Author Topic: PROPS: Prop master problems  (Read 2177 times)

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stagemanagerluana

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PROPS: Prop master problems
« on: Jun 26, 2016, 09:25 pm »
Aloha all,

This is my 5th show I have stage managed.  All have been at our local community theater.  (I do about 1 show a year.)  While I am fairly new to being an SM, I have been an actor in youth and community theater since I was a little kid (I'm 48 now), so I do know how things are supposed to go.

I have worked with the same props master this whole time.  Up until this show, she's been ok to work with.  A little quirky, but aren't we all?  But for this show, I'm really having a problem with her and I feel terrible because I really like her as a person.

She is refusing to use the prop list I have made, the props tracking chart I came up with and the chart of where to pre-set props so they would be easy for the actors to grab.  She is using 2 props tables, but they're not taped off, so everything is disorganized and messy (which I absolutely hate).  Basically, things are organized in such a way that makes it easy for HER and not for the actors.

When I brought it to her attention, she said that she can't work with MY system and that she'll be working with HER system of doing things.

Ultimately, the main thing is that the actors have their props when they go onstage, so instead of causing a HUGE rift in this little, local community theater, I am just dropping the issue and letting her do HER system.

Because I haven't had any formal SM training, I don't know if the SM has any say about how the props are run backstage or not? 




PSMKay

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Re: PROPS: Prop master problems
« Reply #1 on: Jun 27, 2016, 01:12 am »
Generally the propmaster isn't doing anything backstage in professional theatre. The calling SM might be backstage but they do not assist with moving of props or scenery - they call the show. The ASM and deck crew set things up to best serve the actors. The propmaster is part of the artistic team that leaves the show after opening. They might procure a replacement if something breaks during the run, but they aren't backstage during performances.

However, what happens in pro theatre vs community theatre are two very different things. Generally if you come at a community theatre staff with how things are done "in pro theatres" they'll roll their eyes.

It sounds like your propmaster is serving in a capacity more like a floor manager, ASM or deck crew chief. If I were not involved in the hands on running of backstage, I would defer to someone in a position like that to figure out how the wings are set up. It is important to remember, though, that everything the backstage crew does is in service of the actors. If the actors are accustomed to props being in a certain place based on how your rehearsal room prop tables were set up, then that needs to inform their position more than either of your egos.

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stagemanagerluana

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Re: PROPS: Prop master problems
« Reply #2 on: Jun 27, 2016, 12:53 pm »
Thank you PSMKay! 

THIS is a very small theater and people here are used to doing multiple jobs at the same time because there just aren't enough people/budget for someone to have a single position.  So for us, the props person for shows collects/makes props and also sets them up and runs the props backstage.  It can be somewhat confusing.  Especially because I'm not the main stage manager here at this theater.  I'm one of several who rotate for each show.

But thank you for telling me how Props Masters normally function.  I ended up having a conversation with the show's director (he's also the Technical Director for the theater) as we are about 2 weeks from opening and we still don't have 1/4 of the show's props because she won't use my prop list, she only listens to what the director tells her. 




EustaceSM

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Re: PROPS: Prop master problems
« Reply #3 on: Aug 23, 2016, 08:18 am »
(Apologies if this is too late and the show already opened)

Bring up the issue to the director or someone who is supervising your prop person. Explain why it's crucial that she reads your notes concerning props and why props should be set up a certain way for the actors. At the beginning of the production the props master receives a preliminary list which gives him/her an idea of the props going to be used. Its given at the beginning so the props person has time to research and source for props. Of course said list develops each rehearsal.

Another good solution would be having the theater set due dates for adding rehearsal props and final props. Perhaps a props call where you, your director and the props person to sort thru all the props and finalize things prior to tech.

PSMKay

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Re: PROPS: Prop master problems
« Reply #4 on: Aug 23, 2016, 08:43 am »
 As I see it there were two issues at hand. One is the propmaster refusing to use the paperwork provided by the SM in running the deck, which is very common. I preferred to have my ASM generate the deck track paperwork since they were going to be the ones backstage dealing with it, so that they could take ownership of their area. But in Luana's situation, the propmaster may not have been in rehearsal to create the paperwork. I can see how this would be an issue, but it can't be resolved easily with the workflow that her company has created.
The other issue was the insistence of the propmaster in setting things up in a way that makes work more difficult for the actors. This is something that the SM can theoretically solve with their masterful, magical people skills, and something they should step into given their supervisory position. Usually "This is how we had the prop tables set up in rehearsal, so it's what the actors are expecting when they're fumbling around in the dark" is sufficient, but an explanation of the worst case scenario that could ensue from messy prop tables might also be of use.
I don't see any mention in Luana's initial question of there being an issue with when rehearsal props arrive and when production props are ready, so I'm not sure why that was suggested as a solution.
Eustace, as for your suggestions, that may be how things work in your theatre but it doesn't describe how things work in every company.

 For some of the propmasters I've worked with, if I (as SM) gave them a prop list at ANY point other than notes from rehearsal I would get a nasty look and a lecture how they were perfectly capable of reading the script, or that I was stepping on the toes of the set & scenic designers.

Frequently the custom built props would be in process long before I was even brought into the production meetings. With the exception of a few big items, the responsibility for pulling rehearsal props was my job, not the props department, which meant that they were often informing *me* about the size and weight of certain items so I could pull the right objects. Final props arrived at tech, and the actors were not allowed the touch them until that point, with a few tough builds sometimes not arriving until dress rehearsal.

 At the end of the day you need to remember that the only person on that set who is responsible for making sure the needs of the production and the actors are met is you, the stage manager. For everyone else, their own contributions may cloud their view of what's the most important part of the production. 

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