The prop fairies have delivered you a whole bunch of props to play with in your show, but before you lose yourself in the excitement of figuring out which item is for what scene, let me impart some words of advice. Here are 10 ways to not piss off your props team:
1. Be responsible for your own props. Whilst the team have kindly collated an array of props for the show, it is up to you to make sure you have them when you need them. Actually spend time going through the script and figuring out if you have enough time to get them from backstage before your scene or whether you need to preset them. If you look after yourself and don't solely rely on these things just magically appearing, everything will go smoothly.
2. If you need help, just ask! We understand sometimes you're in a rush and don't have time or space to preset things. If that's the case, ask for help - we don't bite! We can usually make sure there's a member of the props team available to give you a hand or be waiting in the wings for you, or if we can't, we'll help you find a fellow cast member to step in.
3. Put the props back on the props table! Don't leave them lying around in the wings, tangled up in your costume or forgotten in pockets. At the end of the show put all the props back. Otherwise things can get lost and then you have the mad panic the next day because no one can remember where that vitally important prop was seen last. One time we did Beauty and the Beast and someone lost the Beast's nose. You'd think the world had ended...
4. Put them back EXACTLY where you found them. If there are other prop fairies like me out there, I like laying all the props out in the exact order that they're needed. There is nothing more frustrating than getting back to the table to find all the props dumped hastily on top because the actors wanted to get out to see their friends and family as quickly as possible. When you return the props, dear god, put them back where you picked them up from. There's an order to things, they don't just magically set themselves in the right place.
5. Don't touch what isn't yours. You know if you have a prop and if you don't. If you don't, why oh WHY do you need to pick up everybody else's prop and fiddle with it. It's like going into a shop with your kids and telling them not to touch anything. Apart from you potentially breaking it, it's just really annoying!
6. Stop lobbing the props! It's easy when you're in a rush in the wings to just discard your prop hastily on the floor - or chuck it down. Be careful. Things can break and when they're gone, they're gone.
7. Stop asking if you can eat those cookies. Food props are always fun, but when you're backstage and you see those prop cookies just sat there, please resist temptation. We actually need them for the show and didn't buy them as a mid-show snack for ravenous performers. Bring your own damn cookies.
8. Be nice. We're here to help you and make you look good. A thank you goes a long way, even if we've simply passed you a clipboard to take on stage.
9. Help us if things are missing. We'll tell you if we can't find anything and we expect you to help find it. Usually the cast are the last ones to see props as they obviously put things back at the end of the last show, but should anything go missing, please help look or tell us where you last saw it. The props are for your benefit so it's really in your best interest to give us a hand.
10. Be respectful. It's natural for people to moan about things and the quality of props often comes under fire. Just remember that someone has given up their time and energy to source or make these props for you, so be respectful to the team behind it.
Most of these simple points are just politeness and common sense, therefore should come naturally to everyone. Here's hoping!