17 Props Go To School

August 28, 2018

It’s back to school time! Ashley and Eric talk about some of the best classes to take as an undergrad for props, education opportunities outside of formal schooling, and whether or not to go for that MFA in props.

Below is a transcript of this episode, edited for readability.

ASHLEY FLOWERS: Welcome back to “Silk Flowers and…

ERIC HART: Papier Mache Hearts”. This is your host, Eric Hart.

ASHLEY: …and Ashley Flowers. The summer is coming to an end and, for most of us, that means it’s time for school.

ERIC: So today we decided to chat a bit about taking classes in props, or getting an education in props, or whatever you wanna do… at whatever point in your life you are at…

ASHLEY: Whether that means going to school, or not!

ERIC: Yeaaah… so, let’s start off with undergrad, which I think is where a lot of people kinda… discover props and [A: Mhm.] decide that they wanna further their education, and they’re kinda looking around, wondering like “What… classes should I be taking?”[A: Mhm.] ‘Cuz if you’re like me, I was going for a Bachelor of Arts in theater, and we did not have any props classes, actually. And I wasn’t going for props, either. I was kinda going for general scenic design, that sort of thing. So, I couldn’t take any props classes, how about you, Ashley?

ASHLEY: Well, I went to Ball State University, and they didn’t have a Bachelor of Arts for my specific degree, which was just a general Theatrical Studies degree. It was actually a Bachelors of Science. And we only had two prop classes, I believe— I believe there was a Fall one and Spring one… but now that I’m thinking of it, it might have only been one class? But yeah, I took more of the other design and technical classes that were offered, ‘cuz there wasn’t a props program at all.

ERIC: Yeah, I know, obviously, the general stagecraft class that they have is good. Anything that gets you working onstage, but also the ones where you get to go down to the shop and learn the table saw, how to build a flat, use a chop saw… I mean, you’re gonna get your basic woodworking tools and your basic knot-tying and maybe, if you’re lucky, some welding? Although I know sometimes that’s a little advanced for undergrads.

ASHLEY: Yeah, welding wasn’t a thing in my undergrad. I remember our Technical Director did bring out the welder once, to give us a little tutorial. And we were all really excited, but it was just for the afternoon and he never brought it out again. Because 1.) We didn’t have the time, nor did we need it for any projects that we really worked on at the time.

ERIC: Mhm. I’m sure there’s a lot of faculty technical directors out there that would rather not have structural elements built by a bunch of undergrads…


ASHLEY: Valid statement!

ERIC: So, yeah. Sometimes, you could do some painting, too, which is helpful. Scenic Painting. At least learning the basics, of, you know…. Clean your brush. That kind of thing.

ASHLEY: Yeah, and I also felt that one class we took was drafting? It was very basic drafting, but I thought that was very helpful, because that helped me learn how to read a drawing.

ERIC: Yeah, I know my Scenic Design classes certainly helped me a lot, ‘cuz you did the drafting, the research, the period research, definitely breaking down a script into the needs of a scene— the scenic elements, the prop elements— and learning how to do all that… analyze the script. So, Scene Design is usually taught in a lot of undergrads, even in B.A. and B.S. programs. Now if you’re going for a B.F.A., there’s probably a lot more options. Especially if you’re going for a B.F.A. in props, you’ve got your choice of Props Management and Furniture Construction and Soft Goods, and all that sort of thing… If you’re going for a B.F.A. in props, then you already know you want to go for props. [laughs]

ASHLEY: Yeah, exactly. Now there’s only maybe… what, 2 or 3 schools in the States that offer B.F.A.s in props?

ERIC: Yeah, there’s not that many. Um, UNCSA… I think Emerson does?

ASHLEY: I think so…?

ERIC: I’m not sure who else. In a lot of cases it can be tricky because some of them also have M.F.A.s in props. And in some cases that’s good, because you get to work with people who are working at a much higher level, and if you’re good at something you might be able to take grad level classes. In other cases it’s not as good because the graduate students get all the choice assignments and you’re left with a lot of the really basic kind of stuff. [A: Yeah.] So, a B.F.A. program where there’s no grad students means that you’re responsible for taking care of all the production needs and you can really, like, rise to the top and do some high-level work, where you might get overshadowed in a program that had grad students.

