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Meet the Crew

Props Department

July 7, 2020 at 12:00 pm

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Meet the Crew

Go behind-the-scenes and “Meet the Crew,” a weekly feature on the departments who help build and create the magic on stage for American Ballet Theatre.

Stage Properties, aka "Props"

Meet Team Props! Property Master Paul Wells and Assistant Property Manager Steven Dunbar are truly masters of behind the scenes. Props generally refers to any set piece that is movable or any stage decoration but at ABT that is only part of the Props team’s responsibility.

In many ways, every tour begins and ends with Props, for Paul and Steven are the ultimate Tetris players in loading the trucks, assuring everything is packed safely and efficiently. Once ABT arrives at a theater, Props make sure everything that ABT travels with – which is a lot – is distributed to the right location as quickly as possible so other teams can also start setting up. This alone can take several hours which adds a layer of difficulty since ABT usually only has 2-3 days to fully set up a theater before the first performance. To Paul’s very credible knowledge, no other theater company sets up as quickly as we do on a regular basis!

Once the carpenters are finished building the floor, Props will finish the dancers’ floor by carefully and precisely laying the linoleum or “Marley” on top, one of the dancers’ most crucial elements to safely dancing. In addition to the many floors ABT uses, ABT has thousands of props for the different ballets. With countless beds, chairs, swords, counters, wands, fans and baskets, the list goes on and on. Though some of the props are made by third-parties, Paul and Steven build and restore many of ABT’s props. They are truly multi-talented, using carpentry, sculpting, painting and sewing skills on a regular basis. A legacy within itself, Paul has been with ABT for 27 years and Steven has been with ABT for 21 years!

Fun Facts

Snow (the Snow Scene from The Nutcracker) and rose petals (used for celebrations on stage) are both considered props.
The props team also has some special guests like the Borzoi dogs in Giselle and the pony in La Fille mal gardée!
They always make sure dancers have all the basics backstage like tissues, stools, water and candy!