Thoughts From Behind The Scenes: Properties Design

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During the production process of Dead Man’s Shoes, we’re posting a number of journal entries from folks working in different areas of the show. Next up is Stefanie Din.  Stefanie often serves as Stage Manager for our productions but, on this show, she’s filling the role of Properties Designer!

A book.  A plant.  A cell phone.  A gun.  All seemingly random objects, yet if used by an actor in a play, all fall under one category:  Props.  As the Properties Designer, it is my job to acquire such objects mentioned or implied in a script.  Most anything an actor handles is considered a prop – more technically, a “hand prop”.  There are also “set props”, which would be furniture, set decorations, etc.  Many times, the Set Designer and Prop Designer will work together to make sure all the props look right with each other.

Finding props for period pieces is my favorite thing to do, because of all the research.  For example, this play takes place in the late 1800s, so I got to walk down the streets of Williamston, carrying a chamber pot.  Also, you tend to get a lot of interesting looks when you tell people you’re looking for handcuffs, a gun and several knives.

There are 3 main ways to acquire props:  buy, borrow and build.  The most preferred choice is “borrow”, of course, because that saves money.  However, depending on the prop and its every day usage, sometimes it’s more helpful for a theatre to own the object.  As for building, those props usually end up being very show specific, so they might get thrown out at the end of the run. I remember having to make 12 dance fans out of foam board, newspaper, feathers and glitter for a production of Chicago.  I kept one for myself, after we closed.  The rest were tossed.  For Little Shop of Horrors, I had to make several miniature Venus fly trap plants that could be operated like finger puppets and for The Mystery of Edwin Drood, I had to make a fake turkey with clams.  I kept one of the plants and one of the clams.  I have a couple favorite props in Dead Man’s Shoes…but instead of me telling you what they are, I think you should come see the play for yourself and pick out your own favorites.

So many amazing people are working so hard to put this show together.  I am truly in awe that I have the opportunity to share in such an incredible process of creativity and dedication for my job.  So come on out to Williamston and The Performance Network and find your favorite creative moments!

-Stefanie Din
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