Here is an interesting article: Students make ‘trashy’ props for Cats. It talks about a production of Cats at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee where students in the art department made many of the props. The show required large pieces of trash, such as a fish skeleton or can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup.
Brad Reagan, the assistant professor of art, had his students build most of the props out of cardboard, which challenged them to make cardboard props sturdy enough for the stage, and to turn flat sheets of cardboard into three-dimensional shapes.
This brings up two important points.
First, if you are part of educational theatre, you can bring in other departments to help with aspects of certain productions. For example, my undergrad theatre department was often aided by students of the film department if a performance needed projections or live-video integration. The other department will often have equipment and facilities which the theatre department does not or cannot obtain on its own, and the students can receive class credit for their contributions.
Second, building props out of cardboard is an intriguing idea. I found a great Instructable on how to design your own cardboard furniture. It’s a wonderful introduction on working with cardboard and making it structurally sound. Apartment Therapy has a post on carboard furniture made by the Cartonnistes, and another post showing additional cardboard furniture creations. Another website called Foldschool gives you free patterns to download and print to make foldable cardboard furniture.