A Short, Sweet Guide by Allie Zito
1. Read that script! Everything you need to know is in there: what you need, who uses it, if it will get broken - it's all there. Read it once, twice, three times. Start quoting it to your friends. Start singing the songs in your shower. All of this is completely normal.
2. Lists upon lists upon lists: when you work with props, you are going to have a few different types of lists. You will most likely have a full list of every prop that is in the show, a list of things to buy, a list of things to make, a list of things that have been impossible to find, a list that includes the budget as well, a list of props that somehow get destroyed within the context of the show, a list of props that somehow got destroyed outside the context of the show. These lists may be hard to keep track of, but they will end up being very helpful.
3. The director is your best friend: "What color should I paint this?" "Is it okay for us to use an iPhone, or should I find a flip phone?" "Is is too meta to use an Elle magazine cover with Reese Witherspoon on it?" When it comes to these questions and more, the director always has an answer, and their answers are always extremely helpful. They understand that you are trying to make their vision a reality, and they have no problem playing twenty questions if they know that it is for the betterment of the show.
4. When talking to other members of the production, keep it short and sweet: everyone does not need to hear every single detail of that Target run you made last weekend, and how you had to check three stores before finding a trashcan that can fit a person. When it comes to props announcements, keep them short and to the point. People's attention spans and memories will not care/remember a longwinded talk about how "playing with props is bad" and "I will kill you if you break that really expensive prop that I had to blah blah blah" no. If you need to be longwinded, write it and give people the option of reading it (hahaha, get it? Because I'm writing...a lot...right now?).
5. Trust no one: props can break and disappear very easily, so you must trust no one. Except the stage managers. They are usually on the ball and can tell you that "Allie, that plate is still by the sink, you were washing it five minutes ago." (Thanks, guys.)
6. You can make anything: really, it's possible. Dreams can come true. The most magical part of props is fabrication. One of my favorite examples of fabrication happened during last year's Intersession Show (I was not on props at the time, but I must admit, this bit inspired me to later join props). The script called for a Depression-era radio. Obviously, Depression-era radios are hard to find and quite fragile. Instead of trying to cut it out of the show, the heads of props at the time said "I got this," and made a radio out of cardboard and markers and magic. When they brought in that radio, I could hardly believe my eyes. It was incredible; it looked like the real thing, but it was lightweight, could be easily attached to the set, and could be made over and over again. That magic is what inspired me to work in props.