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the role of the PROPS designer

If you chose to serve on the  PROPS DESIGN TEAM for this semester's Advanced Acting show, you are responsible for participating in design team meetings as well as growing as a designer during the rehearsal and performance process.


If serving on the Props Design Team, you are ALSO responsible for independently learning about the role of a props designer as outlined below. 


Please be sure you have your Acting/Design BINDER (to collect/document your learning) and your  Process JOURNAL (to reflect on your process/journey).

learning about prop design


Video: Props Design 

Journal Entry:  What is the main role of a Properties Designer?

  1. What is the main role of a props designer?  

  2. In what specific ways can designers accomplish this?  (give specific examples from video)

  3. In what ways can YOU better accomplish this goal while working on OUR play?  (give specific examples using script as guide)

Video:  Props Manager

Journal Entry:  The PROCESS & SKILLS of a Props Manager

1. While listening, jot down the PROCESS of props management as described in the video.

2. While listening, jot down SKILLS needed for a props manager.

3. What new and/or important things did you learn about or hadn't previously thought about when it comes to props?

Read:  Props for the Theatre

Journal Entry:  How can props support the story of the play?

  1. Name 4 things that prop designers DO to support the story of the play (1st paragraph)

  2. What was the analogy shared to define "what is a prop"?

  3. How can the props in OUR show give "clues" about WHO the characters ARE?  (Spend some time with script and in design reflection and list at least 5 specific prop examples from OUR show.)

  4. Observe closely the photos provided.  Notice the differences between the set after load-in, and the set after it's "dressed".  (No need to write a response.)

  5. What are the 3 types of props a designer must gather/create for a production?  (see blue band across the webpage)


Read:  Hand Props

Journal Entry:  Hand Props

  1. What is a "hand prop"?

  2. What are "adds" and "cuts" and how might you, as a props designer, be best prepared to handle these?

  3. Consider the pros & cons to using the "real" prop vs. the "rehearsal" prop in rehearsal.  (Create a pros/cons chart in your journal for use of real vs. rehearsal props)

  4. What is important to consider when making a preliminary props list?

  5. What is an example of at least one "support prop" in YOUR script?


Read:  Set Props

Journal Entry:  Set Props

  1. What is a "set prop"?

  2.  Who generally communicates the needs of "set props" to the Prop Designer?

  3. What are the biggest challenges with set props?  (see paragraph after the pictured groundplan)


Read:  Stage Dressing

Journal Entry:  Stage Dressing

  1. What does "stage dressing" encompass and what does it help to convey?

  2. For decor such as curtains and furniture pieces, designers often utilize photos or drawings to show what they intend.  Observe closely the photo collages provided on this page, since you will be making your own Props Design Board (collage).

Read:  Reading a Script for PROPS

Journal Entry:  How to Read a Script for Props

Make a list of the things you should/shouldn't do when reading a script in search of props needed.  (Do two colums - on


Read:  Props Shop Skills

Journal Entry:  Prop Skills

  1. What are some different "names" for the head of a props team?  

  2. List as many SKILLS as you can find in this reading that are mentioned as helpful for any props designer.  

  3. What does Jim Guy  consider to be the best "technology use" on stage?  Why do you think that is?

Task (Formative Grade):  AFTER learning all of the above, create your own Props List spreadsheet (by carefully reading the script).  Consider all the information shared above as you (re-)read the script, including stated props, implied props, and support props.  Once your Props List is complete, turn it in to KP for a grade.

Task:  Discuss your Props List with your Design team.  As a team you will use everyone's list to compile one FINAL (Google sheets) props list that you will "share" with each group member as you build and revise it.  See Ms. Price for a preferred props list template to use for this spreadsheet.  (Don't forget to "share" with KP, also!)  

Task: Highlight all Hand Props & Costume Props on your digital Google spreadsheet in YELLOW. (These are the props you will need to get into the hands of actors ASAP.) Next, look closely at (and discuss) your Set Props & Stage Dressing and discuss both with the Director and Set Design team.

Task:  As a team, create a Deadline Calendar for all of your props, including those you need to find, buy, or make.  Assign prop gathering/ordering/making tasks among your team.  Consider eachothers' strengths when assigning tasks, and be sure to update your Props List spreadsheet as you acquire each show prop.



The design PROCESS starts with the script.  All designers must  read the script. Realistic and interesting designs can not be created without knowing exactly what the script requires.


Once  the NEEDS of the script are determined, all designers take the time to  INTERPRET the script:  What does it MEAN?  What's MOST IMPORTANT to convey through design?  What is the HEART of the production?  What should it FEEL like? What's the THEME?  Is there a STYLE that should be considered when designing?  Is there an important or implied METAPHOR that could be shown through design?  What COLORS, IMAGES, and COMPOSITION on stage may best support the director's telling of the story?

