Name: Rikkilee Rose, Charleroi
Work: Props Master, freelance
Recent projects: The Olde Curiosity Shop, PICT Classic Theatre; Orphans, Aftershock Theatre; “Off The Record,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Current: The Legend of Georgia McBride, barebones productionsWhat does a Props Master do?
During the run of a show, I’m checking everything beforehand, making sure everything is in the right place and ready to go. During the show itself, I’m setting and resetting things between scenes and at intermission. After the show, I’m making sure that everything is returned to its proper place and isn’t broken.
What if it’s broken?
I fix it.
And before the run of the show is when you’re getting the props? When does that start?
Usually, you begin around when the rehearsal period starts, typically about a month in advance.
Where do you begin?
There’s a list from the director, and I come up with my own list as well, then meet to make sure we’re together and that I understand what they have in mind.
Where does everything come from?
Find or buy or borrow or rent or make. As far as borrowing, Pittsburgh’s such a small community that everyone is very forthcoming and generous. I like to go thrift shopping a lot because even if I can’t find exactly what I need, I can often find something I can adjust. Plus I always like visiting thrift shops anyway because they have all this fun stuff there — I might buy one thing for the show, but this other weird thing is coming home with me.
Do you accumulate things you don’t currently need in anticipation of the future?
Some things if I see them, I’m going to buy them because I might be able to use them someday. And if someone’s like, “We’re getting rid of this,” I’m like, “THANKS!” I have a little bit of a hoarding problem.
What about the things you can’t buy? How do you know how to make things?
I went to school at West Liberty University to be a music teacher, and that’s when I started getting into theater because there was less drama in the drama department than the music department. After I finished my degree, I did special effects at the Savini School, and they really taught you that you can make anything out of nothing. That was honestly worth every cent. Having the confidence that there’s a hundred ways to make something, you just have to find the best one.
What might that include?
I can sculpt, mold, paint. I’ve done costumes, makeup. Sometimes you’re looking at something that exists and making your own. For The Olde Curiosity Shop, I had to make Punch and Judy puppets and a stage. The real ones were way over my budget, but I looked at them for how to get started.
What if you don’t have something to reference?
You ask yourself: How are they physically using this? Do they do things with it? Does it have to be something they can throw? Are they hitting people with it? If they’re hitting people with it, you don’t want it to be made out of metal.
What’s the best part of the job?
My favorite thing is to make something from nothing. I like things that are new and I don’t have a precedent for. You get to start at the very beginning with none of the pieces in place — let’s solve this puzzle! You figure out what it needs to be made out of and what it needs to do and then form a plan of how you’re going to make it work. And you figure out how you’re going to fix it when it breaks. Because it’s going to break.