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Books: 4 for the Reading List

Stage Directions • June 2021Off the Shelf • May 25, 2021

This story can be read by clicking the image above, or reading below, or in our June 2021 digitial edition

Prop Building for Beginners: Twenty Props for Stage and Screen by Eric Hart
Prop Building for Beginners: Twenty Props for Stage and Screen outlines the basic concepts of prop building by featuring step-by-step instructions to create twenty of the most commonly featured items in theatrical and filmed productions. This book uses a combination of projects to expose readers to a wide range of materials and tools that they might find in a basic scenery or costume shop, serving both as a guide to building simple props and as a crash course in the variety of items a props person may have to build. The projects require a variety of tools, techniques, and materials so that a practitioner who completes all of them will have received a complete introduction to the basics of prop building. Assuming no previous knowledge of prop building, this is the perfect primer for students, hobbyists, or community theater enthusiasts looking to enter the prop shop. 

Prop Building for Beginners includes access to full-scale printable versions of the patterns featured in the book. The projects included in the book are a letter; an old book; a lantern; a treasure chest; a chalice; a roast chicken; a skull; a key; a scepter; a loaf of bread; a crown; a sword; a tree branch with leaves; a folding fan; a coin purse; a haversack; a dead bird; a wooden crate; a rehearsal cube; and an upholstered foot stool. There are also chapters on various materials including paper and papier-mâché; foam and clay; fabric; paint; wood; glue and tape. 

The author, Eric Hart, is a professor of Stage Properties at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He has built props for theater, film, television, opera, Broadway, theme parks, and retail display, and is also the author of The Prop Building Guidebook and The Prop Effects Guidebook. He holds an MFA from the Ohio University School of Theater.
Prop Building for Beginners: Twenty Props for Stage and Screen is available at various book sellers and through the publisher at

Productivity Through Wellness for Live Entertainment and Theatre Technicians: Increasing Productivity, Avoiding Burnout, and Maximizing the Value of An Hour by Brian MacInnis Smallwood
Productivity Through Wellness for Live Entertainment and Theatre Technicians provides the tools for individuals and organizations to achieve a healthy work–life balance and increase productivity in the production process of live entertainment. Through examination of the limits of the human body, the fundamentals of motivation, and best practices of project management, the reader will develop operational mindfulness and look at new ways to achieve work–life balance. The book explores case studies that show how organizations are promoting work–life balance and reaping the benefits of increased productivity, makes recommendations to reduce burnout and increase productivity among technicians, and discusses how to deal with the various phases of production. An excellent resource for live entertainment technicians, production managers, technical directors, arts managers, managers in live entertainment, and students in Technical Direction and Production Management courses, Productivity Through Wellness for Live Entertainment and Theatre Technicians offers practical solutions to improve the quality of life of employees, by reducing the burnout and injuries of overwork, and maximize the value of an hour.

The author, Brian MacInnis Smallwood, has been researching the impact of wellness on productivity since 2010. He has led workshops and seminars for Washington College, the Southeastern Theatre Conference, and the United States Institute for Theatre Technology. A co-founder of The Arts Wellness Group, Brian currently serves as an Associate Professor and Production Manager for the School of Theatre and Dance at James Madison University.
Productivity Through Wellness for Live Entertainment and Theatre Technicians is available at various booksellers and through the publisher at

Safety and Health for the Stage: Collaboration with the Production Process by William J. Reynolds
Safety and Health for the Stage: Collaboration with the Production Process is a practical guide to integrating safety and health into the production process for live entertainment in the context of compliance with applicable codes, standards, and recommended practices. This book explores the need for safety and health to become an integral aspect of theatre production and live entertainment, focusing on specific steps to take and policies to employ to bring a safety and health program into full collaboration in the production process. Readers will learn how to comply with legal codes and standards as they initiate and implement an effective safety and health program in their theatre production organization or academic theatre department. The book includes references and links to other industry-specific safety and health resources, as well as a Glossary of Safety and Health Terms to navigate the safety and health jargon in the context of theatre and live entertainment. Safety and Health for the Stage: Collaboration with the Production Process provides links to electronic versions of sample safety and health programs, industry-specific policies and recommended practices, and forms and templates related to many of the topics covered in the book. Written for practitioners who are engaged in all aspects of theatre production and live entertainment, as well as educators who train and influence the next generations of these practitioners, this book is an essential resource for creating a positive culture of safety in live entertainment.

