S*P*A*M (The Society of Properties Artisan Managers) is a group of theatrical prop managers, directors, and educators throughout the United States. If there is a larger prop shop in a regional, non-profit, or university theater, chances are the prop master is a member of S*P*A*M.
Over the weekend, they relaunched their S*P*A*M website to include a lot of useful information about who they are and what they do. Readers of this site will be familiar with the Properties Director Handbook, which was written by Sandra Strawn (a member of S*P*A*M) and includes information and photographs from a variety of other S*P*A*M members. The PropPeople discussion forum is another resource that was initially set up by S*P*A*M members. And of course, yours truly is a member.
Of greatest interest for now is the list of props internships they provide. If you were interested in learning how to work in props through an internship, this is where you will find a shop. While there may be other companies who offer internships, you run the risk of working somewhere that uses interns as free labor and impart no educational value; working long hours for little pay in a theatrical setting is not the same as learning a craft. In addition, the companies in this list are the companies that are recognized throughout the country and will help you with future employment.
A few weeks ago, at the SETC Theatre Symposium, I met Ron DeMarco, the props director at Emerson University. He gave me a ton of material he’s collected over the years to use in his class on props. Today, I’m going to point to some of the many news articles he’s found on various props people across the country. I always like reading these because they offer different perspectives on how props people work and think about their craft.
Tom is the props director at Ohio University, where I spent a brief stint doing graduate work. I worked in his shop a few semesters, and took a class where I built a sword. This article, “Theater props specialist has a thing about Athens“, delves a bit into how he got started as a props artisan. His website has more information about his custom stage combat weapons.
Liza also attended Ohio University at the same time as me, and we also worked at the Santa Fe Opera together a few times. “Top of the Props” talks about the beginning of her career as a props artisan.
Strawn teaches props at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. You may recognize her name from the Properties Director Handbook. “UWM Theater Students Learn Their Way Around the Prop Shop” provides a look at her class on properties construction.
Reiner has been the props director at Omaha Community Playhouse for the past 8 years. “Theater props master finds something old, something odd” is a look at the endless scavenger hunt that a props person lives in. It also has an interesting sidebar asking other prop masters what the most difficult item they’ve ever had to find was. The first one mentions the iron lung from “City of Angels,” which is one of the props Ron mentioned as a perennially difficult item to acquire.
Anna Warren just pointed me to this incredible resource:
The Properties Directors Handbook: Props for the Theater, written by Sandra J. Strawn.
There’s a lot of information here. It’s more like a book than a website. Everything you wanted to know to get started as a properties director is here. It’s also one of the most up-to-date resources on props, and it’s extensively illustrated as well. She includes photographs from a number of professional theatres across the country, such as Actors Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, and the Seattle Repertory Theatre.
It’s so good, I’ve added it as a permanent link on the sidebar.