Tag Archives: SETC

Book display at SETC

Prop Building Contest

I just got back from this year’s SETC Conference in Louisville, KY. Focal Press had a nice display for The Prop Building Guidebook: For Theatre, Film, and TV, which will (hopefully) become available at some point today. As you can see from the photograph below, there is another exciting announcement:

Book display at SETC
Book display at SETC

That’s right, a contest! You can send in a photo or video of  a prop you make and win a pretty cool collection of prizes, including my book, some more Focal Press books, and some prop-making supplies and materials. The contest page has more details on the prizes and how to enter; there are separate categories for students and professionals, as well as a category for group entries, since we often build props in collaboration with others. The contest runs until April 30th, so you have some time to prepare your entry, but don’t wait too long!

In other news, I will be at USITT (March 20-23 in Milwaukee, WI). Stage Directions magazine is hosting a book signing at their booth (#100) on Friday, March 22nd, at 12:30 pm. You will be able to purchase the book there if you do not already have one. You can also check out the latest issue of Stage Directions magazine, which has an article on the Milwaukee Rep props shop by yours truly. A press release about the signing will be going out later today, but I thought I would let everyone know now, since schedules at USITT tend to fill up fast.

 

Summer Jobs Already?

For those of you in school for theatre, it is not too early to start thinking about summer employment. Even though snow is still on the ground and it gets dark at 4 pm, this is the time of year that many summer festivals, theatres and operas begin recruiting for their production positions and internships. To my international readers, I am sorry this post only deals with US jobs and internships.

Whether looking for summer work or for immediate work, Backstage Jobs should be one of the sites you check daily. By now, most of the major and legitimate theatres have learned to post any and all technical and production-related jobs to this site. It is completely free to view every job posting. The site admin also does a bang-up job of keeping spam and unrelated postings from appearing.

Speaking of spam, the Society of Properties Artisan Managers maintains a list of which of their member theatres offer props internships. This is a comprehensive list of all internships, not just summer ones, so be sure to check the commitment dates for the theatres you are interested in.

Artsearch is another big mainstay of technical theatre job postings. Though you should avoid job posting sites which require you to pay to view listings, this is the one exception. If you are currently in school, your school will probably have login information you can use (this is often true if you are an alumni as well).

In addition to job listings online, you may wish to think about applying and interviewing for jobs during one of the two big conferences. Though these are held in March, now is the time that you should be registering for the conferences, booking your hotel and making your travel arrangements. The two major conferences for theatre technicians are USITT and SETC.

This year, USITT is held March 20-23 in Milwaukee. The conference is meant for technicians and designers for all aspects of live performance. Part of the conference includes a massive stage expo, where companies and employers have booths to show off what they do. This is where you can meet and greet with the people in charge of these companies; many of them use USITT to do some of their recruiting for summer internships and apprenticeships.

The SETC conference will be held March 6-10 in Louisville, KY. SETC is meant for all aspects of theatre, including acting and directing, so it is not focused on just the production side. While the exposition hall is much smaller than USITT’s, it does have a job fair you can sign up for. Companies have small tables where they list the job openings they have, and you sign up for times to interview. You then spend the rest of your time meeting with employers all over the convention center to interview for these jobs. You can interview for as many or as few jobs as you have time for. I actually got hired at the Santa Fe Opera for the first time at the SETC job fair.

These websites and conferences have jobs at all skill and pay levels; even the internships can vary widely in how much you are paid. While it may seem your acting friends are constantly taking low-to-no paid internships, as a technical theatre person, you should always be paid for your work. Plenty of paid opportunities exist at all skill levels if you look for them.

Final November Links

Hard to believe it’s almost December. Hope you enjoy today’s links!

“How to be a Retronaut” always has great vintage images. I like these recent photos of Anita Louise as “Queen Titania” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, circa 1935.

The Actors Theatre of Louisville is looking for an artisan/soft goods person for their upcoming Humana Festival (January through March). I worked there a few years back; the people are great, the shop is amazing and you get to do some quality work for really good theatre. Even the housing they put you up in is nice. All in all, Louisville is not a bad place to spend a few months. Also, this year’s SETC conference is in Louisville, so you’ll be in town for that (as will I).

Make Magazine has a holiday gift guide for woodworkers, but it’s kind of hit or miss. A $260 hammer? Orthopedic chisels? Personally, I don’t think novelty tools make good gifts for people who make things.

Vintage theatre footlights are needed every now and then, but they can be difficult to find. Ebay has one or two on occasion, but one frequently needs a number of matching ones. Costume Armour, Inc., makes a number of fiberglass and vacuum formed lights, and because they get a lot of requests for their footlights, they have set up a new webpage devoted to the standard sizes and shapes they offer, along with pricing.

Bland Wade and Andrew Sofer give their closing remarks

Closing Remarks at 2009 SETC Theatre Symposium

Bland Wade and Andrew Sofer give their closing remarks
Bland Wade and Andrew Sofer give their closing remarks

By the end of the 2009 SETC Theatre Symposium, which focused on theatre props, I felt like my brain was full. We heard so many good papers on all aspects of props, from their use by playwrights, their practical application and construction, their historical iterations, and their perception by the audience.

A coffee cup is a coffee cup is a coffee cup

Andrew Sofer began his closing remarks by pointing to a statement Bland Wade had made earlier in the conference: “It has to be a believable item or the audience won’t buy it.” Sofer was struck by Wade’s use of the word “believable” rather than “realistic.” A prop director can find research for an obscure but completely historically accurate object, but if it is out of the realm of what the audience is expecting, they will not believe it. Likewise, we often have to work in more constructed worlds on stage, where time periods are mixed or elements are completely fabricated from imagination, but we still have to provide props which the audience will accept. A prop director’s role is constrained by the audience’s need for mimetic realism.

The Joy of Labor

In regards to the paper I presented, Sofer pointed out the joy of labor and the audience’s appreciation of it. Often, the academic world will focus so much on the meaning of signs and symbols in props that they overlook the audience’s simple joy at seeing well-produced theatre. When props (or any other design element) are well-constructed, meticulously-crafted, and, for lack of a better word, “cool”, the audience has a deeper reaction to the play.

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Creating Props, Creating Performances

On the end of the first day of the 2009 SETC Theatre Symposium, I sat on my first panel, entitled “Creating Props, Creating Performances”.

The first paper, by Teemu Paavolainen, was titled “From Props to Affordances: An Ecological Approach to Theatrical Objects”. An “affordance” is the ability of an object to perform a function. For example, a chair affords sitting. A spoon affords eating soup.

The study of affordances has been around in other fields, such as music and painting, for awhile, but not so in theatre. Theatre, particularly the study of props, has long been dominated by Jiři Veltruský. In 1940, he wrote the famous, “All that is on stage is a sign.” He and the rest of the Prague School believed

The very fact of their appearance on stage suppresses the practical function of phenomena in favour of a symbolic or signifying role.

(The semiotics of theatre and drama  By Keir Elam, p. 6)

Andrew Sofer, one of the keynote speakers at this conference, originally took exception to this when dealing with props in his oft-mentioned book, The Stage Life of Props. Continue reading