The 100 Greatest Props in Movie History, and the Stories Behind Them – Thrillist has put together a list of the hundred greatest movie props ever, at least from American films. What sets this list off from others is they contacted prop masters and other people who worked on the films, so you get one hundred stories about great props and where they came from.
Best Theatre Cities in the U.S. – If you are wondering where to move to find those sweet, sweet jobs in theater, Paste Magazine has compiled a list of nine cities (outside of New York) with a thriving theater scene. I’ve lived and worked in two of these. Do you agree with the list?
Books that deal with the philosophical aspect of props are few and far between. Certainly you can find a few scholarly articles here and there; Theatre Symposium devoted an issue of their journal to props back in 2009 (I presented a paper at that conference). But the last book of this nature would probably be Andrew Sofer’s The Stage Life of Props.
This lack of scholarly interest should come as no surprise. Universities rarely devote time to props as it is, and when they do, it is purely for practical reasons. The study of technical theatre from a historical perspective is growing in popularity, but that remains mostly devoted to scenery, lighting, and perhaps some costuming here and there. So when a book like Props (Readings in Theatre Practice), by Eleanor Margolies, comes along, I take notice.
Margolies begins the book with some usual thoughts about props; how they become text in a performance, the differences between a prop and a regular object, and how audiences perceive the life of a prop.
However, she also delves into the practical side of props, which highlights the importance of studying both. One cannot talk about how props are used in performances without discussing how they get there. It is the limitations of objects, both found and constructed specifically for the theater, that determines how and when they get used. She devotes some time to specific theater troupes and performances which are dependent on props to create a visual world. She also digs back into historical uses of props in various forms of traditional theater. The process by which props and physical materials can be introduced into rehearsals and modified during the process affects what an audience ultimately witnesses.
You will not find a recipe for papier-mache in this book; it is not a handbook for people who need to construct props. However, you will learn about the history of papier-mache and how it influenced the construction of props historically; currently, it is associated with the cheap nature of amateur theater, and has become a cultural metaphor for fakery and imitation. Other practical topics covered include breakaways, consumables, and fake blood.
Margolies’ Props provides a context for further study and discussion about props. You do not need to already be familiar with Veltruský’s work on affordances to be able to follow this book. For me, at least, it left me filled with so many more questions I wanted to explore and areas I wished to research; it was like opening up a dam of ideas that spilled out of my mind. Hopefully, it will provide a renewed interest in the study of props beyond that of its practitioners.
Last night I sent off the final manuscript for my next book, The Prop Effects Guidebook. It is all about making your props move, burn, sing, bleed, and break. When you combine it with The Prop Building Guidebook, you will have a pretty complete education as far as constructing props goes.
The book does not come out until March 2018, and we still have a lot of work to do in terms of copy-editing, layout, and proofing. But I wanted to share a few of the photographs I have taken specifically for the book just to give you a taste of what is coming.
I talk about a variety of fake fire effects you can use when your theater does not permit real flame.
I give an introduction to electrical components and wiring your own props, and provide a brief introduction to the world of Arduino and other microcontrollers.
What would a prop book be without talking about blood?
Lighting is probably one of the most common tricks a prop needs to do, so there is a thorough introduction to all sorts of tiny lights. I do not think any prop book has covered LEDs before, and I also touch on fancier lights like EL wire.
No matter how fancy theatrical foggers get, dry ice still gives me such a visceral thrill. It’s so simple and elemental, but so magical. This book touches on all the traditional tricks too, because you do not always need a high-tech solution, and you do not always have the budget for the latest gadgets.
At the Stage Door with Lori – The San Francisco Opera shines a spotlight on their prop master of nearly 20 years, Lori Harrison. Find out how she got there and watch the video to go backstage in the props shop.
Giant puppets for “BFG” stage play – Gavin Worth recently made these giant puppets with a group of students at the International School of Lausanne in Switzerland. Check out the image gallery for pictures and animations of how they were built.
‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’: Props to the Prop Master – Yahoo! TV was invited to a show-and-tell of props from Agents of SHIELD hosted by prop master Scott Bauer. There’s some cool stuff in here if you are familiar with the show. And for the journalists out there: please stop using “Props to the Prop Master” as your title.
Book Review – Make: Props And Costume Armor By Shawn Thorsson – La Bricoleuse has a review of this long-anticipated book by Thorsson. You may have seen his work online, whether it’s the life-size ED-209 from Robocop or his giant Space Marine armor. Now he shares all his techniques in this highly polished book.
Up Your Game with the ‘Make Pretty’ – Christopher Schwartz shares one of his secrets to making good furniture. After the fabrication is complete, but before he begins finishing or painting, he takes a few hours at the top of the day to just go over the whole piece and sand or trim all the minor defects.