Inside the Broadway Community Project: What Does a Prop Master and Set Decorator Do?

Special Features   Inside the Broadway Community Project: What Does a Prop Master and Set Decorator Do?
 
Faye Armon-Troncoso brings detail to the worlds of such shows as Fun Home, War Horse, Oslo, and Of Mice and Men.
Faye Armon-Troncoso and her dog, Bella
Faye Armon-Troncoso and her dog, Bella David Troncoso

The arts and culture industries remain largely at a standstill in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, affecting millions of workers in an already delicate ecosystem. The Broadway Community Project, from industry veterans Greg Schaffert, Tiffani Gavin, Situation Interactive, and Playbill, was developed to shed light on the myriad fields and roles that go into making the curtain rise.

In this new series, we shine a spotlight on the faces you may not see on stage, but are nevertheless critical in creating and maintaining a theatre production. These are just some of the arts workers who have put their stamp on an industry that contributed over $14.7 billion to the New York economy in 2019 and $877 billion in value added nationally; these are just some of the arts workers in need of relief legislation and a recovery plan.

READ: Inside the New Tool That Maps the Expansive, Evolving Broadway Ecosystem

Learn about prop supervisors and more through the Broadway Community Project on Playbill
Learn about prop supervisors and more through the Broadway Community Project on Playbill

Today, meet Obie winner Faye Armon-Troncoso, a prop master/supervisor and set decorator. Her numerous credits include the Broadway productions of Head Over Heels, Fun Home, Of Mice and Men, Clybourne Park, War Horse, and Oslo, as well as dozens of Off-Broadway shows including Bug and the pre-Broadway run of In the Heights. Learn more about her and her line of work below.

Click here to explore the constantly evolving Broadway Community Project map in full (or submit yourself to be added).

Name: Faye Armon-Troncoso
Title(s): Prop master, prop supervisor, set decorator

How did you get your start in prop work?
I began doing props when a prop master caught my attention at The Cherry Lane Theatre. I saw what she was doing, and I knew I wanted to try it. I began doing props for the company’s Mentor Project. Then I moved Off-Broadway and did [Tracy Letts’] Bug at Barrow Street Theater in NYC. It was this production that I was the first prop master to ever win an Obie Award.

James Franco and Jim Norton in <i>Of Mice and Men</i>
James Franco and Jim Norton in Of Mice and Men Richard Phibbs

What is a typical day like for you on the job?
When I am working in the theatre, anything can be thrown at me at any moment! I usually check in with my shows in the morning in-person and get the download from my many assistant stage managers. A new request might come through, or perhaps something isn't working properly in the rehearsal room. I'm shopping, figuring out tough stuff, providing solutions, and just rolling with it.

What do you wish more people knew about your line of work?
Not many people know what prop supervisors/prop masters do in the theatre. So here are our duties: Provide rehearsal props and mock furniture for the rehearsal hall; collaborate and supply all set dressing and furniture with the set designer; provide all hand props, weaponry, blood, special effects, backups, and food; make all furniture be able to move on wheels and fit backstage; make sure all props and furniture are actor safe and actor friendly (i.e. make it toddler-proof!).

What are three skills a prop supervisor/master must possess?
Patience, passion, and NO EGO!

Do you have a fun anecdote from your time on the job?
When I was doing Bug, my director wanted a specific type of “crack pipe,” so I took to the streets in the Village trying to find what he wanted. Turned out everyone at the stores thought I was an undercover cop and wasn't showing me the pipes. Until this one guy told me it was a "flower" that I needed. I was like, "What flower?” And sure enough—at the smoke shops there was a little dumb cloth flower inside of a glass tube. And this was how I found the show's crack pipes!

Also, when I was doing Of Mice and Men on Broadway, we wanted to have old pieces of machinery up in Crook's house, so I was driving past a scrap metal junkyard—walked right in and told them we needed some metal "stuff"—and they loaded it right into my car!

Gabriel Ebert and Mary Louise Wilson
Gabriel Ebert and Mary Louise Wilson in 4000 Miles

What are some of your favorite shows you’ve worked on?
I loved working on War Horse at Lincoln Center. I thought it was so beautiful and such a great story. I also loved doing Fun Home at the Public Theater and then at Circle in the Square. It was so great to provide the hand props and furniture, and to make it all work and be spot on visually. I also really loved doing 4000 Miles at Lincoln Center. Our set was so naturalistic. We were able to create such a "real" life in the main character's apartment.

How would you like to see your field evolve in the future?
I would love prop supervisors/prop masters to be awarded a Tony Award category! We come up with so many ideas for the hand props/set dressing, and it would be great to be recognized.

What does it mean to you to be a part of the theatre community?
To be a part of the theatre community is something special! It's being part of a creative team, infused with passion. It is an exciting place to create art with your friends!

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