Tag Archives: presentation

Creating Props, Creating Performances

On the end of the first day of the 2009 SETC Theatre Symposium, I sat on my first panel, entitled “Creating Props, Creating Performances”.

The first paper, by Teemu Paavolainen, was titled “From Props to Affordances: An Ecological Approach to Theatrical Objects”. An “affordance” is the ability of an object to perform a function. For example, a chair affords sitting. A spoon affords eating soup.

The study of affordances has been around in other fields, such as music and painting, for awhile, but not so in theatre. Theatre, particularly the study of props, has long been dominated by Jiři Veltruský. In 1940, he wrote the famous, “All that is on stage is a sign.” He and the rest of the Prague School believed

The very fact of their appearance on stage suppresses the practical function of phenomena in favour of a symbolic or signifying role.

(The semiotics of theatre and drama  By Keir Elam, p. 6)

Andrew Sofer, one of the keynote speakers at this conference, originally took exception to this when dealing with props in his oft-mentioned book, The Stage Life of Props. Continue reading Creating Props, Creating Performances

SETC Theatre Symposium Day 1

You’ll notice I didn’t have a post yesterday. I flew down to Winston-Salem to attend the 2009 SETC Theatre Symposium. This year, the topic is props, which is very apropos for this blog.

It was a long but fruitful day. I presented my paper. Bland Wade, the props director at North Carolina School of the Arts (NCSA) gave a tour of their props shop and a speech on what a properties director does.

I forgot my USB cable, so I cannot get the pictures off my camera at the moment. I’ll have a more in-depth summary of this weekend when I get back to New York. Today, in addition to more papers, we have a speech by Andrew Sofer, author of The Stage Life of Props.

It’s all very fascinating stuff, and I can’t wait to write it all up for this blog.

Making a props portfolio part 2

In my previous post, I discussed what to include in your props portfolio. In this part, I will discuss how to layout, organize, and present your portfolio. I’m going to use my own portfolio as a guide; there are certainly many other ways you can make your portfolio.


There are a number of ways to layout your pages. You can of course do it by hand, where you make copies of all your photographs and drawings and glue them to paper or a heavier board. Or, if you want a less time-consuming and cheaper method, you can do it on your computer. For simple layouts, you can use any number of software programs, depending on what you are already comfortable using or what you have access to. I use Scribus, an open-source desktop publishing program. I know people who use Powerpoint. You can even use a word processor if that’s what you like working with. You basically need to fit images and text on a page, so your options are limitless.

A sample page with a single prop on it
A sample page with a single prop on it

Continue reading Making a props portfolio part 2

Shakespeare’s Movables

Over at the Popular Woodworking blog, Megan Fitzpatrick has an interesting post about joint stools in Shakespeare.

I’ve been reading a bit of Shakespeare lately (everyone should have a hobby, no?), and in several of his plays, the term “joint stool” appears, often in the service of a taunt. That’s piqued my interest in “moveables,” that is, early modern stuff such as furniture that shows up in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. (I’m hoping there’s a dissertation somewhere therein.)

I’m sure there’s a dissertation there; maybe there already is one. We seldom think of props in a scholarly manner; most of us work in props because we like building and/or searching for things. We know props are more than objects; they describe the characters, and add detail to the world on stage.

Perhaps the most popular book which delves more into the “why” of props, rather than the “how”, is The Stage Life of Props, by Andrew Sofer. I’ll admit it; I’ve only read small parts of it. I’ll have to find time for it before this year’s SETC Theater Symposium in April. The symposium is focusing entirely on props, and Mr. Sofer is one of the keynote speakers.

I’ll be presenting a paper called, “Devising a Mental Process for Approaching a Prop”. It should be interesting to hear the other papers. Be sure to check back here in April for my coverage of the Symposium.