Category Archives: Education

Historical and scholarly views of props

SETC Theatre Symposium

Next Friday, I’m flying to North Carolina to take place in the SETC Theatre Symposium. This year’s theme is “The Prop’s the Thing: Stage Properties Reconsidered”; how can I not participate? I’m hoping to bring back all sorts of interesting and useful information for this blog. Also, since I’ll be busy getting ready for this, my postings for next week will probably be shorter than usual.

My paper is called, “Devising a Mental Process for Approaching a Prop.” It’s part of a larger goal of writing a book about props dealing with the choices we need to make before building a prop. Essentially, rather than dealing with specific techniques like carpentry or upholstery, my book will be about how you decide whether you will use carpentry or not on a specific prop.

If you’re interested, here is the abstract for my paper:  Continue reading

Shakespeare’s Movables

Over at the Popular Woodworking blog, Megan Fitzpatrick has an interesting post about joint stools in Shakespeare.

I’ve been reading a bit of Shakespeare lately (everyone should have a hobby, no?), and in several of his plays, the term “joint stool” appears, often in the service of a taunt. That’s piqued my interest in “moveables,” that is, early modern stuff such as furniture that shows up in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. (I’m hoping there’s a dissertation somewhere therein.)

I’m sure there’s a dissertation there; maybe there already is one. We seldom think of props in a scholarly manner; most of us work in props because we like building and/or searching for things. We know props are more than objects; they describe the characters, and add detail to the world on stage.

Perhaps the most popular book which delves more into the “why” of props, rather than the “how”, is The Stage Life of Props, by Andrew Sofer. I’ll admit it; I’ve only read small parts of it. I’ll have to find time for it before this year’s SETC Theater Symposium in April. The symposium is focusing entirely on props, and Mr. Sofer is one of the keynote speakers.

I’ll be presenting a paper called, “Devising a Mental Process for Approaching a Prop”. It should be interesting to hear the other papers. Be sure to check back here in April for my coverage of the Symposium.

Learn How to Build Anything

I came across this interesting website:

101 Free Open Course Classes to Learn How to Build ANYTHING

What are open course classes? Basically, they are all the materials of a college class made freely available to anyone online: the syllabus, handouts, lecture notes, assignments, etc. If you were so inclined, you can use this to take the class on your own. Obviously, you lack the feedback and interaction with a professor, and it does not count toward any certification or degree, it can be a great resource for self-education in a more structured way.

Most of these classes come from MIT, which pioneered the open course class idea, but more universities seem to be jumping in on the bandwagon. This list has some fairly high-tech classes (holographic imaging, bioengineering, and space propulsion), but there are some others that seem interesting for a props artisan or other theatre practitioner, such as intro to stagecraft, scenic and costume design, and furniture making.