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Old 12-05-10, 05:18 PM   #1
Butterfly Man
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Butterfly Props

From flying pigs to frying pans, everything can be used as a prop. Imagine anything and everything used in unimaginable ways and there you have it… its a prop.

The catalyst transforming these objects seemingly only the performers intent. The object, any object, becomes useful in perhaps a totally different way from the way it was originally intended.

My God!, I saw a guy use a bag, a small paper bag, fergawdsakes, not only a prop but also as a glimpse into the psyche of his soul. As a prop, he initially used the bag to cover the wine bottle filled with water he used to hydrate himself during the show.

The bag became his prop when he used it to not only imply he was a wino but also when, after using it to “hat” the crowd, he ceremoniously stuffed it down the front of his pants simulating a rather large penis.

The kicker for me, really, was that the final 20 minutes he did after stuffing his pants he did altruistically, for his audience only asking nothing in return. That told me more about him as a person than anything else. But I digress.

Props can handicap you for sure. Anyone packing their six footer+ unicycle for a plane trip knows exactly what I mean, but that’s not the real handicap I’m talking about. I’m talking about how a physical object, no matter how creatively it is used, is no match for using words alone to stimulate an audience’s imagination.

It is obvious a prop forces you to focus on it rather than on anything else and your creativity is thereby limited to its physical presence. But in limiting your freedom, it does have the distinct advantage of focusing the audience’s attention, particularly if it is sparkly and shiny, ask any Indian.

Hey, I know that was rude but it could’ve been worse. I could’ve said, “ask any black guy”. I didn’t say that because, well, that shit’ll get your ass kicked.

Anyway, all I really have to say, and I’m saying this as a prop comic myself, is that whatever you use as a prop do it with integrity. Use it to say something about yourself even if its just “I’m funny”.

Masturbatory fire twirling and technical ‘whatever’ when used “just for show” is boring to me. I like it when performers use a prop (even if its another person) to make a point or say something, hopefully something more than just “look at me, look at me”. That’s all I’m saying, is that too much to ask?

OK, never mind, go blow a six-foot flame out of your ass on a 20 ft. unicycle. Go ahead and throw a bunch of sparkly shit in the air and catch it between your legs. Or, dare I say it, go ahead and stretch a wire between two tall buildings and walk across it with a pole. Because, if that’s all you do, then your affect on your crowd will be amazement only and they’ll remember you until they get to the parking lot.

If, however, that flame, wire or sparkly shit is used in a way that says something about YOU, then your audience will remember you forever.

P.S. Philippe is a hero to me, not because of what he did but because of who he was.
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Old 12-05-10, 05:26 PM   #2
martin ewen
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Lurk props

Props are objects you use, you lay your hands on them or refer to them and they become props, you stop using them and they turn into costume or backdrop or nothing at all. My definition is contentious, get yourself a sub atomic microscope and go looking for any protons of 'I give a fuck'.

Questions remain, for example are my stilts costume or a prop?

A red nose is costume not a prop, unless you actively use it, and Charlie Barnets money padded groin is costume that used to be a prop. If he touches it or uses it it's still a prop, if he doesn't it's costume.
Volunteers are props, that plane passing overhead is a prop, anything at all you use during your show is a prop.

Some performers go light and some go heavy on props. Anthony Livingspace and Rob Torres are at one end, able to turn up with a small case and from it pull small objects that are dense in theatricality, multi-purpose improvisational objects that help amplify their characters.

That's what a props purpose is, to amplify your character, to give you the opportunity to show your commitment to the pursuit of some relationship either with yourself or the audience.

On the other end of the prop scale are the pole-merchants and apparatus junkies.
I use stilts and makeup so I fall into this category. I know why I do it, because it separates me from the world and my show is about building a bridge back.

I can only guess why others do it but the TMO principle, [Tall Metal Object] is so self evidently cash rich that if liquidity is your goal you'd have to be subintelligent to pass it up as a means to your end. Even so I've seen some performers cashing in on the TMO who are dumber than plankton and it still works.
Alakazam is the crown prince of the TMO, deservedly so. He already had skills and personality, I remember seeing him work in Sydney when he was still earthbound, but he showed what a well chosen prop could do as an amplifier when he suddenly morphed and in earnings, audience satisfaction and popularity literally dwarfed us all. Unlike myself Al has never had a bad word to say about anyone. In fact it's too humbling to speak of him so I'll move on.

Sometimes your relationship with your props can be used as a metaphor for your relationship with your audience. Peter Post is a master at this. He fails and fails and fails. He never gives up, he tries to but his suicide attempt itself fails. His props are his enemy and his subtextural cunning is that his despair makes his audience his friend.

One of my props is a hand held mirror. I use it to amplify the conceit I have for my character and the disdain I have for my audience. Another is a single juggling ball which I make a big deal about before simply passing from one hand to another. It's purpose is identical with that of the mirror.

Each prop is a means to the end of defining your character and your relationship with the audience which is why I always thought technically brilliant jugglers might as well just use a blackboard and chalk and scribble advanced equations as an alternative to using objects to do the same thing.

I use props as bridges. I establish relationships with them then subject audiences to that relationship.
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Old 12-05-10, 06:38 PM   #3
Gregory Rush
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Default Props using props

I like what you both wrote Sometimes I use props,
sometimes they use me. Props can be fun that way.
When they do something un-expected, on their own,
that you observe and your audience, or other props think was part of the show all along...and then ..if you recall it, you can work it into your show from then on!
Truly a fun time when the props use me!
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Old 12-06-10, 02:38 AM   #4
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some wise stuff, thanks!
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Old 12-30-10, 06:35 PM   #5
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Tools to help tell a story.
Walking tall and stretching imaginations!
Bill 'Stretch' Coleman
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