March 29th, 2013 at 02:02am brian
Between now and May, when their new production of ‘The Glass Menagerie’ by Tennessee Williams opens, Prague Playhouse will be bringing you a series of short articles which will hopefully give you an insight into how things work behind the scenes in the world of theatre. In light of Prop 8 fight in the United States, todays article is going to focus on props, and more importantly on how they come to be on the stage when they need to be and one of the people responsible for getting them there.
Rachael Collins has been in Prague since late 2007, and she is one of the prop mistresses for this latest play. We managed to talk her into giving up a few minutes of her time to answer a few questions for us.
1 – First of all, how about an introduction. Can you tell us who you are and how you came to be working with the Prague Playhouse?
Hello, this is Rachael Collins, resident of Praha since late 2007. When I first came to Praha I didn’t know anyone and had never been to the city. I turned to my love of theatre in order to feel ‘more at home’ and get to know other people, both expats and locals alike. Someone put me in touch with Brian Caspe not long after I arrived, so here I am. This is my first show with Prague Playhouse.
2 – People dream of being famous actors, writers, or directors, but as far as I’m aware most kids don’t grow up wanting to be a props guy/girl when they grow up. How did you get involved in this aspect of theatre?
I don’t want to be the actor that says ‘ Well, if I don’t have a part in the cast, then I won’t do anything at all!’ A show isn’t just a talented cast and a skilled director, its costumes, stage crew, advertising, and, of course, props. I want to do what I can, to do my part.
3 – What are the special challenges facing someone when it comes to finding the right props for a particular play?
Making sure the props match the time and circumstances of the play and its characters is a key issue. Depending on the action of the show, making sure you have back-ups or, have someone that can repair props if need be.
4 – Are there any challenges specific to this particular play, such as finding articles from a certain time period for example?
Yes. Late 20s early 30s design in the American south is not the same as late 20s and early 30s design in he Czech Republic. Therefore, any larger props will have to be almost time-period neutral. Finding the glass figurines is the central challenge and one that will require creativity and ingenuity.
5 – What kind of places do you generally go to when you’re looking for props?
Flea markets and Bazaars are your friend in this case. Same goes for thrift shops. Scouting other prop departments in local theatres is also helpful.
6 – Can you tell us what kind of budget you generally have to work with for a typical play, and how that gets worked out?
As this is my first time dealing with props and managing a budget with the others, I couldn’t tell you what I consider typical. Being able to stretch your crowns goes without saying.
7 – What skills would you suggest people who want to work with props on a regular basis aim to improve?
Good question. Well, persevere when it comes to hunting down that perfect set piece and learn to think outside the box, be creative with what you have.
8 – Are there any specific tools that you consider important when it comes to creating props?
A good reference book for the era that you are dealing with, such as picture books, photograph collections, etc. I don’t know if you would consider this a tool, but unless you are dealing with a modern play resources like this can be very helpful.
9 – How closely do you tend to work with the writer/director or set designer when designing props?
As I said before, this is my first time working with props in such a hands-on way, so I will interact with the writers and directors as much as they see fit or necessary.
10 – What sort of percentage of found, bought and made do you generally aim for with the props for a particular production?
I think it’s good to have an even mix of everything. I’m not sure what percentage I would give, but if you have a limited budget you would tend to have more found and made rather than all bought on sight.
11 – What is your favourite thing about working with props?
Finding a long sought after piece or making a really fantastic set piece that really pulls the whole stage together.
12 – Is there a particular prop or set from past productions that you’re particularly proud of?
Years ago, in college, our department put on a production of ‘As You Like it’, and I signed on as part of the set building crew. For the Forest of Arden, we created a central store made of dozens of pieces, a wooden mosaic if you will, painted in greens and browns and yellows to resemble a forest and meadow. It was incredible. It took hours upon hours to cut, paint, and assemble, but it was worth it. From the sound booth above it reminded me of a stained glass window such as cathedrals have.