Tag Archives: usitt

Props Talk from the Prop Stock

A Guide to Applying for Props Jobs – Natalie Kearns and Karin Rabe Vance have put together the ultimate guide to resumes, cover letters, portfolios, and interviews for the props person.

Reflections on the First USITT Props Lab – Jay Duckworth brings us the run down on the inaugural Props Lab at the 2018 USITT Conference in Fort Lauderdale.

Making a Cardboard RPG – A prop builder named Blackfish made this cardboard rocket-propelled grenade that actually fires an exploding projectile. The video shows how it was done, and they have templates available as well.

Great Tips And Tricks For Bondo And Resin Casting – Grab your respirator and open a window! Eric Strebel brings us this video of different ways to use Bondo as a building material.

USITT Props Lab 2018

At this year’s USITT Conference, we will be conducting the first ever Props Lab on the Stage Expo floor. Jay Duckworth, last year’s Early Career Honors speaker, has organized a dynamite team of props experts and myself to provide demonstrations and hands-on activities. A lot of these sessions have already filled up, so sign up quickly!

Thursday, March 15


Welcoming Our Robot Overlords with Adam Daley, support by Karen Rabe

Overcoming fear of new technology and integrating it into our work with robots and quick Prototype. Hands-on with 3D printer, Rapid Prototyping 3D Printing/Robot Making for Props. Learn how to use this equipment, when you need to build a model at ¼” scale, idea exchange.

​1:00pm-2:30 pm

Welcoming Our Robot Overlords with Adam Daley, support by Karen Rabe

2:45pm-4:00 pm

Small Food Casting – “Berries” with Michelle Bisbee, support by Abbey Plankey.

Learn fast and effective casting process using Smooth-On OOMOO 30 Fast Set. Take home your very own freshly cast berries!


Small Food Casting – “Berries” with Michelle Bisbee, support by Abbey Plankey.

Friday, March 16


Prop Gizmology Pew, Pew! with Thomas Fiocchi, support by Liz Hastings

How to design and execute cosplay weapon props without stinking up the place. Learn a seven-step process going from research, design, scaling, to engineering, constructing, and finishing your prop weaponry. We will discuss different methods, materials, and techniques to create world-class props in your budget and time frame. Woodworking, foam working, steel techniques, creative gizmology, it is all in this session!!!

1:00 pm-2:30 pm

Prop Gizmology Pew, Pew! with Thomas Fiocchi, support by Liz Hastings

2:45 pm-4:00 pm

Prop Gizmology Pew, Pew! with Thomas Fiocchi, support by Liz Hastings


Small Food Casting – “Berries” with Michelle Bisbee, support by Abbey Plankey.

Saturday, March 17


Stage Combat and Safe Weapons with stage combat specialist Rick Sordelet, support by Jay Duckworth.

Safe stage combat and weaponry. Don’t end up a horrible statistic.


Blood Pack Demos with stage combat expert Rick Sordelet, support by Jay Duckworth.

Tricks with blood bags with stage combat expert.


Simple Pneumatics with Eric Hart, support by Jay Duckworth

Eric will introduce the principles of pneumatic prop design and demonstrate everything from simple puffs of dust to more complex movement using pneumatic cylinders and solenoid valves.

About the presenters

Adam Daley is a Mechanical Engineer turned Prop Master who has worked for companies ranging from Pacific Coast Theatre Festival to Utah Shakespeare Festival. In his free time, he mentors for FRC First Robotics and builds electric guitars.

Michelle Bisbee is an active member of S*P*A*M and a pillar of the props community.

Thomas Fiocchi has been the Props Technologist at Ohio University, training future props artisans, since 1997.  He worked for a decade as a props artisan at the Shakespeare Theater in Washington DC, and at McCarter Theater in NJ.  He operates Fiocchi Sword and Prop, doing custom stage combat weaponry and freelance props out of Athens Ohio.

Rick Sordelet is the top Fight Director in the country. He has 54 Broadway shows to his credit. He has staged all of Disney Theatrical productions, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan, Aida, and The Little Mermaid.

Eric Hart is the props master at Triad Stage and visiting professor at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He is the author of “The Prop Building Guidebook: for Theater, Film, and TV” and “The Prop Effects Guidebook.” He has built props for numerous theatres on and off Broadway and throughout the United States.

USITT Props Lab
USITT Props Lab

Top Prop Stories of 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, let us take a look back at the top news stories that affected our industry.

Robby the Robot Is Now the Most Valuable Movie Prop Sold at Auction – The famous Forbidden Planet creation recently sold for $5,375,000.

