Props are essential to the success of any show, if props co-ordinators get it right then it is never mentioned anywhere in the NODA review ….. but by jove if they get it wrong LOL!
The internet has made it so much easier to research the time period and get the props exactly right, but the skill of the props co-ordinators at our society www.eldoradomusicalproductions.co.uk are second to none in tracking down that prop.
10 key points for smooth running props
This list is meant to help those new to this area of the theatre but is not exclusive. Please comment if you think I’ve missed something vital.
- Start by reading the script thoroughly to understand the context of the piece.
- Write a comprehensive list of the essential props to the plot. I’ve included my free template where you can note what scene and which character uses it and whether it is pre-set or not. It is in excel and editable so easy to add/subtract what you need. Props list
- Circulate a list of props to the cast and supporters – you just never know when someone may have a 1980’s telephone stuck in their loft!
- Tick off the list of props as you get them and note where they should be returned to … there is nothing worse that lending someone something and not seeing it again.
- Search the charity shops for any gaps in your props list, or approach other companies who have performed the show previously to see if they have props stores available. There are also companies that you can hire specific props from.
- Try and gather these props at least 1 month before the performance, any earlier and cast members will still have their scripts in their hands so won’t be able to use the props correctly, any later and the cast members forget to use the props altogether!
- The hard part is dragging the props to every rehearsal so the cast can use them. Ideally find a place to store them at the rehearsal location.
- At the beginning of rehearsal, use a table to lay out the props, ideally in order of use from left to right. Once cast members have costume changes and words/songs to learn they are rarely thinking about what props to get. If the props are in the exact same place each and every time it will make things run smoother.
- Before each scene, make sure that anything that is required to be on stage is pre-set, ie before the lights go on.
- Once a scene is finished, make sure props are returned to their place on the props table, or are re-set in their next position.
As you can see, our props co-ordinators work so very hard. Please take a common sense approach for any food items, and ensure fresh food is brought in when required rather than give the cast food poisoning. I remember for our production of One Man Two Guvnors our props co-ordinator brought in hot tomato soup in a flask every night.
For any replica guns/knives etc, these should be stored in a locked cupboard and not on the props table. Ensure you are operating under the latest health and safety guidelines. At the time of writing an internet search provided this document safe-use-of-firearms-in-productions.
Once at the theatre there is no right or wrong way to lay out the props table. Sticking to a similar method you’ve had in rehearsals is a good idea (ie left to right as you go through the show). However seeing that the props are going to be there all week you can make your life easier by blocking out areas for the props with masking tape or similar. Below is an example I found on the internet but in my experience there are many benefits to this method, particularly as you know instantly when something is not in its “home” position!
Hope my template helps any newbie props co-ordinators, do let me know if the template is useful or in your experience whether it needs different columns.