Author Topic: FORMS: shows with lots of props  (Read 10166 times)

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anole

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FORMS: shows with lots of props
« on: Apr 28, 2011, 03:50 am »
What 1 or 2 forms/pieces of paperwork do you find the most helpful for shows with 200+ props?
What do you not generate because it's just not helpful or practical anymore?

I'm interested in how you combine or split lists for preshow duties of crew members, props preset locations, transition duties (props and costumes), and a run sheet (that lists entrances, exits, and anything happening to a prop).
-this is assuming your props designer isn't handing you any of this, and you're generating it during/after rehearsals.

BayAreaSM

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Re: FORMS: shows with lots of props
« Reply #1 on: Apr 28, 2011, 12:14 pm »
Hi!

Have you been to the Uploaded Forms section of this website? It has tons of great examples of all the paperwork you mention. Here's a quick link:

http://smnetwork.org/forum/index.php/board,15.0.html

There are sections for Props, Presets, Run Sheets and more. Take a look around see if any of that helps, if it doesn't, you can even make a request for a particular form to be uploaded.

Best of luck!

anole

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Re: FORMS: shows with lots of props
« Reply #2 on: Apr 28, 2011, 02:58 pm »
Yep, I've been through that section, love it- I'm working a super prop-heavy show right now (with two weeks till we add food into the mix!), and am particularly interested in how people change their typical procedures to handle a really large volume of props.

loebtmc

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Re: FORMS: shows with lots of props
« Reply #3 on: Apr 28, 2011, 03:37 pm »
spreadsheets are your friend

I build a master prop list, then break it down by where it lives before the show (and, eventually, where it ends up) and then divvy up by that - routing the most convenient way for all.

Of course, in a large union show this is done by carps, but for those of us still doing it on our own, it depends on how much help you have. If I have no crew (or only one person) the breakdown will be different than if I have SR/SL and board ops. Maybe one person does onstage and SR while another does SL and costume props. For one really big show, my sound person built food props while my two crew members were setting everything else. And even tho it's proscribed, I often lend a hand - and I always do the final onstage check after I make sure all crew have eyeballed as well. You'd be surprised what gets overlooked without that 2nd or 3rd set of eyes.

megf

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Re: FORMS: shows with lots of props
« Reply #4 on: Apr 28, 2011, 06:06 pm »
anole, what do you classify a prop? Depending on the nature of your show (and the producing organization, and the designers' existing agreements, and the crew.... etc.) the answer to that can inform your choice here. Is a couch a prop? A handkerchief? A handbag? A mirror that gets placed on a wagon...? Is something a prop because it is PROVIDED by your Prop Master? Is it a prop because it is picked up, carried, destroyed, tracked backstage...?

Once you've identified what pieces are props (even if they come from another department), here are my suggestions:

For rehearsal, generate a simple form (grid, spreadsheet, haiku, whatever works for you) with empty space to scribble notes while you work. In my experience, the easiest way to break this form down is first by SCENE, then by order of use or page number; then track where items enter (if they do - or where they are preset) and if/how they exit. This way, when your director says "Let's jump ahead to Act II, scene 4, right after the food fight!" you can flip to exactly that place in your form, know what's on, off, broken, splattered, etc., and move forward quickly. If you're doing a show where pieces repeat often (chairs? umbrellas? apple crates?) note every time a prop RE-enters, and indicate whether it needs to be tracked backstage as well.

Once you've worked through the show once (or before, if you can!) use this scene-by-scene breakdown to generate a preset checklist organized by location.

Hope all goes well with your show - and if you discover a great form in the process, please do share with the SMNet :)

Rebbe

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Re: FORMS: shows with lots of props
« Reply #5 on: Apr 28, 2011, 06:24 pm »
I don’t recall changing my forms for a larger number of props, its more about the procedures.  If anything it is even more crucial that everything is documented and a system of double-checking is in place, because you can’t rely on memory for 200 items.  My best advice is to rely on systems that have been successful for you in the past, adapting them as the specific situation demands.  For me, that means all the props that need checking are on someone’s pre-show list, and they are on the run sheet in instances where a crew member is involved in doing something with them during the course of the show (handoffs, resets, whatever).  I start making these lists as blocking begins.  I only use a Prop List in early rehearsals to track whether we have the actual prop from the designers or not. 

I do often use a scene-by-scene in rehearsal, as well, the way Megf describes.  I'd build on her idea by figuring out what props are set-dressing type props that won’t need to be set on a daily basis (lamps, rugs, books on shelves, etc).   It's worth talking with the designers about how they can be creative in securing props to the set, or to each other, if that’s helpful for running the show. 

