Over the past generation, the building, buying and handling of props in North American theatres has been steadily evolving from a tedious function performed by whichever actor or stagehand was unlucky enough not to escape it, to a serious profession of skilled specialist artists and craftsmen. Props have ceased to be seen merely as objects required to illustrate the action in the script; they have taken their place with costumes, lighting and all other aspects of production as essential contributors to the total performance.
And as the role of props becomes more "legitimate", props people are ceasing to think of themselves as isolated stagehands and are recognizing that they are part of a shared profession. We are meeting, exchanging information, expanding our skills and actively developing new techniques and technology. Networks and lines of communication are appearing and new ways of sharing resources are being explored.
A useful tool in the formation of any group, especially one as geographically diverse as this one, is some sort of periodical in which people can share ideas, discuss problems, learn news of each other's doings and generally communicate with one another. I have begun publishing Proptology to help serve that purpose; I hope it may be not only the first publication specifically for props people, but the first of many.
The subtitle on the cover identifies this as a journal for "Props Professionals". This is not to say that Proptology should not be read by anyone doing props for amateur theatre or that it will not be useful to Technical Directors, Designers and others whose jobs intersect with the Props Department in their theatres. Rather I hope it will be of interest to anyone who recognizes Props as a distinct field of specialization, in which efficiency, skill, creativity and experience are the true hallmarks of professional standing.
No one becomes a professional just by receiving a paycheque or having business cards printed, not in this or any other field. True professionalism in any area is a result of training and experience, and all of us know it when we see it. As professionals, our goal should be to produce props of the highest possible standard, both structural and artistic. And we need to be able to recognize that excellence in each other and co-operate in its achievement. We should promote a standard of quality that can be both a goal for students and inexperienced workers to strive for and an indicator to Designers and others of what should be expected. I hope that Proptology can help achieve those standards, both for those who are already "Props Professionals" and those who hope to be one day.
Obviously Proptology is still in its infancy; it's barely more than a magazine-fetus, in fact. How it grows up is going to depend as much on you, the readers, as on me, the publisher. Do you want to see more specialized articles on techniques and materials, or more basic introductory items? How much space should be given to photos? And should they be serious, informative images, or do you want to see yourselves and other props people at work and having fun? Are "How I Did It" articles useful, and how detailed should they be? How about editorial opinions - should we be looking at "political" topics and if so, what are they?
I think we're all interested in knowing what is going on in prop shops around the country, and who is moving where, but I'm counting on you to pass that information on. I'd also like to hear about people's latest favourite products, materials and suppliers; how did you find it, what do you like about it, how can the rest of us find it? Everyone has particular skills and talents they can teach - how about writing it up in an article? Don't worry about how good a writer you are; I can help you put it into a finished form.
Proptology will never survive without contributions from the props people who read it, so get at that keyboard!.
This Web site has been set up to give you a look at what Proptology magazine has to offer, and to make the articles and other information available to people in the industry who may not yet be subscribers. We have started by mounting the entire contents of Issue #1, and will soon be adding items from subsequent issues and removing outdated news and other less useful material. One of the first new things to be added will be an ongoing listing of all sources and suppliers listed in the magazine. Eventually, Proptology Online will evolve into a separate entity, not just a transcription of the printed magazine.
Please leave me a message with your comments on the page and suggestions for improving it.