OKAY, WHERE DO I START?
First, you read through the script several times or ask the director for a Props list. Then look on the list and see what is easily obtainable and what you have to buy.
Generally, the most common way Props Mastersfind props for their shows is by going out and looking through thrift shops, auction houses, and antique stores, as well as visiting yard sales. The Props Master/Mistress has to be in constant communication and search for every prop that is needed for a specific production.
In addition to going out and finding pre-built pieces, Props Masters are frequently in charge of designing and building pieces that they can't find pre-existing. This involves a lot of creativity and patience for props masters with a limited budget.
One big tip if you are the head of Props: do not be afraid to ask for help. If there's a prop that you cannot find/make by yourself, it is okay to ask for help to get it done, the rest of the production crew (and cast members) are more than willing to help!
DIFFERENT TYPES OF PROPS
- Hand prop: anything handled or carried by an actor. They include staffs, food, weapons, lanterns and candles, canes, staffs, parasols, and practically anything else an actor could or might pick up.
- Personal Props: props worn or carried by a particular actor and issued to him rather than stored on the prop table. The Props Master/Mistress would discuss with the Costume Designer on what can be used.
- Set props: most obviously furniture. These are objects that add to the look of the setting, with which the actor interacts. The Props Master/Mistress would discuss with the Set and Scenic Designers on what to use.
- Set Dressing: consists of similar items, but which the actor doesn't usually handle. Some set dressings are "practicals", props like lamps or chandeliers that perform on stage as they do in real life.
o Trim props are a type of set dressing that hang on the walls, such as pictures, window dressing and curtains, and so on.
o Also included in set dressing is anything on the floor. In the days when ground clothes were common, they were part of the properties department. Ground clothes are canvas drops painted to be floor. They were layed by starting down center, then were stretched out and back and secured with carpet tacks. Today props still includes rugs, carpets, and other floor coverings, but doesn't generally include a hard deck.
- Greens: any plants, live or artificial
- Mechanical Special Effects: That basically means any special effect that is not plugged in to operate. If a pull pin or a string operates a trick, it is a prop, but if an electric solenoid trips it, it is under electrics. Mechanical noise makers are props, but taped sound effects are electrics, and so on.
WHAT ARE PROPS?
- Properties (or props, as they're more commonly known) are any item that is onstage that is not the scenery. This includes things like coffee mugs, suitcases, books, letters, and even food (edible or faux) up to furniture. The props master/mistress is also in charge of working with the set/scenic designers to agree on furniture for the props master/mistress to purchase, with the costume designer to coordinate purses, hats, gloves, and other "costume props" that fall under a specific section of the general props umbrella. Props are considered to be any moveable item on the set of a production, separate from the other elements of theatrical design.