ASHLEY: Yeah, and that was one of the things that was kind of nice about my undergrad, is 1.) There wasn’t a specific props program. We didn’t have prop masters for all the shows we did, and usually it was a designer that was just kinda given that assignment, you know. So, for the few people that really wanted to do props, it was kinda nice because you kinda got more control over the project than you would if you were surrounded with so many people who wanted to do that main focus. You know what I mean?

ERIC: Mhm… Right, yeah.

ASHLEY: And so that was a lot of fun and I feel like that’s kinda where I learned the most was doing the shows because there wasn’t a specific class that really focused on that in detail. But also I felt that working in the scene shop for my work-study helped me a lot. I felt that I learned more about the tools there, and how to build and everything, by just working in there than I probably would have gotten if I just did the stagecraft class. [E: Mhm] And I think that’s very important for anybody who’s starting out in classes and stuff. Yes, your classes are gonna teach you a lot, and you should take all the information you can from that. But you also need to be doing more than just that. If you have an opportunity to work in the shop, for maybe just a few hours a week or so, taking that opportunity will benefit you so much and you will thank yourself later after that. ‘Cuz you’re gonna have more knowledge on that front.

ERIC: Yeah, it’s all the practical kind of knowledge. Like, this is the schedule a show is built on and changes come in during rehearsal and you have to change things on the fly, you’re not given information up front. And this is the atmosphere during tech week, and the pace you have to work during tech week, and this is what happens when a show opens. Just all that little stuff, being ale to navigate a theater and a shop space in a professional environment, it’s hard to put that out in a classroom setting [A: Mhm, mhm.] Yeah, I went to a Liberal Arts college, so I took a lot of classes outside of theater, and some of them helped me out, too. You know, there’s design history and art history, which is useful to get that… background.

ASHLEY: Yeah, that’s true. I took art history.

ERIC: Yeah, and period and architecture and even, just, basic art theory, like color and color theory, and texture, shape… all that sort of stuff. I tried to take some arts classes in the fine arts department? I know, like, sculpting is definitely helpful. Some places do like, mold-making, and you can sometimes find metalwork, and things like that. The trouble I ran into is that they only wanted art majors, and art minors, taking the arts classes. And so, by the time I was junior or a senior, there was no way I was gonna get the credits to be an arts minor, so they just did not want me to really take any of the classes. So I never had that opportunity but if you could, jump on it, soon…

ASHLEY: Yeah that’s kind of the tricky thing too, because you do have all these other classes in other departments that you wanna take, but they’re there to teach their department, you know? But also it never, never hurts to just email the professors and say, “Hey, I would love to— can I even audit this class, is that a possibility? Or just sit in, once or twice.” Just asking isn’t gonna hurt.

ERIC: Yeah, especially if you can show that you’re, like, serious. That you have a very specific reason for wanting to take the class, and that you’re definitely gonna stick with it, and you have something to contribute.

ASHLEY: Yeah, you’re kinda coming up with like, a mini proposal for them.

ERIC: I also took a few sociology and anthropology classes, which are helpful just for understanding character, you know? And learning how to research different cultures, and finding out all the little intricacies which makes them come alive, which is what props people have to do a lot of the time.

ASHLEY: Yeah, I was actually a double major with theater and anthropology for the first 3 years, and then the end of my junior year I said, “Ya know? I’m just gonna stick with theater now.” [E: Oh no!] Too many classes. I can’t deal with all these classes. It’s too many!

ERIC: Right, [laughs] I hope you weren’t like, one class short of—

ASHLEY: I was- I was like, a few classes short. Because I was putting all my focus on theater! [E: Right…] But I do have to say, those classes were fascinating! To listen about different cultures and everything, and I think that can come hand-in-hand with props, very easily— when you’re doing a show that takes place in a different area, and you have all these little insights about their daily lives, and the objects they would have around the house, and why they were important to them— maybe it’s a religious reason, or a cultural reason. I thought that was fascinating to learn from those anthropology classes. And I also took a museum class, which was really cool, because at the time, I was little on the edge of anthropology or theater, and it was fascinating, just, the crossover of that sense. You’re pretty much putting on a show. There’s just no actors… and it’s gonna be there for a while. So that was always an interesting thing to learn.

ERIC: Yeah, one of my classes I took was called “Japanese Anthropology Through Film”, and so it was actually watching films made in Japan to learn about how their culture changed over time. You now, we started with films from the ‘20s and the ‘30s, and moved all the way up to modern times. So, kind of interesting, sort of like the reverse engineering… somebody else propped and created the sets for these movies, and we’re looking at it to learn about their culture through the props, and the set, and the costumes and the relationships of the actors to each other, so…

ASHLEY: And anytime I’m watching — I mean, not specifically Japanese films [laughs]— I always find it interesting, watching films that are… made today, or within the past 20 or 30 years or so, but are actually set way, waaay back when… I start to ask myself what the accuracy of the props are? [E: Mhm] And like, how did they know that that was the specific props for that location? You know, and how did their research go? Sidetrack, but fun fact! [laughs]

ERIC: Right, yeah. I also took some archaeology classes in the classics department, and you know, studying some of the artifacts they have, and how well-made and intricate a lot of their clothing and their regular, everyday stuff was, it’s always… surprising, ‘cuz in these poorly researched films, they present history as this simplistic time. And you learn through studying these cultures that they could be just as complex as ours, and their props and costumes are just as intricate well made as anything you would find today, just different materials.

ASHLEY: Yeah, I feel like any history class, really, is beneficial to a props person… well, I mean honestly anybody in the departments! There’s so many little things that we deal with that [laughs] you gotta know it all! You’re expected to know.

ERIC: Yeah, yeah. Cool, so… for those unfortunate people who are not in undergrad and who have discovered props years after graduating, and want to further their education, what kind of opportunities to they have?

ASHLEY: Goodness, there’s so many. There’s so many! Everywhere there’s workshops on something… I know Smooth-On, a mold-making company, does workshops throughout the year. Sometimes they’re just, like, one or two day workshops or a few days longer than that. They take you through a whole entire project… you get in there, you’re making the thing, you’re making the mold and they teach you all the different techniques that you need, and all the products that you can use for this, and describe the products you are actually going to use for that. ‘Cuz there’s always multiple ways to do one thing, of course. So I’ve always wanted to go to one of those… I keep missing them, unfortunately, so that’s the goal for this year. [laughs]

ERIC: Yeah, they’ll do ‘em at their stores, or their distributors, or people can bring them in to do a demo or something at their college, or somewhere else. And what I’ve heard— I’ve never done one— what I’ve heard is that they’ll also give you free samples and the value of those free samples is about the same as the cost of the workshop, so you’re kinda coming out even.

ASHLEY: [laughs] So, you’re doing well. You’re doing well, on that front.

ERIC: But there’s a bunch of other stores that give workshops— other mold-making and art supply stores. Especially the big kinda arts & craft supply stores will have different workshops in a variety of skills and materials. So, always just get on their mailing lists, or you look around at what’s within driving distance and see what’s going on.

ASHLEY: And also I just learned about this place, I think last year, when I was in New Haven. It’s called “Make Haven”, it’s an art space, and apparently they have these art spaces throughout the states and its pretty much just a large workshop area— there’s maybe a paint room or mold-making room, there’s a carpentry area, sometimes there’s welding area, there’s a 3D printer area— all these different sections of this space, that you can go in, you pay like a monthly subscription— I don’t know how much it is, it varies city-to-city—you pay that fee and you have total freedom into this area and just, can make whatever you want, when the hours are open. And they also do workshops monthly, at least the ones that I have looked at. [E: Mhm.] So, I always suggest to people to try to find if there’s an art space near you, and go to it, and sign up. Because there’s… it’s insane the amount of stuff, at least in New Haven, that they had at that space. I’m just now in talks with the one in San Diego, and it looks like it’s quite large, as well.

ERIC: Oh cool. Yeah, we have a few “maker spaces” around here. It sounds really similar… it’s a lot more electronics and computer kind of stuff. So you could definitely always find soldering workshops… learn how to solder, learn how to 3D print and laser cut, ‘cuz they have those machines. There’s usually like, knitting and maybe using the embroidery machine, ‘cuz they have computerized embroidery machines. And if you’re lucky they’ll have woodworking, or they’ll have welding, and kinda work your way up from there. I know a lot of them, they usually teach the basics, and then you have access to the shop to kinda learn the more advanced stuff on your own.

