Tag Archives: book

SETC Theatre Symposium

Next Friday, I’m flying to North Carolina to take place in the SETC Theatre Symposium. This year’s theme is “The Prop’s the Thing: Stage Properties Reconsidered”; how can I not participate? I’m hoping to bring back all sorts of interesting and useful information for this blog. Also, since I’ll be busy getting ready for this, my postings for next week will probably be shorter than usual.

My paper is called, “Devising a Mental Process for Approaching a Prop.” It’s part of a larger goal of writing a book about props dealing with the choices we need to make before building a prop. Essentially, rather than dealing with specific techniques like carpentry or upholstery, my book will be about how you decide whether you will use carpentry or not on a specific prop.

If you’re interested, here is the abstract for my paper:  Continue reading SETC Theatre Symposium

Careers in Technical Theater

If you looked closely at my previous post on Milwaukee Rep’s prop shop, you will have noticed a link to Mike Lawler’s webpage. Mike is the author of Careers in Technical Theater, a book I have not gotten around to reading yet, unfortunately. The reviews are fairly praiseworthy, though, and it does have information about props.

The rest of the website has a lot of useful resources as well. He has put together a list of U.S. academic programs in technical theatre, a survey of technical theatre earnings in 2006, a collection of links relevant to technical theatre and all its branches, and a list of the various publications devoted to backstage work.

Mike also runs EcoTheatre, a blog about creating theatre without sacrificing the environment.

Happy Friday 13th!

I wanted to talk about Halloween today. It’s a long ways off, but since Friday the 13th is kind of like mini-Halloween, I figured I can get away with it. What does Halloween have to do with props? It’s the most DIY holiday; every year, millions of people make their own costumes and decorations. It’s probably the biggest season for amateur prop-building. With the internet, there is all sorts of pages filled with photographs, tutorials, guides, inspiration, and discussions.

This is not just useful to the props artisan who needs advice on how to build a skeleton for a show; with enough creativity, you can adapt many of these props for non-Halloween challenges. A how-to guide for building a vampire who rises out of a coffin can be altered to make flowers rise out of the ground; a tutorial for a homemade fog machine can be used for any number of effects onstage.

So here are some links to keep you busy for awhile:

The Monster Page of Halloween Links – This is a huge list of links, some of them good, some of them, not so much. It’s divided into sections, so be sure to scroll past the long list of individual projects at the beginning. The last section links to some more general tutorials.

Instructables – They do a good job of promoting Halloween-related material, so there’s quite a good deal of tutorials here. The DIY Halloween 2008 and DIY Halloween 2007 contest pages are some good jumping-off points for delving into what’s available here, or you can just search for everything tagged with “Halloween“.

Halloween Prop Building For The DIY Home Handyman and Beginners Alike – A much smaller and more selective list of links to tutorials and resources around the internet. The descriptions of the sites are a great help too.

Books – I haven’t read any books on Halloween prop building, so I can’t really recommend any. However, you can head over to Amazon, and do your own research; their recommendation engine is pretty top-notch, and checking out a user-made list, such as So you’d like to… Have Great Halloween Festivities, will give you a quick introduction to some of the more popular books on this subject.

I know this list seems short, but these links are merely gateways to much larger lists of tutorials and resources throughout the web. I hope these prove useful; at the very least, I hope it has gotten you thinking about alternative sources for information about building props.


One reason I began this blog is because I am working on my own book on props. It is going to be a guide for approaching the build of a prop. Rather than listing materials and techniques, or presenting a series of how-to’s, my book will look at the intuitive process an artisan uses when deciding how to build something, and see if there is a framework to be used for building other props.

There are a number of books already written about props. These are incredibly useful, whether for a beginning props person, or an experienced one. The following is a list of the ones I’ve read/owned that I’ve found most helpful.

The Theatre Props Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Theater Properties, Materials and Construction by Thurston James. One of the granddaddies of props book, found on almost every props person’s bookshelf. No matter how experienced you are, you’ll probably learn something new when you flip through it.

The Prop Builder’s Molding & Casting Handbook also by Thurston James. A great introduction and reference for all things molding and casting.

The Theater Props What, Where, When: An Illustrated Chronology from Arrowheads to Video Games by, yes, Thurston James. A handy visual reference guide to the look of common objects throughout history.

The Prop Builder’s Mask-Making Handbook by Thurston James. Though it’s about masks, which may or may not be part of the props department depending on where you work, I just wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t list the entire Thurston James quadrilogy.

Continue reading Books