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.

Shop at Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s Costume & Prop Sale Saturday

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Patrons will get the chance to peruse the fabulous costumes from the 2011-2012 production of The Wiz.

Just in time for Halloween, Arkansas Repertory Theatre is thrilled to announce they are giving the public a chance to shop its expansive closet of costumes and props at its Costume and Prop Sale this Saturday, Oct. 4.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the lobby of the The Rep, located at 601 Main St., Little Rock, patrons are invited to shop for custom hand-made pieces from the Rep’s costume department, as well as props used onstage and Christmas decorations. The sale will feature items from past Rep productions, including Avenue Q, Joseph & The Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Wiz, White Christmas, A Chorus Line and more. Items will start at $2.

The sale will be open coinciding with the 4th Annual Main Street Food Truck Festival, which will feature 30 food trucks and several musicians, artists and other vendors on Main Street from 4th to 8th streets.

Proceeds from the sale benefit Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s production office.

Behind the Curtain Q&A: Property Designer Lynda Kwallek

LyndaWith the start of a new MainStage season, we want to showcase the people behind the Rep stage in a series called “Behind the Curtain.” This weekly Q&A series will highlight staff members who keep the Arkansas Repertory Theatre running on a daily basis.

With Memphis starting next week, we thought it would be a good idea to highlight someone who knows a thing or two about all of the props onstage: Property Designer Lynda Kwallek.

Here is what she to say about her prop experience here at The Rep:

How long you have worked at The Rep: 8 years

Education/training: Bachelor of Fine Arts at Kent State and a Master of Fine Arts degree at Illinois State

How’d you get into the theatre biz:  I signed up for a class.  The slogan on the theatre table was ‘Theatre part time – Full time for a good time.’ I was 19 and it sounded good. I had always been interested in theatre; the slogan just gave me the chance to check out the theatre.

Why your job rocks:  I love finding that special prop, especially the one nobody expects me to find – the prop on the list that is nearly impossible.  I truly enjoy getting out shopping and meeting the vendors.

Best work day ever:  Every opening night is special. Very few people have a job that starts with a piece of literature and is collaborative with other often exceptional people.  The process culminates in a party.  It is a delight to see everyone at the openings. We meet so many creative, smart, well-read, non-judgmental people.

Favorite Rep show you’ve worked on and why:  I loved Clybourne Park last season.  The subject matter was a stretch for our theatre and our audience loved it. The cast did exceptional work on it. Another favorite show was 39 Steps – so wacky. Avenue Q was another favorite – such a positive message in the show. Loved Les Miserables both times and Full Monty was a great experience.

One thing people would be surprised about your job:  That we produce our shows here at the theatre. I have had people ask me where we bought certain things. It is a pleasure to say we built it for the show.

Favorite seat in the house:  Center on the 1st mezzanine

Best job perk:  Shopping – I find so many unusual things out looking for show props.  My apartment is an eclectic mixture. Often, a guest’s first comment is ‘so this is what a prop person’s home looks like.’  I love surrounding myself with the old stuff I find and it is often a bargain price.

Be sure to check back every week to get a glimpse at a different member of The Rep staff. Buy your tickets to Memphis here!

Learn a little more about Lynda here.