How to Props Master

by Lila Neugebauer ‘07 and Laura Benoit ‘14

Props are not merely an array of random items we amass to fill the void of the stage. Stage properties have a life all their own: they offer an arena for creative interpretations and dramaturgical dialogue. At Yale, the search for these objects can prove to be a surprisingly painstaking pursuit. Given the proliferation of things on this campus, you’d be surprised how hard it can be to locate that perfect water pitcher, or ashtray, or skull.

Being a Props Master can be incredibly rewarding as you work with the director and designers to find objects that can help tell the story. Your first step should be to read the script and make a list of any props you can think of that are mentioned in the text itself. Compare your list with the director’s list to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Then it’s time to start looking for props!

In terms of finding and sourcing props, you can start by checking out the Yale School of Drama Properties Warehouse. Information about how to access the warehouse can be found on the Undergraduate Production website. Be sure to discuss the fee with the warehouse manager in advance of your visit.

Other convenient, fairly affordable solutions include:

  1. Walgreens (88 York Street): good for basic stationary supplies; plastic utensils/serving implements; inexpensive foodstuffs.
  2. The Dollar Store: (760 Chapel Street and 81 Whalley Avenue): slightly more random, cheap, basic supplies than what you might find at Walgreens.
  3. CT Hotel Liquidators (1175 State Street): great for used but new—looking hotel furniture, lamps, tacky paintings; can range in price.
  4. Hulls (Chapel Street, between York and Park): art supplies (but often very expensive)
  5. on the classifieds, students can post all kinds of things for sale; you never know what you’ll come across, from futons to cowboy boots.
  6. The Undergraduate Production Vendor List is another great place to look for props.

Some things to keep in mind: The Creative and Performing Arts Award will not cover purchases of food. So even if you need real food as a prop, the CPA won’t pay for it. Also be sure you keep all of your receipts for the props you purchase, so your producer can reimburse you. Have fun! Working on props is a really great way to influence the show through the tiniest of details.