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Prop Art
An imaginative mind

Editor's note: This is the third segment of a three-part article showcasing the Ohio University School of Theater Prop Shop. This article is featured in the Winter 2005 print edition of Ohio Today.

Jan. 14, 2005

By Corinne Colbert
Photography by Rick Fatica

Few students leave the School of Theater without at least one quarter in the Prop Shop. All of them, regardless of major, have to take classes in stagecraft. Fiocchi is not above tempting some away from their original ambitions.

"I always try to lure them to the dark side," he says with a mischievous grin. "There aren't enough props artisans out there."

And those who are, increasingly, come from Ohio University. From New York to L.A., Chicago to Atlanta, every graduate of the production design and technology program has found a job in the field, Fiocchi says.

Toby Harding, MFA '04, followed his mentor's footsteps to the Shakespeare Theatre, where he is assistant props manager. Like Fiocchi, he is drawn to weapons work. "It's just great when you spend a weekend trying to figure out how to make something work onstage," he says.

The mental challenge also appeals to Natalie Taylor, now in her final year of study for her MFA in production design and technology. Metalwork is nice, she says, but she prefers more complex props that combine a variety of materials, such as the deer she made for "A Lie of the Mind."

Technically, it was only half a deer. A character kills the deer offstage and later cuts the frozen carcass in half, hauling its back end onstage. It was that end of the deer that Taylor had to make, obtaining a hide (and an up-close view of the innards) from a taxidermist and stretching it over a wood skeleton. The result won an award at the 2002 Southeastern Theater Conference. She made a dead goose for another play.

"I've got all this carnage in my portfolio," she says.

Building a portfolio is what it's all about. Every student in the production design program must take a photography class to learn to take professional photos of their work. Those images are their ticket to employment at places like the Shakespeare Theatre.

"It's a pretty good program to give us the people we have here," says Harding, who employs two Prop Shop grads.

Demand for the shop's alumni is high. "Everybody loves our props people," says Belden, who like other School of Theater faculty remains active professionally in New York and other hot spots. "We can't turn out enough of them to fill the jobs. Our graduates are immediately hirable at any theater in the country."

And if they're anything like Fiocchi, they will be ecstatic about their roles in the theater. "This is the most fun job in the entire world," he says with characteristic enthusiasm. "My job is never, ever boring."

Corinne Colbert served as interim assistant editor of Ohio Today. Rick Fatica is the university photographer. He took all photos except the image of Mighty Achilles.

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