Property, or props, are one of them most common ingredients of a theatrical performance or screen production. Used by actors, the props are anything tangible used by the performers to tell the story. Practically speaking, props are any object that’s either portable, or will be moved around the stage throughout the production.
Props have a rich history – dating back thousands of years. It’s believed that props were first used as far back as 1425CE. The Oxford English Dictionary first recognised the term ‘props’ in 1841, with the singular form being coined in 1911.
The first known props known were stylised masks. Used by performers in Greek theatre, these props were called Onkoi and were symbols of comedy or tragedy.
Theatrical productions have played a significant role in our culture for thousands of years. In times past, actors, typically, used their own belongings to tell the story. Throughout the Renaissance period small acting troops pooled together whatever resources they had, and contributed all manner of costumes and objects to a theatrical production.
The term ‘property’ was inclusive of a wealth of different objects – just as it is today. The relationship between property and ownership was defined in simple terms. Ownership of the property was given to those that set object belonged to, or whomever used the object whilst on stage.
There is no difference in the roles that props play across all media. From film and television to theatre, the purpose of props is the same. A cup of coffee is still a cup of coffee whether used in these different environments.
What is considered a prop has become vastly elaborated in throughout our contemporary society. Partly due to the emergence of Hollywood and film-making, movie props are all manner of different objects. From weapons that have been modified to ensure that actors do not have any on-set accidents to sugar glass and furniture there are a wealth of items that are considered to be movie props, each of which will have been intricately designed from actual objects.
As you can see props have a rich history and today come in all different shapes and sizes. They are of vital importance in a wealth of different environments.