Q. How did you get this job? Is this your “thing,” usually? How did you hear about TAM?
A. Dan Bilodeau , TAM’s resident set designer is the department chair at University of Maine. We had been talking about possible internships. I was a little nervous because an internship seemed really intense. Throughout the year he kept telling me about Theater at Monmouth and that I should look into it. He told me Dawn was coming to direct Love’s Labour’s Lost in the spring. I met her at our production meeting for the show, and I decided to go for it. I sent in my application materials and I was so nervous thinking, “What if she got it? What if she read it and hated it?” Later that week, she asked me for an interview. At first I thought, “I bombed that. She didn’t like my answers. There are so many people more qualified than me.” I felt like I didn’t go about it the right way, but she offered me the Props and Scenic Art internship!


Katie Keaton (down left) and friends from University of Maine

I didn’t have much experience with props until this past academic year. In the fall of 2014, I did props for the musical, Little Shop of Horrors. That was my first props experience, and I had no idea what I was doing. I had to make fake intestines and all this weird stuff. At first I thought there is a right and wrong way to make things. Then I realized that it doesn’t matter what the thing is made out of. All that matters in the end is that the props looks the way you want them to and that it looks the way the product should. I’ve learned to love it more being at TAM. As much as working on six shows at the same time is overwhelming, I we have a great system in the way we organized it. Props is now “my thing.” It never was, but I think after this summer it probably will continue to be something I do, just because it goes hand and hand with design.

 Q. What have you learned about the process of making props this season?
A. The process at TAM works really well. It’s very organized and I’d like to carry on that process because it worked really well for me. At the beginning of the summer  we made a master list of every show and every prop it would need by reading each script. Then we just started pulling everything we could find that we had in stock. Whether it was “props only good enough for rehearsals,” or something that was “show-ready.” We pulled together an inventory of everything we had. During my first week here I  touched base on every single show for the whole summer, rather than focusing on the first two. That was nice because by the time we got to the last show, I was already familiar with the props needs.  After that initial work, we started working show by show, so by the end of the final tech week, we were pretty much all set. I think it was helpful that we went little by little along the way.

Q. Fallen Angels was an incredibly prop heavy show. What was your process for getting things together for this show in particular? How did it compare to the process of any other show?

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The Fallen Angels set. Photo by Christina Hallowell.

A. It really comes down to the decision of the theater you’re working with, or the designers themselves, but the role of “props” changes from show to show. Sometimes we were just pulling and building the props, and for Fallen Angels,  the furniture fell on our shoulders too. It’s such a realistic set. It’s a flat in London, with all of it is furniture and set dressings and food. Thankfully we had a baby grand in stock, because if we didn’t we would have had to build an entire piano, which would have been interesting but pretty time consuming. It was cool to see how people build such realistic large pieces of furniture. I loved seeing that construction and how it was made. I really learned how to strip down a piece of furniture, tailor it, and make it what the designer wants for the show.

Then there was all the food. It was fun to experiment with what to use. It was a challenge to make something look like steak onstage. At first we toyed with the idea of red velvet cake, but we couldn’t figure out how to frost it to make it look like meat.. Someone suggested watermelon and A1 sauce. We did a taste test, which the actors tried and put on a happy face, but we could tell there was probably a better way. Plus it didn’t look as good as we wanted it to. We were trying to think of something that was still brown but thicker than A1. And we came up with chocolate sauce! So did another taste test. This one looked better, and [the actors] really liked the taste. Every night for the show we get a few slices of watermelon, split them in half, and marinate them in chocolate sauce. I feel ridiculous lathering chocolate all over watermelon, but it really does look ”the part.”. The oysters too! Stephen, the lighting designer, ever so kindly, went out to lunch in Portland one day and got some oysters and brought back the shells for us. We cleaned them out really well so it didn’t smell fishy and every night we put water and lemon juice in them so they can slurp it up.  It was funny to be able to put all that fake food together.  And appreciating that it doesn’t necessarily have to be that food, I just have to make it look like it is.

Q. What’s the biggest misconception about your job?
A. [The biggest misconception is that] props are bought or pulled and then they’re all set. In my job description it reads, “assist with all prop construction.” When you see [the word] “construction” you think, “Oh that’s scenic. They construct sets.” The amount that I was building things with tools this summer was so much more than at school. Also, not all props are ready made. If you find something you still need a creative spark. You need to look at something and think, “What can I turn that into?” I think what’s really important about the job and what most people don’t understand. It’s all about being resourceful.