All posts by Eric Hart

New Grants for Props Interns

The Society of Properties Artisan Managers is pleased to announce two new grants: the Jen Trieloff Grant for theatrical properties and the Edie Whitsett Grant for theatrical properties.

The Jen Trieloff Grant for Theatrical Properties

The Jen Trieloff Grant is an annual award given to an individual wishing to further their career in theatrical properties. This grant is intended to assist with transportation, housing, or necessities while completing an internship in the field of properties.

Jen Trieloff was Properties Director for American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin and Forward Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin and has served as Prop Master and Prop Designer for Madison Rep and Madison Opera and Ballet among others. He was an accomplished craftsman and scene designer whose work was seen on stages inside and outside of Wisconsin.

The Jen Trieloff Grant is overseen and awarded by the The Society of Properties Artisan Managers. Individuals who have accepted an internship and who wish to apply for the Jen Trieloff Grant should submit the following:

  • Cover Letter including:
    • Details on the Internship; when and where.
    • Any additional compensation you might be receiving during that time.
    • An estimate of anticipated expenses.
  • Resume
  • Digital portfolio of recent properties work

Please submit items to: Jim Guy, SPAM President at jguy@milwaukeerep.com

All items must be received by April 15, 2015. Scholarship will be awarded May 1, 2015.

The Edie Whitsett Grant for Theatrical Properties

The Edie Whitsett Grant is an annual award given to an individual wishing to further their career in theatrical properties, especially but not limited to theatrical props in children’s theater. This grant is intended to assist with transportation, housing, or necessities while completing an internship in the field of properties.

Edie Whitsett was the longtime property shop manager and a frequent designer at Seattle Children’s Theatre. She also created sets for Village Theatre, Seattle Opera, ACT Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet and other arts entities. Whitsett’s honors included an Artist Trust fellowship, a commission for an art installation at the Seattle Public Library’s central branch and two Seattle Times Footlight Awards.

The Edie Whitsett Grant is overseen and awarded by the The Society of Properties Artisan Managers. Individuals wishing to apply for the Edie Whitsett Grant should submit the following:

  • Cover Letter including:
    • Details on the Internship; when and where.
    • Any additional compensation you might be receiving during that time.
    • An estimate of anticipated expenses.
  • Resume
  • Digital portfolio of recent properties work

Please submit items to: Jim Guy, SPAM President at jguy@milwaukeerep.com.

All items must be received by April 15, 2015. Scholarship will be awarded May 1, 2015.

First Links of March

For the Game of Thrones fans out there, here is a video with weapons master Tommy Dunne detailing the Dornish weaponry he created for season five. Also, if you’re really into the show, that video came from “Making Game of Thrones“, the official behind-the-scenes site for everything about the show.

Jay Duckworth has another cool fire effect in this month’s issue of Stage Directions. He creates a glowing bed of coals using… glass?

NPR had a cool radio story a few weeks ago on Melissa McSorley, a food stylist for Hollywood films. She’s done everything from making 800 Cubanos for Chef, to a foot-tall mound of caviar, to a cake that looks like Al Pacino.

Just down the road from me, Playmakers Rep is doing Enemy of the People.  The costume shop needed to age one of their suits, but they didn’t want to ruin it for future use. So they turned to Schmere, which makes a line of products that stain and distress fabrics, but disappear when you wash or dry clean them. I bet you can find uses for this for soft goods and fabric props, or you can just tell your costume shop manager for some brownie points.

Has There Ever Been an Honest Property Man?

The following is taken from an article which first appeared in The Daily Evening Telegraph in 1871:

The Property Man has always been in some sort the black sheep of the theatrical flock. The question, has there ever been an honest property man? has even been mooted. We find this appreciation of his labors to result chiefly from the irregular manner that the master of properties has of keeping his accounts. As a general thing, indeed, he does not keep any at all, or if he does it is by a system of book-keeping so very double that no one but himself can untie the knot. He is allowed to purchase his small stores from a fund furnished him by the theatre, and to obtain larger articles on credit, bills of all to be rendered weekly, after being vised by the stage manager, to the treasurer. But the articles required are so numerous and are in many cases of so trifling a character that no one but himself can keep the run of them.

One of the most prized accomplishments of a stage manager is the ability to keep down these bills, but the very sharpest of those gentlemen is to a degree at the mercy of the Property Man who understands his business. A list a yard long is demurely handed to the stage manager, with a request for his signature. How is he to know if the articles have all been used, or that they cost the price affixed? A finer point still, how is he to know that they had not already been stored away in the theatre? So, if the manager should even check the items off, one after the other, demanding a full explanation of each, he might be still very wide of the mark.

Experienced men know this, and do not attempt to audit their property bills in that manner. Some managers as a regular thing coolly deduct a certain per cent of the total. This they say is for errors, and the property men are mostly too polite to dissent. Managers generally, however, learn by experience about what it costs to run the different orders of plays. Spectacle and sensation drama cost most; tragedy next, and comedy least. Knowing the bill of fare they have at the time been giving to the public, they know what their Property Man’s bill should be, and if, judged by these rules, it be exorbitant, they remonstrate with the logic of precedent. This will not cover, however, the important point before mentioned—the accumulation of old stores that may often be recharged as new.

There is a story in one of Dumas’ novels of a man travelling on horseback with a girl seated before him on the beast, and another behind him. He is met by a person who asks if those young women are virtuous. The man on horseback says that he thinks the one in front, being continually under his eye, is, but for the one at his back he can say nothing. In like manner the Property Man’s accounts, as far as relates to what is really bought for the occasion, may be correct, but for what is not bought, and yet for which the theatre has all the same to pay, the manager has, in nature, nothing to say.

Originally published in The Daily Evening Telegraph, Philadelphia, May 12, 1871, pg 5.

Prop Time Links

Warner Brothers has a huge prop and costume warehouse hidden somewhere outside of London. CNN brings you some of the first pictures from inside, showing us props from films such as Harry Potter, the Batman series and Gravity. Don’t forget to check out the video as well.

Propnomicon does a great job showing us some of the best props from the Cthulhu mythos and similar realms.  But this one time, he found this faux-antique vampire-killing kit that was so horribly done that he just went to town criticizing every aspect of it. From the random screwdriver gouging and haphazard use of a blowtorch, to the over-reliance on upholstery tacks, this prop has it all. It is actually a good lesson on what not to do when ageing your props. It’s very distressing.

Olivia O’Connor used to be a prop maker in Sydney, working on films such as The Wolverine and Mad Max: Fury Road. But she’s given that all up and now carves rocking horses out of wood on her parents’ farm in south Gippsland. It’s amazing what you can do with the skills you pick up as a prop maker.

The Spaeth Design website has a whole slew of videos up giving a behind the scenes look at their shop. They have a couple of episodes of “Making Magic at Spaeth Design”, where they look at the various departments and people who work there. Spaeth Design is the New York company that builds animated window displays for companies that include or have included Macys, Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue.