Behind the Scenes - What Does a Props Designer Do?

For every performer you see on the stage in a Forward production, there are many more theater professionals behind the scenes whose artistic talent and hard work help to make the production happen. This summer, we're going to find out a bit more about some of these folks and learn about what they do. In this blog post, we'll discuss Props Design.

For our first six seasons, Forward was lucky enough to have the late Charles Jennings (Jen) Trieloff as our Props Designer. His artistry and skill was apparent in every production. From Mark Rothko's cluttered studio in Red, to the imaginative use of props in 44 Plays for 44 Presidents (for both of those productions he also designed the sets), Jen set a high bar. Now Pamela Miles has taken over the reins. She was the Props Designer for each Forward Theater production this past season, and will be doing the same for the upcoming season as well. She has beautifully and capably followed in Jen Trieloff's large footsteps and is likewise creating beautiful worlds on stage.

So what exactly does the Props Designer/Props Master do? The Props Designer/Master is responsible for obtaining all props needed for the production. She also works with the Stage Manager in gathering appropriate rehearsal props early in the rehearsal process.

Depending on the production’s needs, the Props Designer will pull from storage, purchase, or make the props for a production. The props list may start with a list in a published script, but the list is usually amended by the Director and will probably change during the rehearsal process. She will need to decide what will need to be purchased, whether it’s the actual prop or materials needed to build a prop, remembering to allow for props that need to be replenished, such as food or fresh flowers. She also needs to be available during the technical rehearsals before opening and during the run of the show, in case there's a need to replace or fix broken props.

The Props Designer may be asked to help the Set Designer dress the set. For a show like last season's I and You, set in a teenage girl's bedroom, Pam filled each shelf and surface with the items a teenager might have, all while keeping the personality of the character in mind. What kind of computer would she have? What color would her pillows/bedspread/rugs be? What pictures should be hanging on the walls? Many decisions have to be made, and all have to be in keeping with the characters that have been established by the director and actors, as well as working with the vision of the Set Designer.

A good Props Designer has a huge impact on the look of every show you see, and we are lucky to have Pam on the team at Forward. So, the next time you see a Forward show and an actor drinks from a glass, sits in a chair, reads a book, or looks at a painting on the wall, you can thank Pam for her artistry and attention to detail. (And Pam is also our scenic painter, so that painting was often created by her as well!)