Watch the video below in which Tony-winning set designer Bunny Christie shares her design for the play, INK.  Notice all the ways that she references the feeling, mood, and heart of the production which she reflected in her design.


Video:  Design on Stage (Bunny Christie)

Journal Entry:  Reflections on Design (Ink)

  1. What did YOU find visually interesting in Bunny Christie's design?  Why?

  2. In what ways did the designer's SCRIPT INTERPRETATION and/or RESEARCH assist in the creation of her final design?  (List at least 3 specific ways.)

After a designer has INTERPRETED the script (which is shared/discussed with the director), (s)he then goes                                      in search of  rESEARCH & INSPIRATION for the design.  This is often done by researching various aspects of the script/story, including the setting, the time period, historical references within the script, the style or genre of the piece, photos from the time period or setting, source material, etc.  A designer may also research her/his own ideas for design.  See an example of what I mean by this HERE.

For the next part of the Design Process, you will be creating a Design Board to visually display your research/inspiration.  This will become the springboard for your own designs.  Read about this task below.

Task (Formative Grade):  AFTER your team has discussed and created your FINAL props list, begin looking for INSPIRATION for the look and feel you'd like to achieve with your Props Design. (Note:  You MUST meet with the Director and Set team prior to this step.) 

  • The goal of this task is to research and find information and inspiring images that will assist you in acquiring, designing, or creating realistic and visually interesting props for our production. 

  • Each member of the props team is responsible for researching and/or looking for inspiration for at least 3 props/set pieces (there can be overlap between team members, or you can divide and conquer)

  • Be sure your research is from credible sources, and also allow yourself to be inspired by the world around you. 

  • Creativity thrives in community, so be sure to collaborate with others and your team along the way.

  • As you research, be sure to "collect" your research/inspiration in a location that you can easily access when it's time to create your team's Design Board.

  • After research, discussions, and narrowing of ideas is complete, CREATE A (GROUP) PROPS DESIGN BOARD

  • Note:  You will be graded on your individual contributions to your group's Design Board

collecting/CREATINg PROPS  

Once a designer has carefully read the script (to determine what's needed for design), and has both interpreted and researched important aspects of the script and design (which also involves design meetings with the director), (s)he can then BEGIN DESIGNING

In order to design anything, a new designer must become comfortable with failure, and leave plenty of time for it during the process.  All creative work involves multiple attempts before arriving at the best outcome.  If you "get it right" the first time, you're probably not involved in creative work, and should re-consider what you've created.  Failure is natural, accepted, and expected in this course.  However, waiting until the last minute to fail is not, so please watch your calendar closely and plan ahead!  Theatre is ALWAYS on a timeline.


Designing and creating anything that's original requires planning.  How this planning "looks" is up to you, but you need to make sure that you make your designing/planning visible.  You will do this planning in your Process Journal, and it may include sketches of your designs, photos of prototypes or models, or physical attempts at your design.  This documentation process could also include a catalog of tutorial videos on how you learned to make your prop (or how to make various aspects of your prop), interviews with experts, or documentation on mentoring you received in tool use or skill development in order to create your prop.  

Task (Formative Grade):  YOUR Process of Design

  • Track your process of design in your Process Journal, including any relevant research, images, sketches, pictures of prototypes, pictures of models, or further learning you did to create your prop (see above).  You must make your design process visible for this grade.  (See paragraph above.)

Task (SUMMATIVE Grade):  YOUR Completed Prop/Set Item (to be used in the show)

dress/tech rehearsals:

Tech/Dress Deadline (Formative Grade):   Prior to Dress/Tech rehearsals, all props should be complete and in working order.  Artistic aspects, such as detail work (finish painting, etc.), may still be on-going, but the physical show props must be completed and in the hands of actors prior to the first tech rehearsal.  (Be sure you've shared useful/important information with the actors prior to their first time using new props.)


Video:  Behind the Scenes at Disney's Aladdin

Journal Entry:  Calltime​ / Pre-Show Checklist

1. In professional theatre, as shown in this video, what are the (specific) tasks performed by YOUR (assigned) role prior to a show?  

2.  What are some of the things that YOU could put on YOUR Pre-Show checklist to be sure our show runs smoothly?  (Think of ALL the things necessary from the time you enter the black box until the show starts, including things like "Where do I put my personal belongings?" or "Where should this prop be pre-set?" or "What's the best place for this quick change to happen?" Etc.  Don't forget to include "sign in" on your checklist.)

Task (Formative Grade):  You will create YOUR Pre-Show Checklist with ALL tasks to consider prior to the show.  This MUST be well-thought out and completed/hung up PRIOR to the FIRST dress/tech rehearsal.  Type and print your checklist (with your name in large font at the top) and hang in a designated area backstage.  (Keep in mind that you will most likely need to add to this list from things you learn or are reminded of in dress/tech rehearsals.



(This list will be added to over time.  Let KP know if you find any helpful information that could be useful to future Advanced Acting students.)

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