ASHLEY: Now, if you can’t to one of these workshops or you don’t have the time or something comes up, there’s also online ways of learning. My favorite source is Stan Winston School of Character Arts. They have a ridiculous amount of videos online, and it is full-on projects. I do a lot of mold-making, so I watch a lot of the mold-making videos, and they do it from Step 1, prepping your materials, to the very final product. And they go through very thoroughly, describing every single step that they’re doing, why they are doing it, what materials they are using… sometimes, they’ll say, “You can get this at Home Depot for $19.99!” You know, they, like, already know the price and everything, and you’re like, writing it down very quickly [laughs]. But they’re usually, like… they can be 6, 10, 12 hours long? ‘Cuz I mean, it’s a full-on project, but they also do puppet videos, little Arduino videos… I mean, they literally have practically everything up there. Um, that does cost… I don’t know the price offhand, we can get that information to you later, but that’s… that’s one of my favorites.

ERIC: I’ve drooled over their list of classes before. ‘Cuz it’s, like, animatronics and it’s painting, and creatures! And since it’s Stan Winston Studios, it’s like, “Learn How to Build an Animatronic Dinosaur”, by the guy who built animatronic dinosaurs for Jurassic Park. I mean these are like industry heavy-hitters. These are people with a wealth of experience, sharing it with you… and yeah, it’s always been the prices that have put me off. I know there’s like a couple trial-sized ones, and a couple monthly ones, but to get the unlimited is at least a couple hundred bucks a year.

ASHLEY: Yeah, it is pricey… but I do have to say, if you have the money, do spend it. It is, in my opinion it’s worth every penny.

ERIC: Yeah, and it is cheaper than… going to college [laughs]

ASHLEY: It is very [laughs] cheaper than going to college. And cheaper than buying every single video too, ‘cuz you can buy individual videos, if you’d like.

ERIC: Yeah, you can get them on a DVD, I think? And especially if you’re not out in Los Angeles, and you can’t travel out there…

ASHLEY: I don’t know if they do workshops or not? I bet you they do…

ERIC: I feel like some of the videos seem like they have people in the audience maybe? I don’t know but, again—

ASHLEY: Oh! Well, no… So, on some of the videos— I don’t know exactly how, I’ll get some more information for y’all later— but you can kinda live stream it? And be an audience. So, you can be at home, watching him doing it, and ask question in real time and the idea is you’re doing it with him, if you have the materials… or you’re there to really absorb everything, ask everything, and then do it right afterwards [E: Mhm.] is kind of the idea. But there’s only I think maybe 3 or 4 people involved in that [E: Okay.] you know, it’s not like a huge, wide thing… it is limited. But I’ll look into that and get you guys that information.

ERIC: I don’t know that… I don’t think there’s anything like that for theatrical props specifically? I’ve heard of a couple places trying to start out that sort of, like, subscription-based, video long-distance learning. And, uh, one of them was actually talking with me about getting some prop classes out there, but I just… did not have the time.

ASHLEY: Yeah, that’s a lot.

ERIC: So, yeah. I don’t know that any of that ever got off the ground. That’s kinda the only one… that’s the closest one to our industry that I could think of. Everything else is gonna be like “Learn Woodworking From a Woodworker To Build Tables For Your House” Or “Learn Sewing For Somebody Who Wants To Learn How To Make Clothes” or that sort of thing, they’re not specifically going into like theatrical applications, so you kinda have to learn the skill you want, and then figure out how to do it quickly and cheaply for theater or film or whatever you’re working in.

ASHLEY: I think—and do correct me, if I’m wrong— but I believe that I heard that USITT is gonna start doing tutorial videos? That are, like, 10 to 15 minutes long, and people can… um, teachers can tape themselves teaching something, for about 10 to 15 minutes, to put it up online for people to download for some small things.

