UpDate - Vol. 14, No. 14, Page 3 December 8, 1994 On stage; Propmaster blends imagination with reality A limitless imagination and a lot of time are needed to create the unusual props used on a theatre stage. For Eric Klein, a third- year graduate student in the University's Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP), creating props "is really a complicated scavenger hunt." When not working in his shop, Klein can be found at local garage sales and antique shops, rummaging among the time-worn items that he selects to turn into functional stage objects. At these sales, he looks for shapes of objects rather than what the objects actually do. If the shape is right, he said, he can rework it to be any prop he chooses. Many times, Klein will find old furniture he can transport back to the theatre shop to be reupholstered or refinished. Props can be any object on stage that is not scenic, including items that an actor carries on stage. Other areas of prop making include furniture making, sculpting, casting and molding. Some of Klein's props have included a deer carved from styrofoam covered in deerhide, handheld torches, a small piano and a collapsible ladder. Props are designed directly from the script and many are warehoused and reused from show to show, Klein said. Props that cannot be bought off the rack must be built by personnel in the theatre shop from original designs. Since approximately 70 percent of props on stage are made in the shop, creativity is critical. According to Klein, many people are involved in the process that brings an idea to the stage. A propmaster is responsible for the overall creation of the props for individual productions. The show's director provides guidance, and the scenic designer decides what will actually be used on stage. As propmaster for Agamemnon, one of the current PTTP productions, Klein's challenge was to put fire on stage. Through the cooperation of many organizations, such as the fire marshall and the campus safety office, the production features a burning altar and handheld torches on stage. How does one become interested in creating props? While an undergraduate at Central Washington University, Klein was looking for local work and was sent to a professor's house to perform odd jobs. The professor happened to teach in the theatre department. One day, the professor needed help in a production and asked Klein if he would like the job. His interest was sparked, and the business administration major soon changed to technical theatre, while downgrading business to a minor. Courses in lighting and set design proved invaluable. Klein became involved in a work-study program, where he earned his tuition in the props shop. The minor in business administration will still come in handy because, in many larger theatres, props can require more management skill than shop work. Klein has built scenery for the Delaware Theatre Company and has painted scenic drops for OperaDelaware. Some of his other experience includes work at the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, N.Y. While at the opera, he worked for John Conklin, who is considered one of the country's foremost designers. At one point, Klein also worked for Wintergarden Design, a company that designs different rooms for meetings. Once, he was involved in building a huge display for a banquet that included four large airplanes that contained full-sized buffet tables. The display also included a Japanese garden. "You must be resourceful about where things exist," Klein said. " You have to pull from a world that doesn't have the things you are looking for." -Cynthia Davis Agamemnon is currently in repertory at Hartshorn Hall and will run through Jan. 13. For ticket reservations or more information, call 831-2204.