How Do Stage Props Contribute to a Play?

by A.N. Pike

Successfully telling a story through a play or musical requires more than just exceptional acting. Certain plays use minimal sets and even minimal costumes, yet manage to draw the audience into the story. However, certain plays must have elaborate sets, costumes and more importantly, stage props. Props play a vital role in successful plays. Without stage props, many plays would make no sense or would be quite confusing.

A Vital Part of the Play

Stage props are for use by the actors, rather than simply placed in a scene as decoration. Props are movable and serve a vital purpose in certain plays. Unlike stage sets and decoration, props serve a bigger purpose. Actors interact with stage props. For example, in "The Wizard of Oz," the ruby slippers are an integral part of the play. While they are part of Dorothy's costume, they are also part of the storyline and used during the performance. Without the ruby slippers, a vital part of the plot is missing.

Props Help the Audience

Shows use props to convey realism. Plates, candle holders or any objects that the actors use during the play are props. Without props, certain scenes remain incomplete. Every scene in a well-scripted play is in the story for a reason. Seemingly insignificant scenes often have more important meanings than what the scene conveys. However, with the wrong props or lack of props, the scene fails to send the correct message or confuses the audience.


Stage props often offer symbolism throughout a play. In "Hamlet," all of Hamlet's fascination with death is physically realized when he finds the skull of an old friend. But it is much more than a mere skull. It represents the finality of death and symbolizes that Hamlet is face-to-face with death. Rather than use words to reflect emotions and deeper inner happenings, props can physically show this occurrence.

Understanding the Characters

Props help the audience understand the characters. Stage props often give the audience better insight into a character's feelings or thoughts. For example, a play that involves a mentally ill character could convey his mental instability by showing him constantly repeating the same action, or show his emotional attachment to an object by always having it with him. Either way, stage props help the audience realize something is wrong.

About the Author

A.N. Pike has been a professional writer since 2006. She has worked for the "McKinney Courier-Gazette" and her campus newspaper, now freelancing for various clients. Pike earned her associate's degree in mass communications and journalism from Collin College.

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