Theatrical props can often be an underappreciated aspect of a stage production. The reality is that even when they appear to be incidental, they are almost always crucial to the tone, mood, characters and forward momentum of the production. Although the script and the director dictate the specific and general prop choices of a production, prop masters are left to their own sense of finalized style interpretation as well as the mechanics of how props will be chosen and ultimately work in a scene. This is why determining where and how to buy theatrical props are important considerations for the prop master and the production.
Once the director’s initial markup of the script and the subsequent initial read-throughs have been done, the prop master can begin their research for theatrical props in earnest. A list of items and their general specifications is created and the gathering process begins.
In many cases, some specialized props need to be purchased especially for the production, and it is here that the prop master must determine where to buy the best theatrical props. Unless you are in close proximity to a theatrical supply house, you will be looking for suppliers online.
At this stage you will have narrowed the prop list to those items that must be purchased online such as fake snow, realistic torches/candles and other items that aren’t’ likely to be lying around at a thrift store or garage sale. Now it’s time to determine the questions that will help you find the best supplier.
Determining Where to Buy the Best Theatrical Props
When it comes to non-professional productions, such as theatre productions for children, high schools and community theatre in particular, it is often a good idea to seek out those sellers that specialize in dealing with these entities. This can provide a level of comfort in ensuring they are appropriate for the end-user in terms of safety and quality without being overly costly.
Be sure that the provider offers online support to help you make decisions based on need. Ask questions of providers online that have to do with safety, costs, and durability. It is their knowledge about the product lines for which they act as reseller that tell you a lot about them. Their answers can be particularly telling in terms of how they make determinations based on quality and price as to which items they will carry.
Safety, Cost, and Quantity/Quality Considerations
Quality and safety can often be a consideration for props such as artificial snow. In making decisions about where to buy, the prop master or production must be sure that the provider utilizes a material that is safe environmentally as well as for the actors.
Quantities are also a major consideration. A quality theatrical production supply reseller can help you calculate the amount of snow that you need. You will need to have the duration of the snow scene in seconds (or minutes), and the distance across the stage over which the snow must fall. You can then multiply this by the number of performances.
The same general rules hold true for props like realistic torches and candles. To properly set the mood in productions where these items are integral, they must provide a safe yet realistic means of producing the flame aspect. Breakaway glass and bottles are other props that have implications of safety as well as shipping.
It is important that the supplier have a reasonable guarantee of shipment without damage as well as a fair damaged goods return/replacement policy. While most or all of these conditions can be determined through online research of the website, it is a good idea to speak with a company representative to learn firsthand about their level of service and how they deal with their customers.