Properties - basic vocabulary
This material was provided by Janet Bickford, Head of Props at UBC


HAND PROPS: Props carried or moved by actors.
Eg. The actor pours tea into a cup. Teapot and cup are hand props. Weapons.
PERSONAL PROPS: Props carried in actor's pockets or other wise on their person.
Eg. Cigarette lighters
SET DRESSING: Items not handled but which add detail to a set.
Eg. The rest of the dinner service is on display in the dresser but never handled.
In film, SET DRESSING is the responsibility of the SET DEC department.
SET PROPS: Larger items which are built by props and may be moved by actors or stage hands.
Eg. A crucifix with Jesus hanging over the altar, sculpted by props.
COSTUME PROPS: Props generated by the costume designer and which appear on the costume sketch.
Eg. Walking sticks, masks
RUNNING PROPS: Props which are consumed or destroyed in the course of a performance.
Eg. Food and drink. A letter that gets torn up.
SOFT PROPS: Props made of fabric and other soft materials.
Eg. Drapes, cushions
BREAKAWAYS: Props which are broken intentionally on stage. There are two kinds:
DISPOSABLE: one per show.
Eg. A china cup which breaks. These become running props.
RIGGED and put back together after each show.
Eg. a chair back which must fall off when an actor leans on it.
PAPER PROPS: Letters, documents, scrolls. These may need actual text.
HERO: A film term indicating that a prop will be in a close up. Usually in triplicate. We occasionally use this term in theatre to denote a key prop that affects dialogue or action.
PRESET: Prop which must be set in a particular place on set or back stage for the top of the show or at intermission. On set presets must be set before the house comes in.
Eg. A sweater preset in a suitcase. A gun hidden in a drawer in an onstage bureau.
BREAKDOWN: Ageing or wear applied to a prop to make it look used or to reduce distracting reflections.
TEA DOWN: to take the edge off white or bright colours by dipping in a dye solution. Could really be tea or coffee. In film the term is to TECH DOWN.