Stepping into a new world is one of the largest appeals of seeing a theatrical production, a movie, etc. Objects and items the actors use throughout help develop the type of world we’re experiencing. Creating this world to explore and escape into is a crucial part of the prop master’s job. They shape the reality we’re living in for the next two and a half hours.
For our current production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Amber Caras built, borrowed, and gathered all props needed to fill in this world of Ancient Rome. We were lucky enough to hear all about the props process from Caras herself.
Curtis Theatre: Give us some info on your background — how did you get into theatre, & specifically working with props?
Amber Caras: I got into theatre in 8th grade when all of my friends were taking Drama but I was a band geek. I really got into technical theatre at Saddleback College after High School because there are amazing people there. I graduated from CSULB with a BA in Technical Theatre, magna cum laude. I now currently work at South Coast Repertory as Production Assistant (Non Union ASM) and Entertainment Design Corporation as Production Assistant. I first got into props at Saddleback during a production of Urinetown when I was asked to build the water filtration device. I was told I could use anything in the shop and I could do what ever I wanted to make it work. I really like the creativity and problem solving that comes with Props and I have tried to do it as much as possible since then.
What is your inspiration/ vision for this particular show?
This show is a Vaudevillian troop that is telling you about Rome. So the props should look like this Troop had these things available to them to tell this story. So we will be using things like a Trunk and Carpet Bags and other thing that we wouldn’t be using if this were a “true to the time period” performance.
Caras takes us through her creative process, guiding us step-by-step through gathering & building props.
Step 1 – Read the Script & Make a List
“I read the script and make a list with my own notes about the props I found. Like ‘Is it edible?’ ‘Do we need more than one?'”
Step 2 – Vision Meeting with the Director & Scenic Designer
“I take that list to the Director and Scenic Designer and have them tell me what they want to use from that list and what they don’t. They tell me other things they have thought of for their vision and I add it to the list. Then I ask a million questions about each item on my list and try to get the best description I can of what they want to see.”
Step 3 – Gather from Producing Theatre’s Prop Storage
“I then would look through the prop storage at the theatre and pull out everything I already have that will work.”
Step 4 – Ask Friends & other Theaters
“I call up friends at other theaters and schools and see if I can look through their prop storage. Saddleback has been a huge help in this respect for this show. Most of our “normal” props came from there.”
Step 5 – Create Plans
“After I found everything I can, I start making Buying plans and Building Plans to complete the list. As I find things, I will try to show them to the director or the designer to get approved so I know that I am 100% done with that item.”
Step 6 – Give Props to Stage Management
“I make sure that Stage Management gets all of the props I have acquired and help them in the maintenance of all items throughout the shows.”
Step 7 – Return Props
“After the show is over, I put everything away where it came from, and make sure all borrowed items are returned.”
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum runs March 25-April 9, 2017. Friday & Saturday at 8PM, Sunday at 3PM. Tickets are on sale now. Visit our website or call the Box Office at 714-990-7722 Tues-Fri 12PM-3PM. Have questions? Contact us! Let us know your thoughts.