Yes, I'm a Prop Addict

Jennifer Butler

OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

Fine I will admit it, I am a prop addict. And beyond that, I am into the details that the audience may never see. Being the prop master wasn’t the part of technical theater that I thought I would be involved with but I am sure glad I did. I enjoy the thrill of the chase and going to thrift store after thrift store to find just the right piece. From searching for the 1920’s tea pot for Enchanted April to the 1940’s champagne glasses for The Games Afoot or even the materials need to make a giant syringe for The Rocky Horror Show.  

More than anything though I enjoy the research, to make sure the prop looks like it’s from the right era. The research allows me to learn, and I love to learn about the past and how things came to be.  I like the details like the right look for the liquor bottles or finding the right monarch for the bank notes of 1922 England. For the play that I am currently working on, I researched in full detail how an envelope was addressed in

London back in 1922. I researched the way the address was written and what stamps looked like in the era.  I did my best with what I had and used images from Google to recreate the addressed envelope for the play. Most recently I made newspapers for the last plays that I worked on. I did hours of research to figure out the proper font for the mast head and what events were occurring at that time to create the proper headlines. I incorporated what was happening in the play to match the real events of that time. I am into the details and I won’t stop until I have the information. To me, and this goes for most other prop masters that I know, the details matter a lot. And although I know no one beyond the first row will even see the details, I have to do it that way. I feel better about things being realistic and am satisfied knowing that the props on stage are as accurate as I can make them to be. Realistic props are needed to help tell the story.  

And although I want to learn as much as I can about other aspects of technical theater, making props really seems to be my niche. It fits well with my tendencies to pay attention to detail and my eagerness to learn. As I am finishing up in London 1922, I can’t wait to see where my next prop adventure will take me.