Hello all! Welcome to our second segment of Tech Tuesday. Tech Tuesday is a blog series that we are using to highlight some of the backstage and technical elements that go into a theatrical production. It’s easy to come and see a production, but it isn’t always so easy understanding everything that goes into producing one of The Rose shows.
This week we will be talking about our Properties Mistress, Devon Denn-Young. Devon has worked at The Rose for about a year and has contributed to our productions tremendously. Properties, or props, are all of the things that an actor uses or interacts with onstage. A sword is a prop. A bowl is a prop. A stick is a prop. And so on. Some shows are really prop heavy–like Prancer! Whereas some shows don’t need quite as many props, but perhaps a few really intricate ones, such as Stellaluna & Other Tales.
Devon was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions about herself and what it means to be a properties mistress at The Rose–so let’s dive in!
Can you please provide a description of what it means to be the Properties Mistress?
As the props mistress I facilitate all of the properties needed for each mainstage/First Stage production. This includes but is not limited to pulling from stock, purchasing, renting, and building the items needed. As well I work with our guest set designers to create and find set dressings as needed for each mainstage production. As part of my position I also oversee the care and storage of all properties and furnishings, as well as, the rental process to outside entities.
What do your daily duties consist of?
· Reading & Analyzing of production scripts in relation to properties.
· Creation of property lists.
· Pulling and cleaning of props needed.
· Working with the public for rentals of our props and furnishings.
· Collaborating with other designers and staff in creating theatrical productions.
· Building props and furnishings/set dressings as needed for productions.
· Budgeting and purchasing of supplies and props.
· Cleaning of my work spaces and properties storage.
· Mediating information about properties to the Stage Manager, Director, and other Technical Staff.
· Designing and sketching
· Repair of equipment used in my area.
What inspired you to start working in theater? What inspired you to work in props?
I have always had a passion for performing arts since I was a child. My mother worked as a stitcher in her college theatre department and would often bring me along to work as a toddler. I enjoyed watching rehearsals and the costumers work. This fostered an interest not only in theatre but also in how to create garments, faux food, and other properties. As a child I spent many hours creating elaborate period garments and furnishings for my Barbie to recreate some of my favorite old movies. Perhaps not your typical childhood game.
I studied theatre all through Jr. High and High School, so it was not much of a surprise to my parents when I chose Theatre as my major area of study. The college program I was in really stressed the importance of having a good general knowledge of as many aspects of theatre as possible. This has served me well. As a student I designed in most major areas of theatrical design, as well as, studying acting, directing, stage management, publicity..etc. Because of this I have managed to work pretty much exclusively in the theatre throughout my adult life in a myriad of positions. From special effect make up artist, to costume designer, and from technical director to prop mistress – my theatrical career possibilities have been varied and exciting.
Did you go to school for theatre?
Yes, I graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 2001 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre with a Technical Emphasis. In 2005 I received a Master of Visual and Performing Arts degree from Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia specializing in Historical Costuming and Fashion Theory.
When/what was your first theatrical experience?
My first theatrical experience, other than going to work with mom, was as The Angel of the Lord in my first Christmas Pageant at my childhood church. It was an interesting production where a local parent had created cutouts of Care Bears dressed up as the manger scene characters for each child to hold as the character. The Angel was Cheer Bear and I was quite excited to be not only the Angel but also a pink Care Bear!
What show that you have worked on are you most proud of?
There are so many and for so many reasons! But one that stands out in my mind most is Peru Theatre Company’s production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. For this production, I was costume designer, set designer, & special effects make-up artist. The aesthetic of the concept for this production was lovely. I was particularly happy with my special effects make-up for the character Mother Theresa. The Challenge of turning a college student into an elderly Mother Theresa was fun and very interesting. I enjoy working with death masks to build prosthetics. The ability to turn a person’s face into a completely different one is such an enjoyable challenge for me and this specific endeavor went very well!
Was there a moment in your life solidified that you wanted to be a theater artist?
I suppose when I chose to go to college for theatre was the moment it solidified my life path as a theatre artist.
What is your favorite part of your job as props mistress?
I love the entire process, but perhaps my favorite aspect is the collaboration between all of the other artists to achieve the same goals.
What is your least favorite part of your job?
Taking out the trash cans and lifting super heavy stuff.
If you had any advice for a child who wanted to pursue a career as a properties mistress/master, what would it be?
Practice your craft in your own way. Auditioning for shows and joining into organized productions is great fun, but creating your own opportunities will serve you well too. Hone your skills at home doing what you love.
Devon is in charge of making sure the props are pulled, cleaned, designed and created for every show at The Rose. That’s a lot of stuff to keep track of. Next time you see a cool prop, think about how much time may have gone into choosing or creating it. It might just blow your mind!
Thank you, Devon, for giving up a part of your day to share with us some of what it means to be a props artisan at The Rose.
Happy Tech Tuesday!