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Prop Design Challenge

Flowers and Bottles

THEME - Tricks

Props can add so much to a production, but they can also be the secret to how tricks happen on stage. Think Mary Poppins magically bag or an flowering plant.

All those things that make the audience say ‘wow, how did they do that – it must be magic’ Yes theatre magic! 

Blue Smoke

Design Requirements

Designers were required to design and build a functioning prop.

Emerging designers

Kei Tanaka Headshot - Props.jpg

Kei Tanaka

Kei Tanaka (she/her) is an artist from Treaty Six Territory. With a degree in studio arts from the University of Saskatchewan and a passion for theatre design in her pocket, she is ready to unleash her full potential of creative frenzy upon the world. She does illustration and other art work on her Instagram @tanakeiart and has self-published her first picture book, The Nutcracker. Kei hopes that her art can bring a smile and happiness to everyone! 

The Phoenix

Puppets are fascinating to me. When I was little, I loved watching puppets, especially  Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood’s Neighbourhood of Make-Believe and “The Lonely Goatherd” scene from The Sound of Music. When the opportunity came, I wanted to make a puppet. For a puppet, I wanted to make wings that functioned, i.e. wings that flap and extend. Despite having about 9 700 bird species to choose from, I wanted to make a phoenix, a made up bird. The advantage of being an artist is that I don’t have to stick with reality. For this puppet, though very impractical to do, I think it would be great to set the puppet on fire at the end of the play it’s used in like the real phoenix. The concept of a phoenix fascinates me, rebirth from your own ruin. I hope the same for me, to blaze in glory, combust, and rise again.

This phoenix puppet’s name is Wade. The head is a Styrofoam ball with (non-chocolate) Easter eggs for eyes. I did want the beak to be operable but after a little while I realized that that would make too many moving parts, so the beak was made with aluminum foil and clay. The head is controlled by a stick like most Rod and Arm puppets do for their hands. The neck of the phoenix is made of a boa. This part is the only part that has real feathers, the rest of the feathers on the head and body are made of tissue paper. 

The body of Wade is made of a milk jug and papier-mâché. The flapping of the wings are controlled by a finger strap inside of the body of the puppet. The extension and contraction of the wings of the phoenix are controlled by strings: one set of strings attached at the ends of the wings to bring them in and another set of strings to extend the wings near the centre of the wings. 

To extend or retract the wings, the puppeteer must use a hand to control the strings, but that would require a third hand! Since one hand in the puppet’s body is too hard to take out of the body at short notice, it’s the non-dominant hand that’s controlling the head that must do the pulling of strings. The head must continue to be erect and moving while the hand is let go of the stick, so there is an added pouch on the belt to hold the stick. It’s designed like a flag pole belt holder. The strings for pulling the wings are kept untangled by safety pins pinned to the sleeve of the clothes of the puppeteer. The wings are covered by chiffon to give it a flowing look as it flaps its wings. Then I added a tail to finish it off! 


Making Wade was filled with a lot of twists and turns that I didn’t expect to run into. To see my whole making process, check out my TikTok (@tanakeiart) where I will be posting videos of how I made it.

Aalliyah Dustyhorn Headshot - Prop.jpeg

Aalliyah Dustyhorn

Aalliyah Dustyhorn is thrilled to be able to design as an emerging artist for SK arts. After taking a break during the peak of the pandemic, Aalliyah is excited to start doing live theatre again. They graduated from University of Saskatchewan with a Degree in Theatrical Design and is ready to use it to its fullest. Aalliyah is looking forward to the summer season of theatre in the province and hopes you are too.

My work gives the illusion of rain droplets shining in the sun. When initially given the theme of ‘trick’ I was stumped. I was then inspired to make this piece after looking at pictures online of drag queen props while it was storming out with the sun peaking though the clouds. Made from an simple umbrella, glass beads, fishing line and some wire; I am very happy with the end result and I hope you are too.

Amy Gerein Headshot - Prop.jpg

Amy Gerein

A lifelong love of creating had Amy Gerein dropping out of math classes in high school to pursue studies in graphic design. Post high school, Amy completed certificates and diplomas in art and design and began work as a graphic designer while producing artwork for trade shows on the side. Finding herself back in school years later, Amy pursued art along with her degree in animal bioscience by taking several years of university printmaking and being involved in various student art groups. Art bled over into her science degree, where she promoted art shows to speaking classes and drew a whiteboard video about tropical fruit.


Having recently joined the Department of Drama at the University of Saskatchewan, Amy has had her eyes opened to the broad world of theatre design and all the exciting ways that visual art crosses over onto the stage. Excited about the idea of costume design (which falls solidly into her wheelhouse) and intrigued by the wild and varied world of prop construction (not quite so solidly in the wheelhouse), Amy is thrilled to explore this art world and expand on her ever-growing collection of skills.

“How about a sword that becomes a fish? A swordfish!”


Trips to the costume shop and visits with Beverley Kobelsky never fail to disappoint. 


This trick sword is the direct result of that “trick” prop brainstorming session. Of course, there isn’t a fish (at least, not yet), but that doesn’t mean that you get what you’re expecting every time you pull this sword from its place on your hip.

Regardless of what you see on display, this sword is a prototype; a stepping stone towards the final product that could exist, and all the wild ideas that surround it. Every attempt at making this sword has been a learning experience, and there have been several. How to use a chisel. How to unsuccessfully glue aluminum plates together. How to attempt to make cardboard look attractive. Every trial was an opportunity for growth. And maybe one day an iteration of this sword will be able to dispense glitter at the touch of a button… and have a swordfish stuffed inside!

Professional designers

Kenn McLeod Headshot - Props.jpg

Kenn McLeod

Kenn (he/him) is a director, performer, educator, and Clown. He received his BFA in Acting at the University of Regina and his MFA in Directing from The University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Kenn has trained with The North American Cultural Laboratory (New York), Vancouver Circus School (Vancouver), Dell Arte International School of Physical Theatre (California), Old Trout Puppet Workshop (Alberta), and The Manitoulin Center for Creation and Performance (Ontario). He was also the artistic director of Hectik Theatre (Regina) and Souris Valley Theatre (Estevan), a founding member of Combat Improv, and a founding member of the Prairie Puppet Underground. He is currently a sessional instructor for the University of Saskatchewan Drama Department and Co-Artistic director of Sorry/Grateful Theatre in Saskatoon. He is proud to be a Saskatchewan artist.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

The face looking back at you isn’t the face that everyone else sees. But what if it could be.

The idea for the ‘trick’ came from the old theatre and film sight gag where the reflection in the mirror stops mirroring and takes on a life of its own, often played by a double.  Now a bit more do it yourself.  But without projectors and programming.

By alternating reflective surfaces, a ‘true mirror’ shows you the way you are seen rather than the way you see yourself.  Scratch your right ear in each mirror  . . . see.

Nowadays we are getting more and more used to looking at our own reflection in virtual meetings and even have the capability to turn on mirroring as a camera option.

In a large-scale version of this trick on a track or pivot system you could alternate between the two different mirrors and have the performer interact with each reflection in a different manner.  Allow Hamlet to soliloquize with a reflection that can pat him on the shoulder or Waiting for Godot all on your own.

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