During the 2010 S*P*A*M Conference, we visited the Berkeley Rep prop shop. Even if you’re not familiar with the Berkeley Rep, you’ve probably heard of some of the shows that came from there: American Idiot and In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) are two of the more recent shows which have come to New York City. Ashley Dawn, the prop master at Berkeley Rep and one of the hosts of the Conference, graciously gave us a tour of their prop shop.
The prop shop is located within the same building as the theatre. Notice all the dust collection hoses. Also, the shop is very clean, and every nook and cranny has some form of boxes, bins, drawers or shelves for storage. Though hectic at first glance, it was actually very clean and well-organized, and once you knew your way around, it seemed it would be easy to quickly locate whatever you needed.
Berkeley Rep is fairly similar to the Public Theatre in terms of the size and number of shows produced in a season. In fact, many shows we do are co-productions. It was inspiring to see how they’ve organized their limited space to handle the demands of their shows, particularly because our own shop is larger. It would appear one can always squeeze more use out of a space, no matter how small.
They have a separate area for welding and working with metal, which is also shared by the scene shop when they are at the theatre loading in a show. During the rest of the time, the scenery is built and painted at a much larger building a few miles away. In the near future, they are getting a new facility where scenery, props and costumes are all housed together; the prop shop I just showed you will soon be no more.