Properties/Furniture responsibilities

Whoever is responsible for properties has a very important task ahead, especially in a smaller society which is largely dependent upon using borrowed properties. They must be returned to their owners in the same condition as they were borrowed, as soon after the final performance as possible.

The person in charge of props must have sufficient confidence to approach people requesting the loan of items. At the same time you must be orderly and precise so that once obtained, props are always easily located during performances.

There are two types of props, stage props which provide dressing/décor for the set, and hand props which are taken onto stage by an actor. If a production is a complicated one with a large number of props and scene changes, you may need one or more assistants to ensure speedy and quiet changes during the performances.

The duties are:

Read the play.

Attend production meetings and obtain general information on the style and range of props required by the director.

Prepare a list of stage and hand props from a thorough study of the script. Identify what props are available from the society’s own stock, and what will have to be made, obtained, bought, prepared nightly (ie food, drinks).

Compare the list with the director – as some may be deleted or others added.

Provide actual or substitute props for earliest possible rehearsals.

Keep a separate list of where you borrow props from, so that they can be returned later.

Prepare a performance schedule (a running plot) of what must be on stage for each scene and where, what each actor must take on stage and what must be removed and added between scenes.

Ensure that each actor has the correct hand props before going on stage.

Establish a specific position off stage where props are stored, picked up from and returned to. If there are a lot of props, it may be necessary to have a props table on each side of the stage.

  • So as to keep track of everything – particularly small items, cover the table with unused news print paper, and draw around the prop’s shape and name the prop that goes there. Thus you will be able to see at a glance when something is missing!

Dress Rehearsal and Performance

All props used on stage must be ready for the dress rehearsal. This includes those used in dressing the set, such as floral decorations, pictures, curtains.

All props must be completely checked through before each performance. Don’t rely on your memory, use your list.

It is best to use the same assistants for each performance and give them the same tasks each time.

Wait until the stage crew has finished erecting the set and lights before taking on any fragile props.

You are personally responsible for all borrowed articles. Take all precautions to ensure that items of value are collected and put into a safe place immediately after each rehearsal or performance.

  • There will be legal obligations to do with firearms – fake or real.
  • The society may need to take out a special insurance cover against damage or loss, or extend an existing policy.

After the final performance, check over with the stage manager that all borrowed items are in good order and are returned. People receiving back articles that are damaged or late may be reluctant to make anything available for future productions.

  • A letter of thanks from the society should be sent to those who have loaned their belongings.

Any properties bought, made or given for the production should be entered into the society’s inventory.

Warning: Generally speaking it is not advisable to use articles of museum or sentimental value as stage props. Use imagination to make or adapt existing props to meet the production/director’s requirements. In many cases, a converted jam jar can be as effective as a valuable piece of porcelain. It is theatre after all.