BY RUTHIE FIERBERG
Pieces by the Public Theater’s Jay Duckworth and other prop masters will be on display in the new exhibit Props and Fine Art From Movies, Television & Theatre at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, opening in March.
A hero prop is any item meant to be used by a show’s leading actor. That could be a letter, like the one Phillipa Soo burned in Hamilton, or Shylock’s money box, like the one Al Pacino held in The Merchant of Venice (both featured in the exhibit). Props are the object you don’t think about—and aren’t supposed to.
“I’m sure you have seen my team’s work before, but I hope that you have never noticed it,” says Duckworth. “Unfortunately, that is the goal for a props master is to be so seamless our work only catches the eye when we intend it to.”
In addition to Duckworth’s props, the exhibit showcases work by Annie Atkins, who specializes in graphics for films, such as the postage stamps and bank notes from Grand Budapest Hotel; Buist Bickley, who has designed props for Broadway’s SpongeBob SquarePants, Frozen, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Eric Hart, the prop master at Triad Stage in Greensboro, North Carolina and the author of The Prop Building Guidebook: for Theatre, Film and TV and The Prop Effects Guidebook; Randy Lutz, the prop director for the Santa Fe Opera; and Carl Sprague, a film and stage designer whose past credits include The Royal Tenenbaums and 12 Years a Slave.
Wheaton College will also present a second exhibit: Working Objects: Props by Ross MacDonald. McDonald, who has served as an illustrator for publications such as Vanity Fair and the New York Times as well as four children’s books, has also designed props for more than 40 movies and TV series (including the Book of Secrets in National Treasure and the Pawnee town charter in Parks and Recreation).
Both exhibits are on view March 1–April 13 at The Beard & Weil Galleries at Wheaton College.