John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.
After studying this lesson your students will be able to:
- Demonstrate how to actually design some real stage props
- Explain how a dramatic production can benefit from stage props
- Explain why props are so important to a stage production
2.5 - 3.0 Hours (spread over three consecutive class periods)
- Brown paper (or brown paper bags)
- Colored markers
- Internet access
- Painter's tape
- Paper mache
- Poster board
- Rulers or yardsticks
- Sponges (some should be green)
- Stapler and staples
- Wood Panels
- Balsa wood furniture
- Smoke blanks
- Stage technician
- Sugar glass
Please note that each state has different standards for art. Please consult your state's standards to ensure proper alignment.
Instructions and Activities
- Let your students know they are going to be learning about theatre props.
- Ask them if anyone is familiar with theatre props, or has even designed some.
- Review the key vocabulary terms about theatre props.
- Inform your students they are going to be designing theatre props for their very own Lord of the Rings themed stage production.
- Explain to your students they are going to be creating actual theatre prop rocks of their own.
- Divide your students up into small groups of 3-5.
- Explain to your students the following steps.
1) These are quite simple to make, yet look surprisingly real from even a few yards away.
2) Take sheets of brown paper and crumple them up into balls. It is best if you crumple them as tightly as possible.
3) Next, unfold them and dab on paint with your sponges. This doesn't have to be precise, as the audience will not see them up close.
4) Refold the rocks as tightly as possible.
5) Use your staplers to fasten the rocks around the edges where needed.
6) Finally, stack your rocks in a visually pleasing arrangement.
- Let your students know they will now be creating theatre prop trees.
- Describe the following steps for your students.
A) Cut up brown paper into one long piece for the trunk.
B) Take scissors and cut some lines on either side for the branches.
C) Use your fingers to gently twist the paper into interesting tree-like shapes.
D) Cut up a green sponge into fluffy shapes for the crowns of the trees.
E) Glue the sponges to the brown paper.
F) Finally, glue the trees onto your poster board or backdrops.
- Inform your students they will be making paper-mache food.
- Detail the following steps:
a) Mix up the paper-mache recipe (roughly one part flour to one part water)
b) Cut up strips of paper in the mixture.
c) Inflate balloons and wrap the strips around them.
d) Remember to make your food larger than it would normally be, as the audience will be at a distance. For example, make an apple roughly the size of a cantaloupe.
e) Allow the mixture to dry, and then use paint to draw details on the food. Once again, it is not necessary to paint with precise detail.
f) Lastly, be creative with the foods you make, and the way you arrange them in your display.
- Allow your students to take a break and ask them the following questions pertaining to theatre props:
A) Is there a Tony Award for theatre props? (no, although there used to be an award for best stage technician from 1948-1963.)
B) For what does the word props actually stand? (properties)
C) What is fake glassware called that can be easily broken without injury? (sugar glass)
D) What is fake furniture made of that can also be easily broken without harm to the performers? (balsa wood)
E) What are utilized in weapons, but are not real? (smoke blanks)
F) How can a dramatic production benefit from stage props? (answers include they create a sense of atmosphere, and they transport the audience to other times and places)
G) Why are props so crucial to a stage production? (answers include they create realism for the audience, and they mark regions for the performers to deliver their lines convincingly)
- Explain to your students they will be making a castle out of cardboard, styrofoam, and wood panels.
- Tell them the following steps:
1) Paint your cardboard boxes gray.
2) Draw straight lines on them using markers to create the bricks, or paint the lines.
3) Paint your wooden panels and styrofoam gray as well.
4) Arrange the boxes, wooden panels, and styrofoam in a pleasing manner.
5) Cut out an arched doorway for the entrance.
6) Lastly, as an option, you can create a moat and some green bushes around the castle using colored construction paper.
- Explain to your students they will be creating swords and shields for exciting fight scenes.
a) Cut out swords and other similar weapons such as axes using cardboard.
b) Wrap the weapons in foil to make them look shiny.
c) Use colored markers to fill in any details.
d) Cut out circles in cardboard or wood for the shields.
e) Paint the shields, use foil, or a combination of both.
f) Lastly, hold up your weapons and shields for display.
Finally, congratulate your students and tell them:
The last thing to do is combine all five of your creations together. Place the castle as the centerpiece, and then add the rocks, trees, food, and weapons in a visual manner that looks pleasing for the audience.
- The Tony Award for best stage technician was given from 1948-1963. Write a three-page paper detailing the winners of these awards, and the names of their stage productions.
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