Experience and skills necessary
- Experience working backstage in theatre, building scenery.
- Must be creative
- Able to develop ideas for solutions to finding props that are difficult to locate.
- Handy with tools.
- Knowledge of how to fix and build using various tools.
- Knowledge of the theatre and stagecraft is important.
- Good memory.
- Enjoy shopping at shops, stores, warehouses, factories, antique shops, flea markets, etc.
- Ability to get along with others
The Props Master’s responsibility is to obtain all the props necessary for their show. There are two types of props:
- Rehearsal props – those used in the rehearsals, until the performance props are ready
- Performance props – those props used in the show
Sometimes the rehearsal props become the performance props.
Methods to obtain props include
- Retrieve from the props room (ie, to “pull” a prop)
- Retrieve from the warehouse.
- Construct (either from scratch or by modifying an existing prop)
- Purchase or rent (reimbursed by the theatre)
The Props Master should regularly consults with the director and Scenic Designer/Technical Director about selections/choices. The Scenic Designer/Technical Director will be able to assist you with their knowledge of available props in the warehouse. The Stage Manager can also assist with the finding of rehearsal props.
The deadline for rehearsal props is usually the date the actors are first off-book (i.e. actors are no longer reading from their script). The deadline for performance props is usually Tech Saturday (the week before the show opens), if not earlier as indicated by the Director, Assistant Director (AD) or Stage Manager (SM).
The Props Master should ask lots of questions of the Director about specifications for the props. A list of required props should be made available early on in the rehearsal process, preferably during the first two weeks of rehearsals. Please note, however, that a play is an ongoing creative process and the need for new props will be made up to and in some cases during Tech Week. Schedule a time early in the production cycle with the Director and Scenic Designer to review the prop list and discuss matters related the visual look of the show and their design concepts. You may also wish to discuss similar with the Lighting Designer and Costume Designer.
At the first Production Meeting, the Props Master should request the Props Budget for the show. For shows with a large budget, the Props Master may request an advance of funds required for the creation, purchase or rental of Props. Currently, the theatre policy is that the TD is responsible for giving an advance check to the PM, hopefully by the first production meeting.
- Attend weekly production meetings to get notes/directions about props from the Stage Manager, Director and TD
- Obtain the following from from Stage Manager:
- Contact list (cast and crew)
- Rehearsal and performance calendar
- Copy of the script
- Ask the Director or Stage Manager which are the key rehearsal props needed and when they will be needed by
- Ask the Stage Manager for a biography form and fill it out by the due date (your bio goes in the playbill)
- Start obtaining rehearsal and performance props
- Monitor the use of props to see how they are used in the play. Make suggestions and adjust your plans as appropriate.
- Start developing a prop plot. This document describes:
- What the prop is
- Where it will be stored (you won’t know this until tech week)
- When the prop is used (page number of the script)
- Where the prop is used
- Who will use it and how it gets on stage
- How does it get taken off stage and by whom
Note: Much of this info you or the Props Crew Chief will get later in the rehearsal process as the cast starts doing “run throughs” of the play. The Props Crew Chief will take over ownership of the document in Tech Week.
Determine who the Props Crew Chief is and coordinate with them.
This is the last week of rehearsals, starting on “Tech Saturday”, the first day that lights and sound are incorporated, and the first day production props will be used)
Work with the Props Crew Chief to determine the best location for each prop Set up props tables in those locations Monitor prop usage to ensure props don’t get damaged and that they are being used the way you intended them to be used.
After the show opens
The Props Master shall keep accurate records of everything rented or purchased so they can submit bills and receipts to the Scenic Designer and Business Manager for records and reimbursement purposes. After Strike, copies of bills and receipts shall be submitted to the Scenic Designer and Business Manager. Upon budget approval, the Business Manager shall issue a reimbursement or request a refund of advanced monies. Upon budget approval, the Props Master shall submit all original bills and receipts to the Business Manager for theatre records. Ensure the Stage Manager is able to contact you in case a prop gets broken or lost and must be repaired or replaced.
The Props Master should be at strike. The Props Crew Chief, Crew and other volunteers may be there helping, but it is primarily the PM’s job to make sure every prop is struck and returned to the correct location. This is important because only the PM knows which items were borrowed and they have the best feel for what items are not worth keeping for future shows. The PM is also responsible for removing all labels from prop tables and throwing out all trash in the prop area. If there was any food in the show, this should be disposed of. NO food should be left in RLT refrigerators.
Leaving the prop area clean ensures good will and good karma with everyone else who has to use the space after you leave.