This past weekend I attended the 22nd annual S*P*A*M Conference at the University of Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC. S*P*A*M is the Society of Properties Artisan Managers, and its members include the heads of the props departments at most regional theatres, universities and operas throughout the US (and one in Canada).
This year’s conference was attended by 43 prop masters, making it among the largest conferences. The members have a combined 879 years of experience. The mornings of the conference were spent in business meetings, where we shared what we learned in the past year and planned for the future of the organization.
We spent a portion of the day Friday touring the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, where the conference was being held. Timothy J. James, the props shop manager, gave us a tour of the props shop, and we got to see various other shops and performing spaces throughout the massive center. On Saturday, we also received a tour of their props storage, which is held offsite.
On Saturday, we had two presentations. The first was by Marie Schneggenburger, the props master at Ford’s Theatre and puppet maker extraordinaire. Her work is amazing, her stories were incredible, and she had a lot of techniques that most of us were excited to try out. She also had the enviable side gig of making cozies for satellites at NASA.
The scene shop gave a presentation on the experiments they are conducting with their CNC router. Besides the typical cutting and carving that most shops do, they are working with a lot of 3D applications. The picture above shows one experiment where they scanned in the scene designer’s model and used the CNC to build a full-scale structure that they could then cover and coat.
All in all, it was a very successful and productive conference. I want to thank Timothy and his staff for pulling it off. It’s not an easy task herding 43 props masters without losing any. Here’s to next year!