I, the props mistress, have the job to single out, create, and search for approximately four hundred knickknacks and doodads.
The current show is You Can’t Take It With You, I, the props mistress, have the job to single out, create, and search for approximately four hundred knickknacks and doodads that are hung and set on every surface of the set. Every drawer is filled will papers while every nook contains something unusual. Behind the set lies two full prop tables lined with butcher paper outlining each and every prop that gets brought on and off stage.
The prop house (or just up the wooden stairs in the maintenance building) has dust coating the floor and the beams hanging low enough that you run the risk of bumping your head against the old wood. Piled from floor to ceiling, on every landing, are mementos from each show Catalina has put on. Hobby-horses and wooden half trees I painted from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, casino chips from Guys and Dolls, saloon swinging doors from Scapino!, flower darts I made for Into the Woods, wooden train cut outs from Schoolhouse Rock Live, big, lumpy suitcases from The Diary of Anne Frank, and a dagger alongside a bag of chunky glitter from Peter Pan are just a few things I can recognize. Up in boxes high on the shelves are patriotic paraphernalia, burlap sacks, bedding and pillows, every kind of telephone you could imagine, books of all shapes and sizes, tea cups with saucers, camels without candleholders, fake rats and parrots, umbrellas of every color, old radios and record players, fake flowers bursting from buckets labeled “nature,” it’s all there and waiting for the right show to come around where it could be dusted off and set under the spotlights.
In the case of this show, a very specific list of items was provided for the Properties Mistress. Chinese inkwells and the small bearded head of a man were just two of the items I could identify that I did not have among the numerous shelves. I was then put in the position to use what could be salvaged and completely transform it into something different. I repainted a plastic skull to make a ceramic dish to hold various kinds of taffy. Paintings and pictures were pulled and loaded into the golf cart to be pulled apart and decorated to match the time period. Porcelain plates were washed and dried, silverware counted and matched–everything that was pulled out for the show had to be noted and organized in order so that we wouldn’t have to put back more than we needed to.
I was then put in the position to use what could be salvaged and completely transform it into something different.
Onstage, there was a desk whose owner was a playwriting dramatic who put every word down on paper. Naturally, that meant that said desk must have papers and letters of all shapes, colors, and sizes filling drawers, covering surfaces, and in the trunks beside the desk. When I pulled out a plastic tub of paper materials that had been accumulated of the years, I brought it back down to the stage to sift through papers that obviously wouldn’t work. I began picking up letters and noticed that beautiful handwriting and terrible scrawl were all directed toward a singular name: Naomi. Sure, I figured that just a handful of letters could have been donated to the theater department (it wasn’t that uncommon), but among the letters was various poetry from a “secret admirer,” pen pal letters from foreign countries, faded school records, and numerous post cards from aunts and uncles.
I began picking up letters and noticed that beautiful handwriting and terrible scrawl were all directed toward a singular name: Naomi.
I felt as if I was meeting someone for the first time; her writing suggested that through her creativity, she would find herself somewhere in the field of English as a career. Her family and friends from all over the states had sent postcards from museums and bookstores that would intrigue her. It was a brief meeting, almost like a quick conversation during a passing period. I had found something that was left in a bin to age in the prop house for the next decade or so.
Maybe it wasn’t meant to be found, or even to be put in the prop house, but to me, the props mistress, creation and repurposing is essential to a successful production
Maybe it wasn’t meant to be found, or even to be put in the prop house, but to me, the props mistress, creation and repurposing is essential to a successful production, and through Naomi’s contribution to the theater department,You Can’t Take It With You became an even more convincing production, and as a techie, I give you my thanks, Naomi.