Last season you might have seen Elizabeth Munz on stage in What Happened in Vegas, or else behind the counters in the lobby. This summer she's been the props coordinator for Blood Relations, and we sat down with her to find out how it's been going.
Producers: Is this the first show for which you've done props?
Elizabeth: It is! That is, I did a bunch of different backstage things, props included, when I was at UW since that was part of the curriculum. So I'm very familiar with backstage tasks but this is my first time with a KWLT production doing props.
P: How are you finding it so far?
E: Given the fact that this is a period piece is't a liiiiiiiitle bit stressful. But otherwise it's a lot of fun. I've had a lot of help from a friend of mine: we'd been looking for this antique birdcage. I didn't know what to do about it, Megan (Redwood, the TD) and I are both like, "how can we make it, how are we going to design it?" I went to my friend and she's like "here, I found this on Facebook!" And that's all you had to do -- you can buy anything on line these days. So yeah, we've got the birdcage, now it just needs to be painted.
P: So with props you've got two main strategies: you're either finding or making. What's the balance been like for this show?
E: So for this show, thankfully Megan's kind of taken the brunt of the building. I've offered, but she's got it covered. So I don't need to build, which I both love and don't love -- I love working with my hands, so I'm like "So I don't need to build anything? ...that's fine, I suppose". Little did I know that I'd be so grateful not to build anything, since I'm so busy myself.
With finding, the devil's in the details. So there are always those props where you've found it, but will it work in the period? Or the flipside: there's a piece that works in this period, but where can I get it? The finding has been an adventure, since often when I do find it it's often someplace in the States, so I need to get it shipped up here. One thing that Diana wanted to get was a toast rack -- one of those holders that you'd stick your toast in come breakfast-time? It's technically not in the script, she just wants it to represent that they're having breakfast. So where on Earth do I find that?
P: See, that sounds like something that one could make, or at least fake -- who knows what that's supposed to look like?
E: I managed to find one -- or actually Davenport (the KWLT Props Manager) found it on Amazon. It was a bit frustrating since I'd searched on Google to find something and came up empty, and then one day Davenport tries it and finds it immediately. So now I just have to wait for it to get there. That's also the thing: we've got all these things coming from far away, so you're just going, "please, please, please make it here before tech weekend."
P: Also I guess you have to be really sure that it's going to work, because you don't have time to get a replacement.
E: Exactly. So hopefully the toast-holder works, and if it doesn't then I hope that Diana's not going to be too mad at me in case we don't have one. It's not in the script, but it would also be a nice thing to have for the theatre -- maybe down the road someone else will have a period piece that needs it.
One thing I'm grateful for doing props in this community is that Davenport's amazing in having everything in the props archives onto a website. So I was able to look up a lot of stuff, and when we met the other day to pull some things there was actually a bunch of stuff that I couldn't find in the database that he hadn't been able to put in yet. So being able to be in that situation and find all the bins that he's nicely labelled: "this box has all of this stuff, so if it's in this category we'll find it here". So that's really helpful, it means that you don't have to open all -- how many bins do we have in there? Like 40? I'd rather not sift through 40 boxes. So thankfully Davenport's there.
P: So how specific is Diana's vision? She has a really clear sense of what the set should look like?
E: When we had our meeting it seems like she has this certain vision, she has this idea. And that's fantastic, since a lot of directors go, "Oh, I don't know, give me a few things and I'll look at them." She knows what she wants and that's great. That's also kind of what makes it a bit stressful, since every time I find something there's that doubt that floats at the back of my mind: will she like it? So I take lots of photos and I send them to check that they'll work, and she's always been fine so far.
P: So she's not hung up on the details.
E: Not too much, whereas I am -- I'm a bit of a perfectionist. So the opening bit of the show has the Actress reading from a script. And I found out that the monologue that she's reading from is from Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale". So I'm like, I'd love to find the book "The Winter's Tale" and I had this huge idea of searching for an old-fashioned book that would look like it. Diana was looking for something simpler than what I had in mind, which is perfectly fine! In fact, she's saving me from myself; I don't have to run around with my head cut off to find something only I will notice.
P: I know you met with Diana early on the process about what you needed to find. Have you had a lot of feedback as the play has developed?
E: Not too much. Lately yes, because now we're getting into crunch time so I really need the answers to these questions. So they've been good about getting back to me about that stuff. And except for things I'm waiting for, I believe I've got all of the props on the list. So that's a good thing?
P: Where have you been keeping them?
E: At the theatre. The majority of them were pulled from the theatre, and then there are a couple of things I pulled from home -- except for the birdcase, that hasn't been painted yet.
P: So the actors haven't been using the props in rehearsals.
E: Not to my knowledge.
P: That will be very interesting, then.
E: It is. My friend is playing the Actress, and she has to smoke a cigarette. And the cigarettes we have at the theatre, they don't produce the smoke so I had to get new ones. So I've had to wait for those cigarettes to come in, and now it's "OK Laura, now try smoking this". So hopefully it'll work -- I had to get special ones from Vegas, but the good news is that they come with a charger and extra cartridges. So if we ever run out, I know where to get more.
P: So how has your experience been overall? Would you do props for another show?
E: I would do props for another show, definitely. I'm very fond of props and construction and also sound, so if there's anybody out there that wants someone... I love the theatre, period: it's my second home, and I'll do anything for it. All of last season I was in one show, but I was FOH for the others; I wanted to make sure that as long as I can be involved in some way with the theatre I'm grateful to be welcomed.
P: Anything else that you'd like to talk about?
E: I just really hope that people will really love the show. I had the opportunity to read it before I auditioned, and I fell in love with it right away. I think that the audience is just going to be blown away. Especially with the way the set is staged, it's different than the usual proscenium kind of stage that we're used to. It's going to be more like theatre in the round. Like the Tom Patterson theatre in Stratford, it's that kind of a stage. Which is pretty cool, we don't see that done very much. With the black box it's easy to change it up -- it's really unique to see someone do it a different way. I hope people like that about the show, because I think it's really awesome.
(Pocketwatch borrowed from ECT -- thanks very much for the loan!)