Unlocking the Prop Closet: Tips for Finding Hard-to-Find Props for High School Theatre Productions

The prop room may be one of the most magical spaces in a theatre—a treasure trove of items that breathe life into a performance, each piece capable of telling its own story. Yet, high school theatre teachers and directors know that this enchanted world also comes with its own set of challenges. Where do you turn when the script calls for that 17th-century pocket watch or an authentic Russian Samovar? So, join us as we guide you through various strategies for locating hard-to-find props for your next high school production.

Start with Research

  • Historical and Cultural Context: Knowing your play’s time period and cultural background is crucial. This will help you not only in finding the prop but also in selecting the appropriate variation of it.
  • Script Analysis: Make a detailed list of all the props mentioned in the script and categorize them by rarity or difficulty in acquiring them.
  • Budget Constraints: Before diving into the hunt, it’s crucial to assess your budget. Rare or antique items often come with a higher price tag.

Tap into Your Network

  • Local Theatre Community: Don’t underestimate the power of communal resources. Reach out to nearby theatre companies, community theatres, and even colleges with theatre programs. They may have what you’re looking for or can direct you to someone who does.
  • Alumni: Former students who have moved on to theatre-related careers might have unique insights or resources.
  • Social Media Groups: Countless online communities are dedicated to theatre professionals. Facebook groups, Redditt, or other specialized theatre forums can be goldmines.

Think Outside the Box

  • DIY: Sometimes, the best way to acquire a rare item is to make it yourself. Plenty of how-to videos and tutorials are available to guide you.
  • Adapt and Overcome: Can’t find an authentic 1940s radio? When strategically placed and cleverly lit, a modern-day replica might do the trick.
  • Digital Solutions: In this age of technology, digital props can sometimes replace physical ones. Projectors can be used to display hard-to-find items.

Utilize Online Resources

  • eBay and Etsy: These online marketplaces can be invaluable for tracking down unique items. However, make sure to read reviews and possibly get in touch with the seller to confirm authenticity.
  • Online Theatre Marketplaces: Websites like Broadway Design Exchange specialize in buying and selling theatre props and costumes.
  • Specialized Prop Shops: While perhaps a more costly option, specialized stores often offer rentals.

Don’t Forget Legalities

  • Copyright: Handle any logos, brand names, or copyrighted elements appropriately.
  • Contracts and Agreements: When borrowing, always establish a formal agreement outlining the terms and conditions; it will protect you later!

The prop room’s challenges are as numerous as its wonders, but with a little ingenuity and a lot of resourcefulness, you can turn any high school production into a historically accurate or fantastically imagined world that captures the hearts and minds of your audience. As they say, the show must go on—with or without that elusive, authentic papyrus scroll.

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