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“It’s a tool to tell the story…” Bernadine Cockey: Props Master!

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Me, Berni, playing with blood…again.

Let me tell you why I love my job… on a typical day, I might spend the morning lying in the weeds in a junkyard under a Buick, cutting the front end off with a sawsall; and then in the afternoon, arrange flowers and oranges for a wedding in an orange grove.  I might spend the morning cruising KFCs begging them for empty buckets and drink cups, and then in the afternoon, start making eyeballs out of cellophane.  I might spend the morning in shackles, and the afternoon stitching lace curtains. In my job, I play with guns and knives and swords and flowers.   I shop at antique malls, and at the Handcuff Warehouse.  I have a secret stash of blank ammo.

Before, magical scroll box for The Winter’s Tale

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Before: Candy Counter for The Merry Wives of Windsor

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I upholster furniture.  I sew draperies.  I make fake food.  I have to learn how to inject a hypodermic, how to hang an IV, and where to buy a stethoscope. I make old things look new, I make new things look old.  I fix things that are broken, and I break things that are perfectly fine.

Bear in process

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Bear finished!

What I love the most about my job, is there are no typical days.  Every day is a mad scramble to re-prioritize—to throw out the previous plan because props have been cut, and new props have been added.  And you never cry over props that have been cut, no matter how much time you spent building them, because you know someday, in some subsequent production, they will find a place and take the stage!  And my greatest joy is finding or building that one prop that is perfect for the scene…A candelabra?  A blood knife?  A barber chair?  A peddler’s cart?  A briefcase full of money?  A key to the garden?  A hospital bed?  Sardines?  That moment when a prop is not a prop—It’s a tool to tell the story…

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