Another idea to think about is taking photos for reference on complicated pre-sets.  This worked well for a show with an  intricately stacked pile of chairs, and we had three assistants each responsible for a certain section of the “formation”.   Photos can be too much trouble to take, update, and flip through with props that are easy to identify and set properly, so just don't make your life harder doing this.

Loebtmc’s suggestion of using your crew creatively, drafting in everyone from board ops to dressers, is crucial if staffing is a concern.  I’ve worked on some pretty intense intermission shifts that seemed impossible at first but became manageable with practice and extra hands from the booth.  Costume crew can become responsible for personal props or costume-props that come out of pockets or are naturally acquired in the dressing room (umbrellas, money).  I’d also look out for items that are a lower priority, and can be checked (and efficiently corrected if needed) after the show has started, or as an actor comes to standby at the stage for the show.  I’ve had shows where I ask the ASM over headset “does Actor X have Prop Y in left hand?” for an especially elusive element.  Another idea that's worked for me is to check that a number of props for post-intermission are just all in one spot, then have an intermission check-list for moving them onto a prop table or other convenient position.
"...allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster."  (Philip Henslowe, Shakespeare In Love)

Maribeth

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Re: FORMS: shows with lots of props
« Reply #6 on: Apr 29, 2011, 01:21 am »
Less to do with running the show, but a suggestion for rehearsals- number the props. That way, when you are referring to a particular prop in rehearsal reports, it eliminates confusion about which prop you're referring to- if there are 15 chairs in the show, it makes it easy to say which chair needs to be painted. If you cut a prop, don't reassign the number- makes it easy to restore it if needed.


loebtmc

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Re: FORMS: shows with lots of props
« Reply #7 on: Apr 29, 2011, 03:03 am »
in reviewing the responses - to clarify, you are asking abt performance and not rehearsal, yes? Because of course in rehearsal you are developing scene by scene and all those other things mentioned by megf and others. For me, making two lists (the master and the running chart w presets and props per scene) which get rebuilt until we open (and sometimes longer) makes my brain less tired, that's all - and helps me make sure everything is on the list.

Ruth - my experience w larger IA houses is that I provide the lists but the carps handle the props and furniture themselves - all the hand-offs and sets and clears, other than those preset in costumes which is handled by wardrobe. We have had the occasional compromise but mostly in emergencies or special circumstances. Do you have other experience to share?



babens

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Re: FORMS: shows with lots of props
« Reply #8 on: Apr 29, 2011, 10:20 am »
Speaking from my own experience, and guessing what Ruth is getting at, is that if you ask a carpenter on a departmentalised IATSE crew to move props he'll just tell you to find a props guy and continue to doing whatever it is he was doing when you asked him.  Props and carpenters have always been two separate crews in my experience.

RuthNY

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Re: FORMS: shows with lots of props
« Reply #9 on: Apr 29, 2011, 10:50 am »
Exactly my train of thought,  yes!

Speaking from my own experience, and guessing what Ruth is getting at, is that if you ask a carpenter on a departmentalised IATSE crew to move props he'll just tell you to find a props guy and continue to doing whatever it is he was doing when you asked him.  Props and carpenters have always been two separate crews in my experience.
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loebtmc

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Re: FORMS: shows with lots of props
« Reply #10 on: Apr 29, 2011, 10:58 am »
ahh - I get it - back a million years ago when I toured, all the folks who moved things came from the carps team, with those assigned to props then so named rather than there being separate props vs carps departments. But I know backstage at CTG the folks who move props are the props guys etc - don't know if I was misinformed or labels have changed, but either way, yes in a union show specific people who are not stage management handle setting/handing off etc so the running paperwork has to be supremely detailed.

anole

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Re: FORMS: shows with lots of props
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2011, 03:59 am »
Thanks everyone! I dropped off the face of the internet for awhile to handle family things then to return to the end of our tech, but your replies were super helpful. I consolidated to two basic pieces of paperwork:

I've combined set pieces & costumes with props since the same few people handle all of them, so I have a master "preset" list (/checklist) that's broken down by location (onstage, SL wing, SR wing, dressing room) at top of show, and individual crew members are responsible for between 1 and 3 locations.
We've taken photos of all the onstage presets, so I or another crew member can jump in and help with those if we have extra time preshow (although I still make the designated crew member check afterwards, then I cover it in the final walk-through).

Second, I have an uber-run-sheet, with columns for page, scene, entrance/exit, prop incidence, costume worn at entrance/exit, and backstage duty. Everything that happens is on that list, and I have a copy and the backstage ASM has a copy as well so it's easy to confirm places & correct props and costumes a page before entrances (which, yes, we need to do).

Next show I'll try numbering props- probably much easier than 5-word-long descriptions we were using for this!