Alley Theatre Suffers Damage From Hurricane Harvey – One of the United States’ largest regional theaters suffered a devastating blow as flood waters destroyed a major portion of their hand props. They were able to bounce back quickly and resume putting on shows, but this loss will surely be felt for years to come.

Fake cosplay guns, real security problems at Comic Cons – Though cosplay continues to gain in popularity, more and more fan conventions are limiting the use of realistic prop guns, or even banning prop weapons altogether. Expect this story to continue to unfold over the next few years.

20 Years of the 501st Legion: How the Star Wars Costuming Group Became a Force for Good – Speaking of cosplay, the world-famous group of Stormtrooper enthusiasts celebrated their twentieth anniversary this year.

San Diego Opera to Sell Studio to Help Stabilize Finances – The company announced its plan to sell off its scene shop as a way to balance their budget. They will continue to rent a portion of it to build sets, and they pulled this off without any layoffs, so it may end up being a positive thing.

Jay Duckworth at USITT 2017 – One of the keynotes at 2017’s USITT conference was a props person. Jay Duckworth, props director at The Public Theater, spoke about his career and the artist’s “bug out bag.”

Inside Syfy’s Cosplay Melee Workshop – The Syfy Channel introduced a new reality show this year called Cosplay Melee. Tested took us into their workshop to see what the contestants had to work with.

Off-Broadway Producers and United Scenic Artists Create First Ever Agreement for Off-Broadway Designers – In an historic move, designers on Off-Broadway productions will now be covered by the USA union. I do not know what this means for prop designers, who can be found all over Off-Broadway but are almost non-existent in venues already covered by USA.

The Prop Building Guidebook second edition – Finally, the second edition to my book was released this year. I like to think this is news-worthy. Be on the lookout for an all-new book from me, The Prop Effects Guidebook, which will be out in early 2018!

Props at USITT

I can’t make it to USITT in St. Louis this year, but a lot of prop-related events are going on.


Scenic Designers and their collaboration with Props Masters vs. Props Designers. Wednesday, 1-2:30pm, room 127. Speakers include S*P*A*M members Karin Rabe (The Alley) and Kelly Kreutsberg (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis), as well as Erik Diaz and Tom Burch.

Early Career Honors featuring Jay Duckworth, Properties Master of The Public Theater. Thursday, 9:30-10:45am in the America’s Ballroom.

Props for the Non-Props Person. Thursday, 5:30-6:45pm, room 242. Hosted by Jay Duckworth.

RC4 Wireless – Making Magic: Integrating Wireless DMX into Props and Costumes. Friday, 1pm-2:30pm,  Innovation Stage. Speakers include James Smith (RC4), S*P*A*M Member Sean Dane (RC4), Jen Dasher, Jeremy Fisher, and Jonathan Shimon.

Electrifying Costumes and Props: Safe DC Circuit Design. Friday, 2:45-4pm, room 131. Speakers include Jeff Mizener and Mitch Hefter.

Stage Firearms and Stage Weapons: Safety Procedures and Policies. Saturday, 8-9:15am, room 130. Speakers include Bill Reynolds (Yale) and Ryan Johnson (New Rule FX).

The History of Vice and the Props to Commit It. Saturday 11-12:30pm, room 127. S*P*A*M Members Karin Rabe (The Alley) is co-chair and Merrianne Nedreberg (Center Theatre Group) is speaking, along with Karen Glass, Ken Clothier, and Trevor Carrier.


Be sure to check out the Society of Properties Artisan Managers (S*P*A*M) on the Expo Floor at booth 1634. Members will be tending the booth throughout the conference.

Other prop favorites include Wonderflex World, Sculptural Arts, Smooth-On (found at the Reynolds Advanced Materials booth), Rosco, and RC4. It looks like Worbla is making their debut at the Expo as well. Of course you can find so much more just by wandering around the floor.

And stop by the Focal Press booth to see all the latest books. The second edition of The Prop Building Guidebook is due out this Friday, so they may have a copy you can page through.


On Friday, Muny scenic artists will be working on actual scenery for the Muny during the Stage Expo.

The Tech Expo is on display throughout the conference; you can always discover new ideas there. Cover the Walls is also an invigorating experience as you see what your peers have been working on. Most of the other exhibits are either costume or paint related.

The Scene Design Poster Session frequently has props-related entries. The presentation is Wednesday, 2:45-4:15pm, in room 127, but they remain on display for the rest of the conference.

I am sure I am missing plenty of props-related events, and the conference may have plenty of non-prop-related wonders you are interested in.