ERIC: I think I did hear that they’re interested in that and they might have started piloting that? Again the thing is trying to find people who have the experience and the ability to teach and the video equipment and editing skills to make the videos, and the time to put all this together… I mean, that’s a lot.

ASHLEY: It sounds like a lot.

ERIC: Especially if you’re spread out all over the country. And you’re like, trying to get it all scatter-shot. I think that the strength of Stan Winston is that they have this massive community of people already there, and the shop space, and they just kinda set it up as this whole side business. Instead of trying to piece it together from like, a hundred people around the country.

ASHLEY: Yeah I’ll be interested to see if it is successful or not. I think it could be great, and a great resource for students— well, for anybody, honestly— but, like you just said, it is kind of hard, because that’s a lot to ask for, and also, who are you asking to do these videos? Is it a free-for-all? Or is it, are we being selected…?

ERIC: Mhm, but even if they just recorded their sessions at their conferences, that would give them a lot of content. [A: That’s true.] But speaking of USITT, a lot of people forget this, but they have regional chapters, so besides the national conference, which only happens once a year, there are these regional groups that might get together 2 or 3 times a year, and a lot of them will do master classes. So, I know I’m in the Southeast region and right around now, which is August, they’re having a weekend of masterclasses, and so it’s not as far for everybody to travel who’s in the area, and not as expensive, and it’s just sort of classes… not all props related, it’ll be all technical theater, so it’s like… they get a couple of cool moving lights that you can learn how to work with, and maybe some scenic painting classes, maybe a variety of things. But it’s definitely a chance to get your hands on these materials, and actually work with people who know how to work with them… so you’re not just kinda blindly blathering [laughs] around in your shop…


ASHLEY: … Trying to figure it out! Yelling, ‘cuz you don’t—

ERIC: [overlapping] Yeah, glue boiling over your stove as things catch fire…

ASHLEY: Burn it all down! [laughs]

ERIC: Yeah… which I think is what happens if you do all your lessons from YouTube. [laughs]

ASHLEY: [sighs] Yeah… yeah.

ERIC: I mean, it’s great and you can find a lot of good information on there. But you could also find a lot of wrong information, or just a lot of information that’s presented so poorly that it’s almost useless. [A: Yeah.] And unlike a lot of these places that are set up to be video schools, you could find one good video on YouTube, but you’re not gonna find the next step of the process, you know? You’re not gonna develop a whole learning program. You’re gonna have to piece it together from all these random videos

ASHLEY: Yeah, there’s not full-on courses, or stuff like that.

ERIC: Yeah…

ASHLEY: I do have to say, Adam Savage, though, has a really good YouTube channel, and does one day projects and has episodes fully focused on one material or something of that sort, and that’s a really good resources I like to use, as well.

ERIC: Yeah there’s definitely some good stuff up there. It’s useful for, like… the shorter, quicker “I need to learn one specific technique”? [A: Correct.] As opposed to “I’m developing a program of study to become a well rounded props person.”

ASHLEY: Mhm. Exactly, exactly. And like you said earlier, you have to be careful because sometimes you’ll get information that 1.) is not safe? or 2.) takes you a million years when it could have taken 5 seconds? Or just is wrong. [laughs] I hate saying that, but sometimes there are wrong answers. I was told in undergrad, by a professor — and I’ll never forget this— “There are no right answers, but there are wrong answers.” [laughs] And I was like “That is so true!” There a million ways to get the right products that you need. There are wrong ways.

ERIC: Right, yeah. Yeah, I saw a video once, a guy was mixing two-part resin to cast with and he got some on his hands… He wasn’t wearing gloves. And so, he licked it off.


ERIC: Yes! [laughs] He’s like “Whoops, got a bit on my hands. Better just [licking sound], okay!”

ASHLEY: [laughs] Oh my gosh, that’s awful!

ERIC: Like, yeah, you don’t wanna learn from that guy.

ASHLEY: Oh, and one other website that I have found helpful I haven’t used as much as I would like to, but linda.com? [E: Mhm] Now they have more of a course structure and there’s a lot of “How to Use AutoCAD” and there’s several videos showing you how to step-by-step make a flat on AutoCAD or do Photoshop and how to retouch a photo. And I mean, these are intense, long episodes, so you really are getting as much information as you want and need and it also takes you from the beginners up to the experts, which is amazing. Once again, that is for a fee a month, and I’ll look up that fee. We’ll get all this information to you on our websites so you’ll have that. But yeah, I think those are kind of the main online ones that I use… um, what about you? Do you have others, or you think that’s kinda what you use as well?

