While I was in Chicago for the S*P*A*M Conference, I was able to tour the facilities of the Theater School at DePaul University. Their current space is fairly new, and all their shops, theaters, and small storage are located in a single building.
At a Brooklyn High School, Plenty of Drama Before the Curtain Goes Up – The New York Times takes a backstage look at the Edward R. Murrow High School in Midwood, Brooklyn. They have an absurd amount of students in technical theatre classes working to put on shows with production values that rival many smaller regional theatres. I think my high school had one kid who did tech.
Jay Duckworth: Proptologist, Bear, Philosopher of the Hand – Stage Directions interviews Jay Duckworth, prop master at the Public Theater. While his prop creds are truly remarkable (including the pre-Broadway Hamilton), this interview focuses on what it means for Jay to be an out gay man working in technical theatre.
Peter Jackson’s Movie Prop Collection – It turns out that Peter Jackson, maker of both awesome and horrible movies, has an overwhelmingly extensive collection of props, puppets, and practical effects from films throughout history. Tested and Adam Savage take a look at it in this large photo essay. There’s a video, too, if that’s more your speed.
The following is one of several interviews conducted by students of Ron DeMarco’s properties class at Emerson College.
Kelly Mangan: Prop Master/Scenic Designer & Artist
by Corey Umlauf
Kelly Wiegant Mangan has had a wide range of experience as a prop master and scenic designer. She has worked as a resident scenic designer and prop master for Stage One, The Louisville Children’s Theatre (where she worked on over 120 productions), two national videos, and one Broadway residency with The Great Gilly Hopkins. She has served as the Prop Master for various groups including Shakespeare Santa Cruz and The Utah Shakespearean Festival in the Randall Theatre. She has also served as Scenic Designer for the Mount Holyoke Summer Theatre Festival in Massachusetts and The Western Stage in Salinas, California. She was a scenic artist for The Chicago Historical Society, Chicago Scenic, Scenic View, Tamara Backdrops, and Funkouser Backdrops in Chicago. Kelly has also worked as a scenic artist on the film “The Insider.” She took time out of her very busy schedule to answer a few questions for me about her career in props. Continue reading Interview with Kelly Mangan→
I recently came upon the 1903-1904 academic catalog for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. At that time, it was a two-year program for young men aged sixteen to seventeen. The school still exists, granting two-year associates degrees to aspiring actors.
All students at the time were given introductory lectures in the various technical departments on stage. The lecture on props has a bullet-point list of all the topic covered, which I have reprinted below. It is fascinating to see the list of what a props person was responsible for and what skills they were required to have from over 110 years ago, and compare it to today.
The lectures were given by a Mr. Wilfred Buckland, with assistance by Mr. Edgar J. M. Hart (no relation) and Miss Louise Musson. The topics of the lectures are as follows:
The Property Man’s Work in Preparing a Production:
The Stan Winston School offers classes out in California for a number of crafts. Stan Winston Studios is, of course, famous for many of its movie creatures and animatronics, such as the Terminators, the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, the aliens from Alien, and many more. The classes they offer fit their specialties, such as sculpting, creature design, large-scale puppetry, painting and so on.
For those who can’t afford to head out to California and attend monster-making school, they have hours and hours of videos on their website. They offer a number of options for viewing the videos; everything from subscribing for a year of unlimited video watching ($300) to buying a DVD of a single lesson ($40). Previews of all the lessons are available for free viewing so you can check them all out. Below is a pretty fun one of foam fabrication, where Ted Haines constructs a Tyrannosaurus out of upholstery foam.
It seems like a great option to augment your skills since these kinds of classes usually aren’t offered at the local Learning Annex.
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies