Glossary of Technical Theatre Terms – Props

Props & Prop-Making 

A flammable solvent used in some prop/costume-making processes. Used by make-up artists to remove skin adhesive from the netting of wigs and moustaches by immersing the item in an acetone bath, then removing the softened glue residue with a stiff brush. Also one of the primary components of some nail polish removers.

A hand-held practical prop used by an actor for combat or for a specific purpose.

An organic polymer which is a viscous gum found in the cell walls of brown algae. The commercial variety is extracted from seaweed. Supplied as a powder, when mixed with water it becomes a fast-setting mould-making material which is used to make casts of body parts or delicate prop items. The resulting mould is very detailed and strong. Dental alginate is used to make casts of teeth and gums. Take care to store the powder in an air-tight container as it's very absorbant and will 'go off' very rapidly if left open to the air.

A scenic item, prop or costume which is from a different time period than that being portrayed on stage. Usually, it's a modern item that shouldn't be seen in a period piece.

A movement which insisted on historically-accurate scenery and props on stage. The more stylized sliding wing flats were replaced by more detailed box sets including architectural features, props and furniture appropriate to the time period in whcih the show was taking place. Antiquarianism moved into theatres in the late eighteenth century in Europe. 

Apple Boxes from Udengo A small strong wooden box used as a temporary step or to lift an item (or actor) up to make it visible. Named after the standard-sized fruit packing crate. Used in the motion picture industry.
More about Apple Boxes

Open Source electronic prototyping platform. Consists of a microcontroller on a circuit-board designed to easily interface with sensors or outputs in the real world. Useful for electronic or animated props, visual displays etc. Thousands of applications. 
Arduino website

The Department in a large producing theatre which deals with the maintenance and storage of prop weapons.

Short for Articulated Lorry. Lorries of 40 feet length (or more) are used to transport sets, costume, props and sound & lighting equipment from venue to venue. A number of companies specialise in moving theatrical and musical tours around the country / world.
Known in the USA as a SEMI (short for Semi-Trailer, where a trailer box with a rear axle only is pulled by a tractor unit). 

Usually shortened to ASM, the assistant stage manager is the most junior member of the Stage Management team, and is often in charge of sourcing and running Properties during the run of a show. They are also a member of the stage 'crew'.
The ASM is reponsible for setting props used during the show, as well as carrying out a pre-show check list to ensure all props are in the correct place and that all furniture used on stage is correctly placed for the start of the show. 
An ASM may also have a small acting role in some performances (they are then known as an Acting ASM).

Redundant term, in use theatrically between approximately 1884 and 1960 in the UK, it originated on the railway system. The Baggage Master is part of a touring theatre company, and is responsible for all personal and company luggage, and has to check all luggage (including props, costumes, scenery etc.) is packed and ready when the show leaves for a new venue.

British Association for Performing Arts Medicine. Specialist health and safety support for performers and technicians.
British Association for Performing Arts Medicine website

Eathernware product that has been fired once but not yet glazed. It can easily be painted / decorated and can be used for plate / cup smashing scenes on stage as it breaks more easily / gently than a fully glazed product. However, breakaway cups or plates made from wax are the only really safe solution, as even biscuitware can have sharp edges.
For a long-running show, or for a more controllable effect, consider using a glazed plate / cup and pre-smashing it, then using filler or glue to 'fix' it so it holds together. It will break far more easily, so minimum effort will be required.
Any breakaway or pre-smashed item will need a sound effect 'smash' to make it fully believable.
Ensure that use of any ceramics / crockery on stage is fully risk-assessed.

Prop or item of furniture designed to break/shatter with impact. Breakaway furniture and some props are usually capable of restoration to be 'broken' again.
Breakaway Links at

Treatment given to freshly painted or newly made props, scenery or costume, to make it look either aged, lived-in, or less "new". Often involves spattering with paint to add interest and texture to areas lacking it.
Breaking Down Props and Costumes

DRESSING (the set)
Decorative props (some practical) and furnishings added to a stage setting are known as Set Dressing.

Drybrush is a painting technique in which a paint brush that is relatively dry, but still holds paint, is used. The brush is applied to a dry surface (e.g. paper or primed canvas). The resulting brush strokes have a characteristic scratchy look that lacks the smooth appearance that washes or blended paint commonly have.

Electro-luminescent Wire. Requires an alternating current power supply of between 90-120 volts, but this is usually generated by an oscillator circuit powered by a few AA batteries. The wire is very efficient and robust. The weak points tend to be the connections between the wire and the power supply, so ensure these are well-protected if the wire is being used in/on a prop or costume.

Any technical or practical craft used in the creation of live events or experiences. As the definition of 'live events or experiences' includes music concerts, theatre, theme parks, visitor attractions, museums and sports events, the skills needed are very broad. It's not necessary for anyone to be highly skilled in all of the crafts, but an understanding of the whole picture is very helpful, and knowing when to call in a specialist (and where to find them) is vital.

The crafts involved in entertainment technology include, but are not limited to:
Lighting (stage lighting and architectural lighting)
Sound (live and recorded)
Video and Media (projection or display)
Scenic Construction and Automation
Show Control
Props and Masks
Make-Up and Prosthetics

An Escape Room is an interactive live game where your team is trapped in a room (or series of rooms) until you can solve a number of puzzles. Typical Escape Rooms have a time limit of around 60 minutes.
They may involve live actors, but often there are multimedia elements, as well as lighting & sound effects and a vast array of props which act as clues (or containers for clues).
They have a great deal in common with immersive theatrical experiences, and are wildly popular world-wide.
Escape Room page

A combination of a glass mat and a resin which can be formed into a strong shell. Used in prop-making (and lots of other industries).
Also known as GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic). 

(US) A representative of the local fire department who should be consulted about any questions you have about using fire-retardant materials on stage, anything involving pyrotechnics, and some smoke / haze effects, if you have a smoke detection system. You may also need to consult them about changing seating layouts in a flexible venue, and any unusual use of your venue(s). 

A flaming torch, often handheld and used in a procession.
A silk-effect flame (with light and fan) is much safer, and can give an excellent effect if the rest of the lighting is suitably dim / atmospheric.

A treatment which can make props, costumes, drapes and any other porous materials suitable for use on stage by reducing the fire risk. An item treated with a flame retardant will limit or inhibit the spread of fire by not supporting combustion.
FLAMECHECK is a commonly used treatment, suitable for a wide range of materials.
Flame Retardants at Flints (UK)

Foam Board  - each sheet is 5mm thick Also known as Foam Board.
Foamcore is a lightweight and easily cut material used for mounting of photographic prints, as backing for picture framing, for making scale models, and in painting. It consists of a board of polystyrene foam clad with an outer facing of thick paper on either side. Cuts are easy to keep straight, and pieces can be glued together to form complex shapes which are widely used by set designers for set model boxes. 
Model-Making on

1) A fencing blade, rectangular in cross-section (the Épée has a triangular cross-section, with a groove running down the length of the blade, and is heavier).
2) A subsidiary character who emphasizes the traits of a main character.

The process of moving set, props and other hardware into a theatre prior to the fit-up. (aka LOAD IN (US) and BUMP IN (Aus.) and PACK IN (NZ.))

A small component or kit part added to a prop or model vehicle to make it look more fantastical and/or to make it look less like it originally did. The term was believed to be coined at Industrial Light & Magic as they were building spaceship models for Star Wars (1977), possibly by George Lucas himself, and refers to small model kit parts that were used to add detail to the huge spaceship models. This process (of using model kit parts for non-standard uses) is known as kitbashing. 

(Film/TV) Process of disguising a commercially-produced or trademarked product to hide the product name / manufacturer, where usage clearance has not been obtained, without making it look too unlike it was originally. This enables vending machines and bar scenes to take place with multple products, which have labels which have been amended slightly. 

The main, most detailed version of a prop, usually specially made for a film, TV or stage production. The hero will look best on camera, and will be able to carry out most of the specific mechanical functions required of it. There may be other versions of the prop, which could be designed to be thrown around safely, or used to hit an actor (a stunt prop) or may be destroyed as part of the action. There will be multiple versions of the alternate props, but possibly only one hero prop. 

1) A piece of linear performance where the venue has been adapted / altered to make it part of the narrative of the story. Secret Cinema events are immersive in this sense. 
2) A piece of non-linear performance where a non-theatre venue has been completely transformed into a highly detailed world within which the audience is free to roam and see various parts of the story performed in appropriate locations. The UK company Punchdrunk created the concept of audience members wearing masks which allow them to wander around the space anonymously.
Punchdrunk Theatre

To switch off (a light/sound effect); to strike/remove (a prop).
(e.g. Kill channel 6 please)

Mending Plates A metal plate used to brace across a loose/broken joint on a piece of furniture, to repair or 'mend' it. Many different sizes and shapes are available. 

Although the term literally "placing on stage" in French, the Mise en Scene refers to much more than the setting of a performance or event. The term describes all of the visual aspects of a setting - props, lighting, costume as well as set design, and how the details can contribute to the telling of the story.

A measure of the thickness of paper / card stock, measured in grams per square metre (gsm).
Standard photocopy paper is 180gsm. 

A type of paper-based non-corrugated board over 250gsm in weight used for model-making etc. 
See also Foamboard.


Sometimes prop makers and script writers have to use fictional phone numbers, or create props which feature a phone number which is correct within the world of the show / film / TV project. 

Area codes added a digit on 'Phoneday' which was easter Sunday 16th April 1995, where area codes that started with '0' started instead with '01' (e.g. Exeter went from 0392 to 01392).
Phone numbers featured in film / TV projects often use the area code 555, which is reserved for that use, and has no real customers or businesses attached. 

More to follow

Also known as Beadboard (US) or Styrofoam (brand name), this lightweight synthetic material is ideal for carving rough shapes for use on stage. It should be treated with a fire-proofing product before being used on stage. Products such as Rosco Foamcoat add this fireproofing as well as providing a primed surface which is ready for painting.

A gathering of key production staff during the months leading up to a performance or event. The aim of the meeting is to come to an agreement about any questions raised during rehearsals or the construction phase, to deal with any budget problems, confirm detailed schedules and to keep the process moving forward successfully. Decisions should be written down and circulated to those present and anyone that couldn't make the meeting. 

Either a room in which the theatres' collection of props is stored, or an offstage room where props for the show are kept, ready for the actors to pick them up.


The Props Manager / Properties Manager is in charge of the stock of props at a theatre.
In the UK, the ASM (Assistant Stage Manager) is often responsible for propping a show (finding/buying props and organising the making of additional ones). Larger organisations might have a Prop Manager who is responsible for sourcing the props required for a show (or a series of shows).

Member of the creative team who has responsibility for all of the PROPS used in the production (US).

The task, often performed by stage management in the UK, or by the scenic designer in a small company, of going around finding / borrowing / buying / making props for the production.
It's essential that a clear record is kept of the source of the props so that they can be efficiently returned at the end of the show. Reference books are used to ensure the items are correct for the time period of the production.

(Properties) Furnishings, set dressings, and all items large and small which cannot be classified as scenery, electrics or wardrobe, and which actors interact with. Props directly handled by actors are known as HAND PROPS, props which are kept in an actors' costume are known as PERSONAL PROPS.

Table in convenient offstage area on which properties are prepared prior to a performance and to which they should be returned after use. 
The table is usually marked out with a grid around each item, so it's easy to see when something is missing, and to do preshow checks that everything is ready to use. 
The preparation and checking of the props tables is the responsibility of the ASM (Assistant Stage Manager). 

Information coming soon

System whereby battery-powered practicals / props on stage can be controllable from offstage with no connecting leads.

1) To go back to a particular point ready to run part of a scene again, during a technical rehearsal (e.g. 'OK that scene change went really well - can we please reset to the end of the previous scene ready to try it again?')
2) After a performance, the Reset involves all on-stage crew in moving scenery and props back into position for the top of the show, ready for the next performance. 
See also SET BACK. 

A sound system that works opposite to a radio microphone - a sound signal is transmitted from the mixing desk to a battery-powered receiver, amplifier and speaker. Used for relaying a fully controllable sound feed to a remote location on stage - often used for an on-stage prop radio or tape player. This system is also used for in-ear monitoring (IEM).

A wall-mounted light fixture, where the light is directed upwards. Also refers to a wall-mounted flaming torch.

Term for an item of scenery or prop required for a production.

A substitute for a real flame, consisting of flame-shaped pieces of light-coloured silk, with an orange/red light underneath, and blown by a fan pointing upwards.  The airflow keeps the silk upright, with a random movement which from a distance reads as a flame.

SKIP (Costume/Props)
A large wicker basket or box, often wheeled, which stores costumes and/or props for touring.

A scenic artist's technique to apply a textured paint finish to a piece of scenery or a prop, achieved by dipping a natural sponge into paint and then applying it to the scenery.

Member of the Stage staff who is responsible for moving props and/or scenery during the show, and for ensuring that items under their responsibility are working correctly and properly maintained. Stage Crew (also known as Stagehands) are often employed on a casual basis for a specific production, and may not be part of the theatre's full-time staff. They also may be touring with a particular production.

The Head of the Stage Management team comprising the deputy stage manager (DSM) and assistant stage manager (ASM). The DSM is normally "on the book" calling the cues from the prompt corner. The ASM supervises props. Depending on the needs of the production, there may be a team of stagehands, usually casual employees.
Sometimes, on large (or complex) productions, particularly in school / college projects, two (or more) people share the role of Stage Manager - these Co-Stage Managers agree which aspects of the job they will be assigned. 
French: régisseur.
German: Inspizient (also Theatermeister or Bühnenmeister)

Stagecraft refers to any technical aspect of theatre production (and also sometimes refers to film / TV production). It includes working in technical areas such as lighting, sound, scenic construction, costume & prop construction, stage management and makeup. It usually does NOT refer to the creative / design aspects of those technical areas.

1) To disassemble a stage set ("strike the set") (e.g. "How many crew do you need for the strike?") In amateur theatre, the strike at the end of a run of shows is sometimes followed by a strike party. 
2) To remove props from the stage. ("Strike the armchair after scene 1", "Make sure the mushroom prop is struck after the forest scene" etc.). 
3) The act of turning on a discharge lamp (e.g. "Make sure you strike the followspot at the half")

Trademark. The concept of hook and loop fasteners was invented in the late 1940s, and the company Velcro was founded in 1952 in Switzerland. 
Velcro website

Term used in artistic rendering (illustration) of a theatre set or prop. The zinger is to the brightest part of a highlight, which gives the illusion of a 3d object accurately lit.