ERIC: Um, yeah that’s basically it. I find forums have a lot of the specific information when you’re looking, and trying to find something out. But I usually don’t do much education online.

ASHLEY: Yeah, it’s kinda tricky, [E: Yeah] because you wanna be there with somebody who knows what they’re talking about and can correct you

ERIC: Mhm, and can sort of… instantly see if you’re doing something wrong or right [yeah!] you kinda you know need the materials and tools to just know what it feels like, because no matter how well somebody describes it… you’re just, you’re… “Is this cottage cheese or is this ricotta cheese? Is the right consistency yet, or do I keep mixing it? What do they think that ‘thick’ means?

ASHLEY: [overlapping, laughing] Yeah, it’s so true. And its also great , I’ve had this happen to me many times, I’ll be building something and I think “Well, I don’t know how exactly… what my next step is. Let me try to brainstorm.” Which is good… but then I’ll start down a path and a teacher will come over and say “Don’t do that, this is a bad idea. This is what’s gonna end up happening.” and you’re like “OH. Oh, okay! Cool!” Just having somebody be, like, “I’ve already tried that, it failed, this is what happens.” You know? It saves you time, you know.

ERIC: Right. And also a lot of times with, you know —you’re reading something, you’re watching a video, and somebody’s doing something in a very specific way— and they’re like “I use this and I use this and I use that” and you just wanna be able to ask, like, “Do you need to use only that, or are there other options?” Just like… what things can I change and improvise, and what things are you doing because it’s the only way that works.

ASHLEY: Mm. Correct. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I gotcha.

ERIC: Being able to ask questions while something is going on is very important.

ASHLEY: So, we started talking out about B.A., B.F.A., B.S., a little bit of grad school, and then we started talking about classes you don’t take at a university. So let’s ask the big, old question: Do you need grad school, or do you not need grad school, for a props person?

ERIC: Mhm. And I think we should start off by saying I actually went to grad school, and left before I got my degree. And you…

ASHLEY: … did NOT go to grad school. I like to say I did a “one year and done” situation. Because I just did a props internship at Yale where I got to take some classes, some grad classes, but I wasn’t actually a student. I didn’t complete a 3 year M.F.A. or anything like that, it was just a year internship, take some classes, work in the prop shop… and then I got a certificate at the end, so that was fun. [laughs]

ERIC: Mhm, so yeah… we can definitely say the grad classes, absent everything else— the money it costs, the time it costs, all that sort of thing— the grad classes are actually extremely helpful [A: Oh, very] because unlike undergrad they’re very focused, it usually only large blocks of time only a few times a week, as opposed to an hour everyday [yeah] and s its incredibly in depth, the classes are really small. I mean, no school is gonna have more than 3 or 4 grad props people. And a lot of people don’t have props as a grad program, but you can do some props work in a more general program.

But uh, it’s… the big thing with grad school is the cost and the time. It’s three years of your life and you can do absolutely nothing else. You know, you’re gonna be working like 23 hours a day, everyday, so what’s helpful is knowing exactly what you want to do in your career and exactly what you wanna get out of grad school. Because unlike undergrad, you don’t have time to figure things out. You can’t dabble in other classes, or change your mind halfway through. [A: Yeah] You kinda have to go in with a clear plan of like “These are the skills I have to get, these are the experience I need to have, and I only have 3 years to get it”. So if you’re very…you know, if you know exactly what you need, and you know that grad school’s the best place to get it, then yes, it’s very helpful. You know, what’s tricky is that most of the props people of the former generation, you know before we had a lot of grad programs, none of them have grad degrees because they weren’t around, and they’re all working now.

