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The Logic of Props

This quarter, I’m one of the assistant stage manager’s on the Opera Institute’s production of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, or in English, The Marriage of Figaro. Even if you don’t know opera, you’ve heard of Figaro. Please note, that one song that goes “Figaro, Figaro, Figaro” is not from The Marriage of Figaro, it’s actually from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. I digress.

The plot of Figaro is complicated, with subplots on subplots on subplots, but the main story is that of two servants,Susanna and Figaro, and the crazy events that occur on their wedding day. The original story is set in 18th century Spain, but this production has updated to mid-20th century California. The designs are beautiful, and I can’t wait to get into tech and see them all in person.

With such a large stage management team, we’ve assigned certain members as the communications liaison to a specific department, mine is props. When I received the initial props list, I was stunned. I had no idea how most of the items would be used, and I was not expecting that. In opera, in particular with repertoire, you can know a lot about the challenges you are going to face before you start the process. With Mozart, you know its going to be big, complicated, and there are going to be a lot of props. With Figaro, you know there are going to be a million costume props for all of the disguises, and a massive props list for the wedding banquet in Act III. What had never occurred to me was how much would change about the “knowns” given the updated time period. For example, the gardener, Antonio, is typically played as a drunkard. In this production, Antonio is a stoner. Its California, it makes more sense. Its the little choices like that which are going to make this production fantastic. The artistic team has thought about every detail that goes into updating the time period of a production. Its the large things, like period appropriate furniture, and the tiny details, such as having the ladies smoke cigarettes when stressed. Props are a large part of what makes the world of the play come to life onstage in a believable manner. They create the environment in subtle and obvious ways. The props that characters always carry can give us insight into their habits, fears and desires. Its important that every prop have a reason for existing otherwise you might take the audience out of the world of the play while they sit in their seat asking, “why is that there?” Plenty of thought has gone into the growing props list for this production. Its non-traditional and fun.

Come see Le nozze di Figaro! April 20-23 at the Boston University Theatre.Art

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