Author Topic: PROPS: Pointers for handling large numbers of props?  (Read 3860 times)

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PROPS: Pointers for handling large numbers of props?
« on: Jan 26, 2013, 12:54 pm »
Hello fellow cat wranglers,

I am doing "Deathtrap" at a community theater in Katy, Tx. The idea of wrangling this many props and weapons is worrisome. Has anyone done this show before? Do you have any tips to keep it all together?


Edit to add topic tag. - Maribeth
« Last Edit: Feb 11, 2013, 08:15 pm by Maribeth »
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Re: Pointers for handling large numbers of props?
« Reply #1 on: Jan 26, 2013, 10:45 pm »
I've never done that play, but there are some ways to help deal with a heavy-prop show. Not knowing very much about where you are in the process or what exactly you're having trouble with, here's what I would suggest.

Create an organized, coherent props list. It may be that your director or even the props person has already done this, but it may benefit you to keep your own list with the information that you need on it. Confer with the director and props person when making this list, and keep the props person up to date on any changes made during rehearsal.

For a large prop show, I like to number the props so that when you refer to them in the report, it's clear exactly which prop you're talking about. (i.e. Sarah's bag(#34) should have a false bottom). If there are 8 chairs that all look the same, give them each a separate number. You can label them with masking tape in rehearsal for easy reference.

Keeping your own list allows you to track something like whether or not you've received a rehearsal stand-in for each prop- it's easy to glance down the list and see which props don't have a check mark in that column. Or you can track how many of a consumable item is needed for each show, etc etc. Updating the list daily will help eliminate confusion. If you cut a prop, don't reassign the number- that way it's a lot easier to restore the prop if needed.

Start making a prop preset list on the first day of rehearsals, and use it every time you set props. Don't rely on your memory- if you use the list every time you set, you won't miss anything, and you'll notice errors on your paperwork sooner.

If you have an ASM, you might consider assigning them the responsibility of tracking props. If you do, make sure that they are keeping their paperwork up to date, and that you have a copy.

With weapons, it's important that the cast understands that weapons aren't toys- even stage weapons can be dangerous. They should be carefully tracked and locked up at the end of every night.

Is there anything specific you're concerned with?


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Re: Pointers for handling large numbers of props?
« Reply #2 on: Jan 27, 2013, 01:27 pm »
I would also strongly encourage you (especially if this is community theatre or semi-professional) to really, really drive home that props, generally, are not toys. These artifacts are absolutely vital to the show, and unless you're literally about to walk on stage holding it, you should not be touching, fiddling with, trying on, experimenting with, playing with or otherwise interfering with any of the props.

That is how props get broken, and when actors break props by idly fiddling with them, stage managers get license to break actors.
« Last Edit: Jan 27, 2013, 01:29 pm by On_Headset »


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Re: Pointers for handling large numbers of props?
« Reply #3 on: Jan 30, 2013, 10:49 am »
I haven't done this show, but I did Under Construction by Charles Mee recently which has many many props.
I'd agree with everything that Maribeth suggested and reiterate that lists are your best friend. If you have the resources (an ASM or PM) definitely do detailed props tracking so that you have a list which tells you where every prop is at any given time. If your ASM is doing this then they also can make room in their brain to know some things off hand. But knowing where each prop is at any given time is extremely useful for rehearsal when you have to set up in the middle of a scene. That way you are not relying on memory.

I don't know if you have room, but I also found it helpful to set up props tables as soon as possible using butcher paper or some such, since it's likely to change before the show opens. But having a specific place for each prop early on not only makes sure you don't loose anything but also so your actors have a place to put the props when they are not in use. This emphasizes the "props are not toys" and ensures that when you're on break or whatnot they cannot play with them since they have a place to be put.

You'll have to let us know how it goes!


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Re: Pointers for handling large numbers of props?
« Reply #4 on: Jan 30, 2013, 11:02 am »
I'll throw another stone into the jar for a numbered props list.

Also, if you can - tape out your props table as early in the process as possible and keep it consistent through the run of perfromances.  Even if you don't have all of the final props or their rehearsal stand-ins, you should still know what props you'll have.  Taping out the table early in the process provides easy visual reference for you and your SM team to ensure everything is set properly, and it also trains the performers that each prop has a "home". 
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