What happens now is you have a lot more people getting grad degrees and so they’re getting the you know, nice props jobs, the full time prop jobs, the regional theater prop jobs… and so you know, where you might have people saying “No, you don’t need a grad degree!”, what they don’t realize is happening is that people of the age to go to grad school are starting to enter the market and flood the market and eventually there’s not gonna be that many props jobs available to people who don’t have grad degrees. So it’s a little… it’s a bit of a Catch 22. You absolutely can get work without a grad degree. In fact, there’s a lot of places you can get work. [A: Oh. yeah, definitely.] Definitely in the film world, the TV world, the commercial world… I mean, it’s kinda regional theater that has more of the grad degree people that I see.

ASHLEY: Yeah, and like you said, I mean the classes are extremely, extremely helpful and I mean, I definitely learned so much from those classes because there’s so much… because there’s so more intense and detail oriented. For example the costume classes that I took at Yale, compared to the Introduction to Costume that I took at Ball State University… I mean, in the introduction one, you’re learning how to sew a straight line or make a little pocket, you know? But then when you’re in the grad class, you’re making a full-on outfit. Now of course that was different in undergrad for the costume design majors, but if you’re wanting to be a props person, you probably aren’t a costume design major. So, getting those skills later is very helpful.

ERIC: And I know a lot of people say they wanna go to grad school because they wanna teach and that’s inherently true that you need a Masters of Fine Arts to be a faculty member at most universities, not all. [A: But most.] But you know the rub of that is that there’s very few places that have faculty props people. They’ll usually have them as a staff position and they’re not teaching classes because they don’t have a props program. Or they’ll maybe teach one or two workshop-style classes where they’re not the faculty at record, so they could be a staff member. So, it’s kinda like… yes, you need an M.F.A. to be a faculty props person, but there’s not really that many jobs to be a faculty props person.

ASHLEY: And I’ve also heard— and this could be wrong, so do correct me— that some universities actually allow non-M.F.A. people to be on faculty, but that is determined on how many years of experience they have in that specific field and the balance, I guess I should say, of the rest of the faculty in that department.

ERIC: Yeah, it really depends on the school. I know where my wife teaches, they absolutely will not allow anyone that does not have terminal degree to teach. So me, with my experience, I can never adjunct a class there— even just, like, a basic class. But where I’m teaching now, UNCSA, they allow you to be accredited according to your experience so they were able to go in and take all my experience, and I’m allowed to teach undergrads. At the moment, it’s a lot more paperwork and I guess I don’t have as much experience for them to attempt to credit me for teaching graduate students. So, I can teach them but not in classes that count towards their degree, if that makes sense [A: Yeah.] And I would guess that I would qualify but it’s just… because it’s so much paperwork for them on their part, and I sorta said like, “Yeah I’m gonna finish my M.F.A., don’t worry about that”. But yeah, it really depends on the school and what their rules are. And a lot of it usually comes from other departments, because you know in the biology department, they’re like, “Well, we all need to be Doctors, so why doesn’t everybody in your department have to have a Doctorate?” And they’re like “Well, we don’t have Doctorates in Theater Design. [A: Yeah!] Our terminal one is an M.F.A.”, and it’s like “Well, then you have to have at least that.” [A: Right.] And so, yeah like, you know, there’s people who are like immensely qualified and who absolutely cannot teach at certain universities which is, you know… [A: It’s crazy!] It’s funny to us, but for them I guess that makes sense.

ASHLEY: The bureaucracy up there! [laughs] Well, guys, that is all the time that we have today but thank you for listening in and be sure to follow us at @silkmache, and you can email us with questions or ideas for future episodes at propspodcast@gmail.com. You can also subscribe on iTunes to listen to more, and this has been another episode of Silk Flowers and…

ERIC: Papier-Mache Hearts, with your hosts, Eric Hart….

ASHLEY: And Ashley Flowers. We’ll see you next time!

ERIC: Bye!

Transcription by Carly Anders.

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One comment on “17 Props Go To School

  1. Lyssa Sep 7, 2018

    Hi guys!
    Something that may be worth mentioning is that a lot of libraries (local and university) are starting to put in Makerspaces/Art spaces/Hackerspaces with equipment (including 3D printers) that you may be able to use for free or very low cost. Some also offer classes for free to train you on how to use the equipment. It might not be as big as a standalone Makerspace, but it may be a good alternative if someone can’t afford a membership or is just looking to get started.

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