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Indiana University Theatre Department's Prop Shop.

"In the end props are just objects. But objects are things everyone can relate to. They are things we can hold ourselves and when we see characters doing the same, it's a mutual experience that draws us into their experience."
Rishi Kaneria from Raging Cinema, "Why Props Matter"

A prop is something an actor, whether In-Universe or Real Life, physically holds or interacts with in a production.

Actors use props to connect their performances to reality which helps establish Willing Suspension of Disbelief for the audience. Productions often simply use real world items for props, if it's a regular item like a record player, cup or ball. Common props include In-Universe equipment, weapons, vehicles, and disguises.

Alternatively, a prop department may modify existing items or create new (or replica) ones from scratch to have particular looks, functions, or Practical Effects. Swords and knives need to be dulled, firearms need to made non-fireablenote , and a chair or bottle that will be smashed on someone needs to be a safe, easy-to-break design. For a real item that would be heavy (Thor's huge iron warhammer), a lightweight, hollow replica may be created.

In a science fiction or fantasy work, models of fictional items (ray gun, magic wand, etc) may need to be created. Props for fictional items that will be used by a protagonist, and thus which will be looked at closely by the audience, may be built with greater attention to detail and realism.note 

When Real Life products are used as props such as a can of brand-name soda pop or a laptop, the brand name and logo may be hidden or changed due to legal restrictions (so the character may hold a can of Bepsi-Kola). Alternatively, with Product Placement, the brand and logo may be openly shown as part of a marketing deal.

The term originated as a shortened form of stage "properties" or "property", as these items are generally provided by the theatrical or production company rather than being owned by the actors.

A prop is not:

  • A costume. However, part of the costume can be a prop if the actor uses it in their performance. For example, if a martial artist takes off their belt or fanny pack and uses it to fight off a group of villains, that part of the costume is a prop.
  • The setting. However, if an actor specifically interacts with some part of the setting, such as a Big Red Button, that thing they interact with is a prop.

Not to be confused with propellers on Those Magnificent Flying Machines, supports as in "prop open the door", nor the shortened slang "props" derived from "proper respect" or Aretha Franklin's "propers".

Tropes below do not include examples that originally started because of a prop but are no longer prop-specific.

Please do not add examples to work pages, this merely defines the term.


Prop-Explicit Tropes that directly reference props.

Prop-Oriented Where props are inextricably intertwined or the central focus.

Prop Settings Settings where props are used In-Universe.

Prop Special Effects