Have you always wanted to be a prop master?
Props has always been a skill that I’ve kept in my back pocket and it has served me well as a sort of “day job”, but my education and training is geared toward directing. My position here at Orlando Rep has given me access to a number of internal directing opportunities (A Year With Frog and Toad, Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical, and three productions of The Giver) and allows me the flexibility to take on freelance directing work!
What kind of education prepared you for this career?
I hold a Bachelors Degree in Theatre from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and an MFA from the University of Central Florida. Through both programs I had coursework in puppetry, and at UNCG I studied stagecraft, but I’ve never really had any formal “props” training- this line of work is just something I picked up along the way.
If you were to give students interested in pursuing props as a career a piece of advice, what would it be?
Be proactive in reaching out to theatres – sometimes their staffs are so busy that even though they know they need people, they don’t advertise opportunities right away. It has also helped me to have more than one skill set: I actively work as a director, a sound designer, a props and puppet master, and I come from a career as a professional stage manager- a broad skill set can help keep your career interesting and keep it afloat. But also be conscious of the risk of burnout- making sure that you still enjoy what you are doing goes a long way!
What is your favorite moment in the show?
The giant wedding, of course… it is one of the most visually impactful moments of the show due to the sheer size of our puppets- and after all of the work that was put into them, it’s great to see them come to life.
What was the process of designing the many puppets used in the show?
For this particular show, our scenic designer, Cindy White, had a strong vision of what she wanted the puppets to look like, so she provided drawings and between myself and 4 other props artists, we constructed everything from the ground up. It was up to us to determine what materials to use, how the actors would bring the puppets to life from a mechanical standpoint, and to work with the cast and figure out what was and wasn’t working for them. The giants heads started as a cosplay helmet pattern which we scaled up by about 250%… with a little tailoring, some fleece, and some foam facial features, we were able to give them their final look.
What were some challenges of having to create such fantastic puppets?
Aside from hot glue gun burns and being pricked by a million sewing pins over the course of the build, one of the biggest challenges for my team was the timeline: we began the build prior to Christmas and because I had gotten approval back in August to direct a production out of town immediately after Christmas and into the month of January, much of the costuming of the giants and a great deal of the work on the menagerie animals had to happen while I was away. Every day off that I had from the show I was directing was spent coming to Orlando Rep and checking on the progress made by my amazing team, and once I got that production open, I was able to return and put all of the finishing touches on the props and puppets for Ella Enchanted.
What puppet used in the show is your favorite?
The boy giant is probably by favorite- the way that he’s performed is endearing and I feel like he’s the most animated of all of the puppets.