Tag Archives: 2017

Top Prop Stories of 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, let us take a look back at the top news stories that affected our industry.

Robby the Robot Is Now the Most Valuable Movie Prop Sold at Auction – The famous Forbidden Planet creation recently sold for $5,375,000.

Alley Theatre Suffers Damage From Hurricane Harvey – One of the United States’ largest regional theaters suffered a devastating blow as flood waters destroyed a major portion of their hand props. They were able to bounce back quickly and resume putting on shows, but this loss will surely be felt for years to come.

Fake cosplay guns, real security problems at Comic Cons – Though cosplay continues to gain in popularity, more and more fan conventions are limiting the use of realistic prop guns, or even banning prop weapons altogether. Expect this story to continue to unfold over the next few years.

20 Years of the 501st Legion: How the Star Wars Costuming Group Became a Force for Good – Speaking of cosplay, the world-famous group of Stormtrooper enthusiasts celebrated their twentieth anniversary this year.

San Diego Opera to Sell Studio to Help Stabilize Finances – The company announced its plan to sell off its scene shop as a way to balance their budget. They will continue to rent a portion of it to build sets, and they pulled this off without any layoffs, so it may end up being a positive thing.

Jay Duckworth at USITT 2017 – One of the keynotes at 2017’s USITT conference was a props person. Jay Duckworth, props director at The Public Theater, spoke about his career and the artist’s “bug out bag.”

Inside Syfy’s Cosplay Melee Workshop – The Syfy Channel introduced a new reality show this year called Cosplay Melee. Tested took us into their workshop to see what the contestants had to work with.

Off-Broadway Producers and United Scenic Artists Create First Ever Agreement for Off-Broadway Designers – In an historic move, designers on Off-Broadway productions will now be covered by the USA union. I do not know what this means for prop designers, who can be found all over Off-Broadway but are almost non-existent in venues already covered by USA.

The Prop Building Guidebook second edition – Finally, the second edition to my book was released this year. I like to think this is news-worthy. Be on the lookout for an all-new book from me, The Prop Effects Guidebook, which will be out in early 2018!

Props at USITT

I can’t make it to USITT in St. Louis this year, but a lot of prop-related events are going on.


Scenic Designers and their collaboration with Props Masters vs. Props Designers. Wednesday, 1-2:30pm, room 127. Speakers include S*P*A*M members Karin Rabe (The Alley) and Kelly Kreutsberg (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis), as well as Erik Diaz and Tom Burch.

Early Career Honors featuring Jay Duckworth, Properties Master of The Public Theater. Thursday, 9:30-10:45am in the America’s Ballroom.

Props for the Non-Props Person. Thursday, 5:30-6:45pm, room 242. Hosted by Jay Duckworth.

RC4 Wireless – Making Magic: Integrating Wireless DMX into Props and Costumes. Friday, 1pm-2:30pm,  Innovation Stage. Speakers include James Smith (RC4), S*P*A*M Member Sean Dane (RC4), Jen Dasher, Jeremy Fisher, and Jonathan Shimon.

Electrifying Costumes and Props: Safe DC Circuit Design. Friday, 2:45-4pm, room 131. Speakers include Jeff Mizener and Mitch Hefter.

Stage Firearms and Stage Weapons: Safety Procedures and Policies. Saturday, 8-9:15am, room 130. Speakers include Bill Reynolds (Yale) and Ryan Johnson (New Rule FX).

The History of Vice and the Props to Commit It. Saturday 11-12:30pm, room 127. S*P*A*M Members Karin Rabe (The Alley) is co-chair and Merrianne Nedreberg (Center Theatre Group) is speaking, along with Karen Glass, Ken Clothier, and Trevor Carrier.


Be sure to check out the Society of Properties Artisan Managers (S*P*A*M) on the Expo Floor at booth 1634. Members will be tending the booth throughout the conference.

Other prop favorites include Wonderflex World, Sculptural Arts, Smooth-On (found at the Reynolds Advanced Materials booth), Rosco, and RC4. It looks like Worbla is making their debut at the Expo as well. Of course you can find so much more just by wandering around the floor.

And stop by the Focal Press booth to see all the latest books. The second edition of The Prop Building Guidebook is due out this Friday, so they may have a copy you can page through.


On Friday, Muny scenic artists will be working on actual scenery for the Muny during the Stage Expo.

The Tech Expo is on display throughout the conference; you can always discover new ideas there. Cover the Walls is also an invigorating experience as you see what your peers have been working on. Most of the other exhibits are either costume or paint related.

The Scene Design Poster Session frequently has props-related entries. The presentation is Wednesday, 2:45-4:15pm, in room 127, but they remain on display for the rest of the conference.

I am sure I am missing plenty of props-related events, and the conference may have plenty of non-prop-related wonders you are interested in.