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DePaul University Prop Shop and Storage

While I was in Chicago for the S*P*A*M Conference, I was able to tour the facilities of the Theater School at DePaul University. Their current space is fairly new, and all their shops, theaters, and small storage are located in a single building.

Amy leads the tour
Amy leads the tour

The tour was led by the props master, Amy Peter. Amy was actually my predecessor at Triad Stage before she headed off to Chicago.  Continue reading DePaul University Prop Shop and Storage

2017 Grants for Prop Interns

The Society of Properties Artisan Managers (S*P*A*M) is once again offering two grants this year: the Edie Whitsett Grant for theatrical properties and the Jen Trieloff Grant for theatrical properties.

The Edie Whitsett Grant for Theatrical Properties

The Edie Whitsett Grant
The Edie Whitsett Grant

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.

This grant is overseen and awarded by the Society of Properties Artisan Managers and is for $1000 towards internship expenses. Individuals wishing to apply for should submit the following:

  • Cover Letter including details on your internship (when and where), any additional compensation you might be receiving during that time and an estimate of anticipated expenses.
  • Resume
  • Digital portfolio of recent properties work

Please submit items to: Jim Guy, S*P*A*M President at jguy@milwaukeerep.com

All items must be received by May 15, 2017 and grants will be awarded June 15, 2017.

The Jen Trieloff Grant for Theatrical Properties

The Jen Trieloff Grant
The Jen Trieloff Grant

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.

This grant is overseen and awarded by the Society of Properties Artisan Managers and is for $1000 towards internship expenses. Individuals wishing to apply for should submit the following:

  • Cover Letter including details on your internship (when and where), any additional compensation you might be receiving during that time and an estimate of anticipated expenses.
  • Resume
  • Digital portfolio of recent properties work

Please submit items to: Jim Guy, S*P*A*M President at jguy@milwaukeerep.com

All items must be received by May 15, 2017 and grants will be awarded June 15, 2017.

Musings from the Prop Summit

Today’s post is guest written by Jay Duckworth. Last Saturday was the yearly New York City Props Summit, which Jay has been hosting at the Public Theater for the last seven years.

Musings from the Prop Summit

by Jay Duckworth

That very familiar “buzz, buzz” hits my phone: “I’m leaving. Don’t abandon Rebecca, okay?” It’s Sara, the prop shop manager.

“I’ll be down shortly. Thank you for all your help.” The Props Summit started 20 minutes ago but I ran away to the upstairs bathroom because I was getting panicky with social anxiety. I love talking to students; students actually want to hear what you have to say, and they listen to each word. But downstairs were my peers: Broadway prop masters, The Metropolitan Opera, SUNY Purchase, Yale, Emerson, the theater where I first prop mastered, crafts people, Julliard, Rosco, Spaeth, Costume Armor… it was a lot of people. I finally came downstairs, grabbed a juice box and snuck in.

2015 NYC Props Summit
2015 NYC Props Summit

After an hour of wine, beer, and way too much cheese, we went into the Newman theater and took over the first couple rows of seats. I welcomed everyone to the 7th annual Props Summit, and we went around and said who we were and what we did. We usually have speakers, but this was the first year in seven that I was able to take a two week vacation; I apologized that I was so lax this year and asked for volunteers to help with next year’s Summit.

I opened the doors to questions or concerns that the group had. Some of the younger people were worried about getting work once they graduated and Buist Bickley immediately said that if you are good and pleasant to be around, you can get work. Scott Laule, the props master at MTC, interjected with, “You also have to be on time for God’s sake, and at least be a little normal.”

Other people spoke about internships and getting work outside of regular theater. Emily Morrisey, who works at the event company Imagination, said they are looking for crafts people all the time.  It was the same with Spaeth.

Listening to Carrie Mossman
Listening to Carrie Mossman

Chad Tiller from Rosco spoke about fire retardants and how to approach situations where people don’t have a great concept of what it means to make something fire-retardant vs fire-proof.

Jen McClure spoke about how encouraging it was to see so many young women out and asked them to push themselves out of their comfort zone and go for jobs that seem well out of their reach, because in the end they may not be. That lead into a brain storming session about resumes and what to include and to be as honest as possible. No one is going to be everything, but be honest about your skills. If you are a good portrait painter, don’t say you are great; you will waste time and give yourself a bad rep. We hit on a few more topics and then adjourned back into the props shop for more wine, beer, and cheese.

Every year it just gets better and better. We meet more people and the prop world becomes a little smaller. Ron DeMarco gathered up his students and former students to take a picture; I wish I had done the same with my former interns. It seems that sometimes I only get to see some of these good folk at the Summit, and the rest of the year we communicate with phone calls and emails. I hope that if you haven’t come out to the Summit, you do next year. I’ll most likely be late to it, but now you know why.

Jay Duckworth

Jay Duckworth is the props master at the Public Theater and host of the annual New York Props Summit.  You can see his work at Proptologist.com.

 

Shenanigans in Poughkeepsie, 1871

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

The Property Man is one of the first grand essentials of the theatre. The success of every piece, no matter how slight, depends in a great measure on him. Everything on the stage, except the scenery, are properties. The word is oftenest applied to small articles used by the performers, but these are a part only of the great mass of such material. Furniture of every sort are properties. These large pieces are termed “stage props” in opposition to “hand props.” The best “stage props”—parlor sets, etc.—are sometimes very handsome and are used very carefully. In modern society pieces it is quite the custom now to hire furniture of a dealer for the run of the piece. Property men in the country (as theatrical stands outside of the larger towns are termed) are often sorely perplexed in this respect. They have in such cases nearly always to hire, and it often happens that furniture men are a narrow-minded set of heathens, for whom the drama has no æsthetic attractions whatever. The strangest things have been done under these circumstances. The curtain must go up—so much is sure; and that great results can be accomplished under the stress of a “must” more important affairs than things theatrical have proved.

We heard of a sharp fellow once who, being with a travelling company, struck a town whose shopkeepers were all of the very strictest sort. He had to have a sofa and some other furniture for a piece to be played, and he could neither hire, borrow, buy, nor steal it. They would rather chop it up, the owners said, than have it go inside of a theatre. Our man, not discouraged however, set his wits to work. He got another person to purchase the required goods, and to have them sent with the bill to a hotel, where they should be paid for on delivery. The car driver was in the trick, and the furniture was swiftly driven to the theatre. It was only required in the first piece, and by 9 o’clock it was back in the owner’s store (not a whit worse than an hour and a half before, except that a few profane stage-players had touched it), with the message that it did not exactly suit the intended purchaser. This clever trick was played in Poughkeepsie, and the daring wretch who devised it yet lives to boast of his exploit.

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

What Prop Masters are Thankful For

It is Thanksgiving tomorrow for those of us in the US. It is a time to reflect on the things we are thankful for, and I thought I would make a list of ten things that prop masters are thankful for (plus one bonus thing). What would you add to the list?

  • A props list that fits on one page.
  • Being able to return an item with an open package.
  • Finding the perfect prop on eBay… and it has a “Buy it Now” option.
  • Interns who understand the difference between craft and fabric scissors.
  • When the designer says “I have the perfect one at home, I’ll just bring it in.”
  • A publicity photographer who actually includes some of the props in the photos.
  • Finding out the Meet and Greet for the next show has real food provided rather than just light snacks.
  • When the designer chooses the fabric to reupholster the couch and it’s the cheapest option you presented.
  • A cast with no food allergies.
  • When that challenging prop you don’t even want to think about gets cut before you even thought about it.

And of course, the thing we can all be thankful for this holiday season:

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!