Props and scenery makers

I could be interested…

An opera isn’t just a musical event; it’s a theatrical spectacle, as exciting to the eye as to the ear.  At New Sussex Opera, we’ve successfully created our fair share of dazzling spectacles, with sets which have featured a gallows, a hot air balloon, a boxing ring and three giant blackboards and props ranging from a torture chair to a lifebelt and an assortment of guns and swords.  Making them can present a sizeable challenge to both imaginative and practical abilities – but can produce equally sizeable satisfaction for all those involved.

Sounds like a wide range of tasks.  How wide, exactly?
In a handful of recent productions, NSO’s scenery and props team have cut out a blizzard of paper flowers, forged a set of manacles and created a brace of convincing-looking flintlock pistols.  Tools they have used range from jigsaws to pipe benders and power drills to paint brushes, and materials from copper tubing to cardboard and canvas to MDF.  And they have worked in settings raging from their own garages and sheds to the barn where NSO stores all its scenery and props.  Although the emphasis is very much on making, there’s also an element of sourcing – for example, tracking down (and perhaps even bargaining for) that elusive prop the designer has asked for.

Is there more to the work than just making?
You bet there is.  You’d be involved right from the very first production meetings with the director, designer, lighting designer and production manager.  They’ll have their own ideas on what kind of scenery, props and overall look they want for the production; they’ll welcome your ideas on how it can be achieved.  As the rehearsals get under way, you’d stay in close touch with the director and designer and start liaising with the stage and production manager to work out the finer details of which props and scenery items are going to be needed when and precisely where.  As the performance dates approach, you’ll meet with NSO’s stage manager, venue stage manager and our own stage crew to iron out practical details of transport, moving and storing.

Practical, DIY skills are an obvious must-have; what about others?
This is creative as well as practical work; cerebral as much as physical.  Essentially, you’d be interpreting a designer’s designs and making their sketches and plans become reality. So you’ll need imagination, empathy and the confidence to make your own contribution in meetings with some top professionals.

Why would I want to?
To use and extend the skills you already have; work with a wide range of talented, friendly people; make a significant contribution to equally significant and memorable performances.