Putting a Face on Theatre
Hi! I am looking for information about prop coops. I understand there is one in San Francisco, but am curious if theatre people in other areas have tried to start one up. If so, what worked, what didn't, is it still running, and if not, what caused it to fold. I am about two items away from being a hoarder, by keeping items after a show has closed, or by finding "that perfect thing" while looking for some other "perfect thing", and I know many people who are in the same situation.
It is fun to meet the people with "institutional knowledge", who have worked in the area for many years, who knew-the-person-who-worked-with-the-person-who-made-the-(fill in the blank) for-that-play when it was done in town before, and who may still have it in storage. But so often I make those connections after my own show has closed. Many companies keep particular props, such as that special urn, exploding stove, full sized black swan, or other miscellany needed for a particular show, in dusty storage sites or underfoot. It seems to me that those things (which may have been expensive to produce in the first place) could be making those same companies a couple of bucks. Even seemingly ordinary items (grandma's old toaster) could be shared, borrowed, rented between local companies. They are, but it is often through who you know, whether the company formally rents, and if the person in charge of the inventory is up to their eyeballs or not.
It is often through the same "coconut telegraph" that we hear that one theatre company is cleaning out their warehouse or storage, and that it's first come first served in finding what you need for your next gig. I love the idea that Film Biz Recycling has in NYC, for film companies to donate things after a film shoot, then can write off their donations. Do large theatre companies do this? Could they? If not, why not?
I am relatively new at all of this, and am looking to start a discussion that I hope will be helpful. Thanks!
You're right - this is a great idea! I think there is a learning curve, however, in getting people to think about hsaring and recycling, rather than just throwing theatre items. To that end, I started TheatreShare which is on FB. I'm starting small and building slowly but surely, using contacts that I know. It does work, and people really seem to love it - as long as they know it's there.
There used to be one day every month when all of the theatre, opera, ballets companies in NYC would put out their used set pieces for trash. A wonderful stage designer whom I knew used to rent a truck and pick up the most incredible pieces for use in a small theatre in which he worked on staff. I'm sure they still do this, but I don't know where it is listed. You might try calling a couple theatres at random and just asking.
At any rate, good luck with your project, and let us know how it goes.
Thank you for letting me know about TheatreShare! I have joined it, although I am in San Diego. A friend of mine started Technical Theatre Artists of San Diego on FB, which has become a place where people can ask colleagues where to find this or that locally. We are both interested in having a greater impact on the local theatre community, and will be meeting soon for a brainstorming session. I will plan to post on TheatreFace as it comes together!
Hi, Kristine -- I've never heard of a prop coop, but it's sure of a great idea. I have friends in SF theater community and I'll ask about it ... I know there's a lot of informal borrowing going on as eluded to an article on props in the Feb issue of SD (page 18).
Here's the link to that:
I think a large theatre company could totally do the Film Biz Recycling thing. The big difference of course is the bigger theatres are either storing the props or just rented them from a shop to begin with. I'm thinking you should just start calling around to different and ask for things. Maybe start a local theatre blog on the topic? I'll ask around and let you know if I hear anything else. Good luck!
Thanks for the article on borrowing etiquette. I guess I didn't get that far in February's issue. Calling around, and knowing who to ask goes a long way in getting the props needed for a production. I mentioned that there is a local group on Facebook that is becoming a forum for requesting different items, as well as finding people to work on different projects. It might be a good idea to figure out an RSS feed for that, so that those people who aren't on Facebook can also participate. A separate blog with a link to the FB site might work too...
To date, I have begun creating a database with over 100 theatre companies in San Diego county, including college and universities, small community theatres, and our three LORT theatres. These theatres have been listed elsewhere, but no single list seems to contain all of them. I'm in the process of determining which groups are active, and who the contact people are for the different organizations. Some groups I hadn't even heard of rent out costumes, props, sets, and equipment, so this is becoming quite an educational albeit slow-going project. I will keep up with this thread if and when a co-op come to fruition!
Wow! Good for you on putting that database together. By all means keep updating this thread!