In practical terms, a prop is considered to be anything movable or portable on a stage or a set, distinct from the actors, scenery, costumes and electrical equipment.
There are two roles for props people (Properties) and they vary depending on the performance. Sometimes the role is a minor one for example a one act play may have only 2 or 3 props which may be on throughout or for a Pantomime there are likely to be twenty or thirty.
It is vital that when borrowing property from people for a show that they are both cared for and returned as soon as possible afterwards to leave the lender feeling their goods have been cared for and then they may lend again.
Sourcing the actual items.
This may mean buying either new or second hand. We have a number of props in our store from old suit cases to telephones and typewriters, swords and spears. Inevitably there will be a need to supplement this however and a good props person is an expert charity shopper and borrower. They may well also need access to good crafts people who can make things for shows. Temporary/dummy props for rehearsals will also be needed from an early stage.
Props usually fall into two categories, hand props and stage props. The stage props include furniture bedding pictures carpets etc. In our productions it is usual for costume props such as hats and jewellery to be sourced by costume rather than props but it is expected that props would liaise with both costume and set to ensure that all items are sourced, and everyone knows who is looking after it and returning it.
Rehearsals and performances
During the rehearsals props personnel are expected to attend when the show is approaching (in agreement with the director) to make sure that they know which actors need what items and when. As actors are going onto the stage the props personnel hand them the required prop and take it back when they leave. This prevents items going into costume pockets etc and not being available when next needed. By attending rehearsals in this way the show looks after itself.
It is the props people who dress the set once the scene has been changed by stage hands – cushions in the right place – pictures hung etc. It is imperative that Props and stage hands work together to deliver the directors needs through initially the set designer and then the stage manager who oversees the performance.