Theatre Props

The Prop Masters


Peter Paylor

PC: Herb Deary

Playwrights imagine the way a story will unfold on stage. They understand that the stage is a magical place where anything can happen. Nothing is impossible, which is good, because the imagination by its very nature is unfettered by reality. If they can imagine elk’s horns on a wall or a larger-than-life nativity scene or a larger-than-life sex toy, they can write that. If they can imagine a high-noon-style showdown between a laser-wielding alien and a 14th-century knight with a jewel-encrusted sword on the back of a dragon, they write that without giving it a second thought. Why? Because they know the creative team will find a way to make it happen, right down to the jewels on the sword. The lighting and sound people. The costumers. The set designers. The builders. The painters. The prop makers. The creators.

“I love to create stuff,” says Sarah Winn who is a wizard at creating for the stage. “It’s my nature. I like to use the muscle in my head. I like getting my hands dirty and making stuff out of stuff. It’s exciting. I just love it.” 

“I’ve always been tinkering…like Frankenstein. I’m kind of a Frankenstein. I’ll take a piece of this and make it into that,” she says. “If you twist this and put that on there. You have to have a foundation for whatever prop you’re making. For me, that usually means a trip to the thrift store.”

Like Winn, Lisa Morris has always loved to create stuff. “We did plays when we were kids, so we made stuff out of whatever we had lying around, whether it was turning boxes into robots or castles or whatever. It was making something out of nothing. It was taking a piece of Styrofoam and turning it into a crown or a sword or a brick. It’s an illusion sometimes. I think you’re supposed to be able to look at the stage and whatever happens, happens. If it looks like a gun and you think it’s a gun, how cool is it to find out that it’s not even real. It’s all about what things look like from ten or twenty feet away.”

“It’s easy working with Sarah,” says Morris. We speak the same language. We’re on the same wavelength. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s energizing. She’s excited and supportive and she knows what she’s doing. And she’s so very talented. I’m lucky to be working with her. Creative minds when they all come together…there’s nothing more exciting. You could bottle that energy. It’s electric. Creative juices flow and unexpected things happen when you have the freedom…when someone trusts your creative abilities. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s very exciting.”

For the past year or so, Winn and Morris have been wowing audiences at Theatre in The Wings in downtown Belleville as the visual team behind productions of Christmas in Rosewood, Queen Victoria’s Tearoom, and Frankenstein. “We’re like the unsung heroes,” says Winn. “We’re always in the background. We’re always doing things that are wonderful and crazy, but the audience never sees us. It’s like a band. You’ve got the front man and then you’ve got the soundman. We’re the soundman. Nobody ever says anything about the soundman.”

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