It’s Monday, and Dave’s expecting me. I get the key from him and go up to the prop cabinet to look around for things that might be useful. I’ve been prop master for a healthy number of shows now, and this is still my favorite part. I love seeing the stuff theaters just have lying around. It’s like being in a toy store.
We’ve got some fun things here at Duke. There’s an entire cabinet devoted to an inflatable doll of Gumby. There are phones and TVs from every period you could ever want, old furniture, books, toys, and what feels like thousands of pieces of dishware. As tempting as it is to just play, though, I have a job to do, and Dave needs to leave in an hour and a half.
So I pull out my list and I get to work. I want two phones, a black and a white. I want some small boxes that the actors can use until I get some real tape recorders. I think about taking some umbrellas from a bin by the electronics, thinking they might be a nice touch for the funeral scene, but decide that would be a little contrived (besides, where will they put them when they’re carrying their picket signs and wings?). I fail, disappointingly, to find anything that can be used as a replacement camera right now.
It’s weird, working on a show like this in what seems like such an impersonal role. Jeff has a need, I provide. Jeff or Torry asks for a picket sign that says “Fags Doom Nations,” I ask what color and how big. But even up here in the cabinet, I don’t feel emotionless. I hold this ’90s-style black telephone and imagine that it’s the Baptist minister’s phone, and I feel my blood pressure rise a little as I think about that scene where he’s preaching his dogma. It’s amazing what holding a telephone receiver can do to you, and what it becomes when you put it onstage.
My list isn’t even close to done. There are things to buy, and things to build. I take my box of props downstairs and lock it up where Jeff can find it. I’ll be back again when I know more of what we need. On the way out, I have a fleeting moment where I wonder if we’re going to stick those picket signs up there when we’re done with them. No matter. It’s not the time for that yet.