Formerly published in The Other Press. Apr. 3 2013
By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer
There aren’t many jobs that require crafting a dead chicken out of a stocking or rolling a joint. What some might consider a random mess of assignments, Kam Maisuria understands as the process of putting together a functioning theatre production. “You need to be artistic,” she said. “You need to be open-minded.”
Nine years ago, Maisuria stumbled into the world of stagecraft when all other electives at North Delta Secondary School were full. What first felt like a temporary course to get through the term became a love affair. From then on, she contributed to numerous theatre productions in all backstage areas. But for Maisuria, nothing beats props. The tangible creation on stage lit by the spotlight for all the audiences to see—knowing that she made it—that was the ultimate thrill or relief. “It’s opening day,” she said, drifting away from all her present responsibilities, “and everything is there and the set looks beautiful. And everything is now okay. It’s kind of magical—you accomplished something.”
Like a garnish on a meal, props can change a take on a performance. Before Maisuria dashes off to scavenge for materials, she needs to understand the characters in the script. “You read about their lifestyle,” she said. “You have to figure out which character would like what.” The process, although it might seem simple, is actually incredibly methodical.
But her schedule is far from structured. For eight hours a day, Maisuria can be anywhere from the workshop on the third floor of Douglas to the kitchen section of IKEA. The schedule can become a little overwhelming, depleting her social life, but that is not the hardest part of the job. “It is really hard to stay in budget,” she smiled about the common dilemma. “There are so many good things, but you can’t have it. It is perfect… but it is $30.”
While affordability is a reoccurring problem, she prefers it to the nightmarish probability that any prop can fall apart at any time; after all, actors are not the gentlest of creatures. In the Douglas production of Rez Sisters, a bird sculpture was supposed to be maneuvered around and eventually make its way backstage. Unaware that the prop was constructed from glass, the actor dropped it on the floor. “We tried to glue it together three times,” Maisuria said. “But we were like no, no… let’s just get a pink flamingo, a plastic one.”
The unpredictability of the business can be daunting for many, but Maisuria doesn’t get sensitive or attached knowing that the rotation on the props table is an endless cycle. “We get requests for new props all the time,” she said. “Also, we have to supply rehearsal props, and then we provide show props. It’s kind of hard to balance out the two.”
But the juggling act is the challenge that drives her. “You need to be subject to change,” said Maisuria. Whether a prop breaks or the director and designer don’t like it, she is prepared to head back to the drawing board with new ideas. But after all her work, the performers will hit the stage and so will the props, and even though inanimate objects don’t get to savour a bow at the end of the show, Maisuria knows her work has captured a spark, like ancient relics or a magic lamp, a piece of memory is locked within.