Unsung Heroes - Heidi, Props
Heidi McCurdy: Properties
Tell me a bit about what you do at CLT. What does managing props entail?
I am currently a Property Co-Master with my daughter, Riley. Managing the props at CLT means that we are the people who maintain the various prop rooms at the theater. We may not be mastering props for each production at the theater, however, we are the people to come to when a props person is looking for specific items. We also manage prop rentals to other theaters, school districts, and community organizations.
What first got you interested in theatrical props?
My daughter has been involved in theater since she was very small. I initially volunteered to help out with those productions she was a part of with whatever tasks were needed. Eventually directors and producers began to ask me to run props for their shows, which led to my current position as property co-master for the Community Little Theatre production board.
How did you come to be at Community Little Theatre?
I have had season tickets forever, well, for over twenty years. But I really began to get involved once my daughter became a part of the CLT family.
Where are you when you aren’t at CLT?
I am currently the librarian at Edward Little High School. When I'm not there, I like to visit my daughter in college and spend time with my girlfriends and my husband. During the summer, I like to hang out with my family, spend time on the golf course, and relax at my family's camp.
I hear that you’ve been in the process of cataloging CLT’s prop inventory for quite some time. Can you tell me a little about that process?
Yes! And it has been for quite some time. My initial idea was to have a digital inventory of all props. This will include photos of all items as well as a description of each. I envision a link to the inventory on the CLT webpage. Organizations who would like to rent/borrow props from the theater will be able to not only have an inventory of everything available, but also have a photo and description of all items. For prop masters, it is really important to not only see items, but also have descriptions containing size and other attributes. Directors are most often looking for specific props to fit their show, so having all of this information available makes it much easier for the prop masters to pick and choose items for a particular production. For the last two years, CLT has teamed up with Edward Little for the high school's annual Community Service Day. Approximately fifteen students from the high school spend the school day volunteering in the prop room at CLT. This has helped the work of the digital inventory immensely.
You must have come across some strange and intriguing pieces in your time at the theater. What are some of your favorites?
These all seem to be about birds - three in particular. My daughter and I once made a papermaché turkey for the first production we worked on as prop masters, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It was also the first time we used papermaché for anything. It came out great and was used it in multiple shows after that until it mysteriously disappeared! With help from set decor, we also made a hen who laid a golden egg for Into the Woods. Both the hen and egg were giant sized. The hen was made from a huge yoga ball. Most of my budget for that show went towards covering the hen with feathers! The third was another bird we created for Wednesday in Addams Family. The audience laughed every night when she walked onto the stage with the bird she had just killed for dinner!
What are some prop items that the theater is in need of? Conversely, what are some that the theater has in abundance?
I'm not sure that the theater is in need of any specific props. Every show is so different, which requires props to change for each show. We may need period vintage pieces for one show, and all modern items for the next, so it's pretty hard to predict. Having said this, we do take donations and as long as we have the room, we are grateful to the community for helping us with the props inventory. What do we have in abundance? Drinking glasses! Too many glasses! It seems to me that after every production or even each time I enter the prop room for that matter, more drinking glasses appear. It's like they multiply overnight!
Which shows that CLT has produced have required the most interesting assortment of props?
Addams Family had some interesting props due to the unique nature of the family as well as all the ancestor scenes. From Wednesday's bow and arrow to the individual props needed for each ancestor (each ancestor required individual period props, plus all props required a coat of white paint), this show was very detailed in the props department. It has also been one of my favorite shows to run props for and to be a part of.
What are some of the challenges involved in your duties at the theater?
The prop rooms at CLT need time. I think most departments at CLT would say the same about their spaces. There are multiple rooms at CLT full to the brim with props. Managing the variety of items can be extremely time-consuming. Also, with so many shows and with so many different people working props for each show, it is sometimes difficult to keep the rooms organized. You have to be okay with a little disorganization from time to time, knowing that eventually the rooms will become orderly once again.
Why do you think it is important to have theater in our communities?
I can't imagine not having theater in our community. I look at what it has done for my daughter and all the students at the high school who have been involved in theater, and I truly believe that the arts can make one of the most positive impacts in a person's life. It's a form of expression, a way to learn new skills, and an opportunity to work with some of the most dedicated and passionate people in our community. It's also a lifelong activity. The sense of community between CLT and other local theaters, high schools, and organizations is proof that it is both important and essential to continue to support the arts at every level.