries to dress out the countertop.  By typing “French Desserts” into the search window, thousands of pictures of various pastries, pies, cakes, donuts, and other yummy goodies are available for the use by the props craftsperson to create fake prop desserts.

A couple of more clicks through the images pages and a quick scan down each page finds photos of French pastry shops with extravagant displays of pastries showing how the display might be assembled, the style of the dressing, the various heights of the confectionary dishes, the dish styles, etc.  Printing off these pictures and creating an assemblage of options allows the designer to select specific desserts or to define shapes, color, and textures working with the overall design.  This information becomes the inspiration for the craftsperson to work from in building the pastry display.


If you were to type the same words into the Web search window the listing becomes a long catalog of French cookbooks and recipes on online food sites.


It is easy to peruse these for ingredients that certainly would inform what the dessert might look like and it is often helpful to have these directions almost as a method of construction or in the case of consumable props, to be able to cook the requested dessert.  But if fake desserts are needed, many Web site cookbooks lack pictures.  It’s just not the same or as easily accessible.  The image is what is important for reference in the design process.


Using a search engine on the Web also allows for quite specific searching.  It is simple to enter in a series of defining words allowing access to exactly what you are looking for.  If you were to enter in only “1950’s, furniture” you would be shown furniture all over the world from the 1950’s as well as furniture that was built in the 1950’s for sale on E-Bay, furniture that is modern but reflects the look of 1950’s furniture available at local discount stores or national chain stores, furniture timelines that include the 1950’s, historical information about the 1950’s, newspaper archives of the 1950’s with furniture advertisements, etc.  While fascinating, flipping through this can consume valuable research hours and fail to provide what you are ultimately trying to find especially if you are looking for something specific.

However, typing in “1950’s, metal swivel stools, American, drug store” delivers images for that specific stool type including examples of American drug store interiors, reproduction stools from vintage stores, and photos of people sitting on stools, catalog pictures of contemporary stools, etc.   By flipping from Images over to Web and keeping the same search window terms, it’s easy to locate furniture vendors who sell reproduction 1950’s stools, collectible shops selling drug store paraphernalia or an offering on E-Bay for a set of stools being sold from an old store. From there it is a simple step to printing off the information or images and chatting with the designer about the choices available.


On many builds it is a combination of uses of the Web to both find images and to locate materials.  For example, in Seven Guitars by August Wilson a rooster is brought on stage and beheaded in each show.  It must have the appearance of being quite alive for the gruesome act to have full impact and the actor uses the decapitated rooster’s blood to mark a circle on the ground.  To build this rooster (since an actual rooster being killed nightly on stage would have been highly impractical as well as overly bloody and enraging to the ASPCA) requires the construction of a fake rooster.  

Going online and downloading various images of “roosters” is easy.  Click on Images, type in “rooster” and hundreds of pictures pop up giving close-up head shots, feet pictures, side-views, chickens in a yard, roosters on a fence, state fair champion roosters, etc.  The prop craftsperson knows what a rooster shape, size, wing to leg proportion, coloring, etc. all look like allowing the construction process to begin.

Next comes how to solve the “action” of the rooster, which needs to flop about, and more importantly, bleed on cue. Consider searching for “butchering chickens”...You Tube offers a variety of short video clips showing people butchering chickens allowing the craftsperson to understand what action will need to be replicated.  Maybe it can be done as a hand-controlled wing flap. So...type in “puppet controls” or “ventriloquist controls” to start the search for various methods of rigging the wings to flap.  Type in “Special effects, blood” to be taken to sites that show ways to rig a fake blood delivery system.

Finally, the prop shopper is online searching in “taxidermy, chickens” for feathers, fake feet, or feather pelts for purchase.  ALL of this is available on-line. Today research is only a click away showing what the chicken looks like as well as finding a taxidermist living in Idaho with cured full size rooster pelts and additional pads of tail and breast feathers for sale, available to be delivered via Fed Ex for the craftsperson to begin building the fake rooster. This technology is revolutionizing the props process and the world is shrinking as the commercial listings open up to anyone with computer access.

Now that you have your research complete, you are ready to purchase.  Unlike face to face transactions, purchasing on the web calls for intelligent choices in giving out your personal information and credit card numbers.   Be savvy about using the websites for purchasing.

PayPal is one of the safer options allowing buyers to utilize them as a “go-between” and insuring financial information is kept secure.  The service allows the payer to use a credit card or bank account without sharing financial information with the seller. 

        Finding safe sites online and book marking them to have a way to quickly find them again, allows the prop shop to build a resource for research and shopping.  Some institutions may chose to enroll in additional services available through the credit card issuing bank for a higher level of fraud protection or cardholder notification service than the routine level of security associated with credit card purchasing. This is especially helpful when purchasing online and the seller is an unknown entity.  Use of a personal credit card to make work-related purchases should only be done when the card holder is willing to accept the risk and potentially the expense related to the purchase.  It is NOT recommended as a method of transaction and theatres should provide a company credit card for all work-related purchases.  

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Research                          Preliminary Prop List


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Searching the web to do prop research.