The following article by Ron De Marco is a summary of the interviews of props professionals conducted by his students which ran last month.
The Prop Master Interviews: A Reflection
By Ron De Marco
I’ve been teaching four stagecraft level prop courses at Emerson College every year for the past ten years. One of the topics my students and I discuss on the first day of class is the various challenges that people who create props all over the country deal with in their daily jobs. The internet is abundant with newspaper lifestyle articles on solutions that prop people have developed while working on productions, and these articles usually address the sometimes wild and sensational tasks that they are currently tackling. For years, I’ve brought many of these articles in with me to class on day one and we’ve oohed and aahed about the clever approaches and solutions to seemingly impossible challenges: an actress needing to “vomit” on cue in God of Carnage, digging up and smashing bones in a graveyard for The Beauty Queen of Leenane, and all manner of special effects designed to be reset quickly for the next show. Continue reading →
The following is one of several interviews conducted by students of Ron DeMarco’s properties class at Emerson College.
A Man of Many Hats: The Story of Eric Hart
by Junior Johnson
In Greensboro, North Carolina, within the Triad Stage theatre, a tireless artist can be found scavenging for materials to create some of the most meticulous and detail-oriented props, which have been featured in countless shows, operas, and productions all across the nation. That artist’s name is Eric Hart, a props master and artisan. Only in his thirties, Eric has an extensive and diverse résumé that reflects the amount of passion, drive, and professionalism which Eric has for his props. With the determination to succeed, Eric has gained the respect and attention of his colleagues and other people within the theatre community. Continue reading →
This week’s must-read comes from The A/V Club, who interviewed props master Chris Call. This very in-depth conversation takes a look at his career, propping everything from Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Alias, to The Closer. The article takes the time to really dig into the nuts and bolts of a TV prop master’s job and Call’s career path, going far beyond the standard “what’s the craziest prop you’ve ever had to make?!?” kind of questions.
What did Kermit the Frog look like before the Muppets? Collector’s Weekly takes a look at the history of the Muppets, including photographs of a pre-Sesame Street Kermit, and delves into Jim Henson’s journey from five-minute sketches on a local TV station to a worldwide empire of puppet and creature manufacturing.
Fast Company has an article on five dream jobs that will make your inner child extremely jealous, and “prop master” is one of them. Yes, being a prop master is on-par with running a cat-café or being a chocolate scientist. I’ll have to remember I’m living the dream the next time I’m cleaning a mouse nest out of the bottom of a stove or lugging a sofa up three flights of stairs.
Steve Levine has been a prop master for 40 years, working on films like Airplane!, Cocoon, and Apollo 13. Check out this great interview with him where he goes into detail about his lengthy career. He also has a book coming out soon, which is probably the first book about working as a Hollywood props master.
Chrix Designs shows how she made a staff of Kraken; it’s a staff with an orb surrounded by octopus tentacles. I found her technique for making the sculpted tentacles pretty interesting.
Kris Compas shows how to turn on a drill press in this two-part tutorial (see part 1 and part 2). Now, a drill press motor isn’t made to withstand the lateral pressure from full-scale turning of hardwoods , but Compas is turning doll-house furniture pieces out of basswood. This seems like a fine technique for all that small-scale kind of stuff you might need to do.