Wait Until Dark Wednesday: Q&A with Props Master Lynda Kwallek

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The kitchen is a centerpiece of the production, filled with period-specific items like a ’60s-style gas stove and oven, copper containers, and functional sink.

Wait Until Dark is nearing the end and to highlight some of the cool aspects of the show, we have done short series called “Wait Until Dark” every Wednesday throughout its run.

To close out our series, we take a look at the one of the other stars of the show: the props!

The woman behind our fabulous props onstage is our Properties Designer Lynda Kwallek, who has worked on this show twice before The Rep.

We had the chance to sit down with her and explore the wonderful world of props. Here is what she had to say:

Q: What is the process of you choosing props for each show?

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Kwallek selected this specific couch for the show because of its color, shape and style.

A: I read the script numerous times, for Wait Until Dark, I’ve read it about half a dozen times. I read the script, sit down and highlight all things that are mentioned as props and then I make a list and send it to my director and designer. We all then have a conversation where I discuss the use of those things and what is actually needed for them.

From the moment I read a script, I’m kind of peripherally searching for something. I’m always on the lookout for specific things that I think we will be using at some point. I’m usually searching fairly early on but I’m not purchasing until after I’ve talked to the designer and director.

Q: Props play such an integral role in Wait Until Dark. Can you talk about some of the most important props and how they were chosen for the stage?

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Because matches play a big role in the play, a lot went into picking the perfect matches– and boxes– to use.

A: For the matches, we started out with the large kitchen matches. We were going to use the non-strike anywhere because in the past, we’ve had an incident in another Wait Until Dark production where they jostled in the show and it lit onstage during that climactic moment when they’re fighting. So, we wanted to use kitchen regular-size matches and then they wanted to have a smaller matchbox, so I bought a bunch of those. [Director] Bob [Hupp] asked if I had researched any other matches and I really hadn’t, so when I did start to research it, I noticed there weren’t that many other brands out there. So, what we are currently using in the show are those little bitty tiny boxes of matches with the strike on the side with fireplace matches cut down to fit in there– only three or four fireplace matches to fit in each one. The fireplace matches are heavier and thicker and they create a bigger flame. We go through one a night—I think Amy Hutchins (Susy) goes through two packs and MIchael Stewart Allen (Roat) goes through one pack a night.

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Initially, Kwallek went with a rotary phone, but after much research, decided to go with a push-button phone to help with the pace of the show.the phone.

Another prop that in prominent in the show is the phone. Initially I had pulled a rotary phone. It’s what we expect to see but through a little bit of research, I found that push-button phones were available in 1963. I often thought the length of time that it takes to dial with a rotary, Bob wanted to keep that pace moving. I didn’t find anything that said people with limited vision had the need for a push-button phone but it kind of made sense to all of us and to keep. We try to keep things period-accurate, but we also have to take into consideration the pacing of a show, the needs of a show and just what the director wants.

All the way through the show, there was a soundscape that worked in cooperation with the props. There is the buzzer when Nate Washburn (Sam) is doing the photography developing; there is a bell in the phone; we have various door frames backstage that make noise; and the keys all rattle in the locks. The soundscape in this particular show and the props were very very important. It was about making noises that [character Susy] would be so much more aware of than we are on a daily basis. The fact that she can distinguish the sound of [character Roat’s] shoes. We heightened much of that.

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In addition to the cool props Kwallek selected for Sam’s office, Resident Set Designer Mike Nichols went through our photography files– old postcards, business cards, mementos, etc.–and pulled stuff to dress that area.

Q: What do you enjoy most about finding props for the shows?

A: It’s about the prop that everyone says you can’t find and I find it. Now occasionally there is that thing I never find and I do never find it, but take for instance, the camera for Memphis. People were blown away by that old camera used in the second act and I found it here in town. It was something I found during our production of Frost/Nixon. I kept the guy’s name written down and when I needed one from that area, I called him up.

I enjoy meeting the people around the area, also. It’s great fun. I get to be out and about with the public and talk about the shows here at the theatre.

Great seats are available for Wait Until Dark. Purchase yours online or by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405.