"Props...That's My Job"

Back to Notes From Valhalla

By David Cangelosi ( Mime)

Monday, May 16, 2011

As the month of May continues to whiz by, so do our rehearsals for San Francisco Opera's current challenge—namely the staging of the entire Ring of the Nibelungen. With the first installment (a stand alone performance of Siegfried) due to grace the stage over Memorial Day weekend, time is getting tight. So tight, in fact, that yesterday (May 10) was the last day we could operate on the actual set in the rehearsal facility. It was broken down and whisked away by our ever-efficient stage crew for reassembly on the Opera House stage immediately post rehearsal.
 
 
Well, we still needed to rehearse today; but with no set, what were we to do? What so many fans of the operatic forum never take time to consider, is the sheer number of primary and auxiliary staff it takes to get the job done and get a production successfully to the stage. Artistic Administrators, Scheduling Mavens, Associate and Assistant Directors, Stage Managers (numbers 1-4), Stage Crew Members, Lighting Designers, Wig and Make-Up Experts, Costume Designers, Drapers and Milliners; and of course the Properties (Props) Masters!!
 
Well, we were in need of a full rehearsal of Act I (Scenes 1 and 3), which is extremely complicated and chock full of props. Props, PROPS, and more PROPS! Ovens, stoves, ropes, hammers, swords, silverware, plates, buckets, potions, beer bottles, chairs, napkins, etc., etc., etc...you get the idea. All of them have an exact location where they are placed on the set at the top of Act I, and then get moved about as we flow the performance. Yesterday I was told that we needed to rehearse today, but the catch was that there would be no set on which to work. I thought, "OK...done that before, no problem." I was then told we would have no PROPS either! "What?!?!," I thought; but just smiled and said "OK, see you tomorrow." (?!?!!!???) [Right: The Siegfried trailer without most of the props inside]
 
Enter: Prop-Master Dave!
 
When I walked into rehearsal today, I could hardly believe my eyes as "Prop Master Dave," along with his right hand gal Gina, had completely (and miraculously) recreated the missing set!! They did so with chairs, police “caution” tape, make-shift tables, boxes, wooden stanchions, et al. They actually “pulled” all of the necessary props that we needed in order to rehearse and put them in facsimile locations, thereby enabling Siegfried (Jay Hunter Morris) and Mime (yours truly) to do a full and complete rehearsal with very little imagination needed on our part (we really do have enough to think about)!! It was so convincing that I actually thought for a moment that the actual set itself had been unexpectedly moved to this particular rehearsal space.
 
I called them both over to me as I suited up before rehearsal and leveled a very, VERY sincere "Thank You!" to them, as I wasn't expecting anything even close to what I found. Gina giggled and said: "That's OK!!" Then Prop Master Dave, in his usual dead-pan tone, simply said: "Props...that's my job.”
 
What a crew!!
 
[Left: One of the many props from Siegfried. Well, what kind of beer did you think Mime drinks?]