The author, William J. Reynolds, joined the faculty of Yale School of Drama in 1982 and continues to teach occasional workshops in theatre safety for Yale School of Drama and other theatre organizations. In June 2017 he retired from the Yale School of Drama/Yale Repertory Theatre as the Director of Theater Safety and Occupational Health. He is the USITT Safety & Health Vice-Commissioner for Education and the Student Alliance Program. Bill has presented theatre safety and health sessions at the New England Theatre Conference, USITT, and the InfoComm conferences, and for the University Risk Managers and Insurers Association, the Center for Campus Fire Safety, the American Occupational Health Conference, and the Campus Safety, Health and Environmental Managers’ Association.  He is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer and consulted on theater safety for such institutions as: The Juilliard School; Wesleyan University; Carnegie-Mellon University; the University of California; Eastern Connecticut State University; Tencue Productions; The Alley Theatre; and Theatre Projects.
Safety and Health for the Stage: Collaboration with the Production Process is available at various booksellers and through the publisher at

Theatre Artisans and Their Craft: The Allied Arts Fields edited by Rafael Jaen, Holly Poe Durbin, Christin Essin
Theatre Artisans and Their Craft: The Allied Arts Fields looks at fourteen remarkable artists and technicians who elevate theatre production to new dimensions, explore new materials and technologies, and introduce new safety standards and solutions. The book explores how to make an impact in the entertainment industry behind the scenes, and how students can model themselves after these successful professionals. Aimed at theatre and film practitioners in the allied arts fields, Theatre Artisans and Their Craft offers a collection of success stories that are both inspiring and informative. The book is a collection of interview pieces, each with a different author. The subject artists include Cherelle Guyton, Peter S. Miller, Judy Adamson, Margaret Peot, Tom Watson, Deborah Dryden, Daniel Weger, Jay Duckworth, Samuel Lee, Paul Huntley, Arnold S. Levine, Stanley Allan Sherman, Denise Wallace-Spriggs, and Michael Curry.

An excerpt from the book’s foreword best offers a glimpse of what a reader might expect within: 

“The idea for this book was born at a Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) six years ago. After showing a jaw-dropping art portfolio, the owner, an art student from a community college, told me that he didn’t think that he had a future in the theatre arts because it wasn’t his major. Luckily, prop master Jay Duckworth (who is featured in one of this book’s chapters) was attending the same festival, and after seeing the work ended up offering a summer internship to the student to join him during the summer at the Public Theater in New York City. What got my attention, at the time, was that the student did not realize that it takes a village to produce effective storytelling, and that many allied arts translate effectively to the needs of a theatre or screen production. This collection of masters presents several ways to create an impact in entertainment from “behind the scenes.” Some followed a formal path, studying their subject in college. Others followed a guild model, apprenticing with masters in their field. One forged a journey that led from Renaissance fairs and cosplay to the online forum DeviantArt. They come from all over: North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Wisconsin, England, and many other places. They’ve made careers around the country as well: New York, Portland, Santa Fe, Washington DC, and Houston, to mention just a few. Some became entrepreneurs, running their own creative businesses, and some combine regular employment with a freelance career. What do these artists have in common? They all combine exceptional artistry with technical skills. Recognizing that formal education cannot always teach mastery of handcrafts, they added personal research and practice to expand their knowledge. They all experimented with materials, diving in to explore for answers when none were available. They all took their art to new heights, stretching traditional methods to meet new challenges. And they all created their own work for themselves, establishing portfolios that showed what they were capable of dreaming and making. None of them waited for that “big break” to find them—they made it for themselves. We hope that you will find this collective offering as inspiring as we do.” -Rafael Jaen, Holly Poe Durbin, Christin Essin
Theatre Artisans and Their Craft: The Allied Arts Fields is available at various booksellers and through the publisher at


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