Job Envy: Kelly Hilterbrand
You won’t catch her onstage, but "the show won’t go on" without the skills of Kelly Hilterbrand. As Props Manager for The Rep, it’s her job to personally research and hunt down (or build from scratch) the hundreds of props that go into each of the 12 shows during the Rep’s eight-month season. Needless to say, there’s plenty of drama.
Kelly Hilterbrand, 32
Props Manager, The Repertory Theatre
How She Got Into the Biz From the time I was eight or so, I knew I wanted to work in theater, but I didn’t know until college that props was where I wanted to be. Once I knew, it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time and always doing my best that led to my current position.
Education I have a BFA in Technical Theatre with an emphasis in technical direction and costume construction from Webster University.
Best Work Day Ever The day we completed the dressing for “I Am My Own Wife.” We had pallet racks, floor to ceiling, covering the stage, filled with furniture, chandeliers and gramophones. My staff and I spent days moving a chair a few inches or switching the placement of a table until everyone was happy. It was wonderful to stand at the back of the house and see it all light up beautifully.
Why Her Job Rocks I’m always learning, and there’s always a new puzzle to solve. When did the pencil get its eraser? Which rifle was used by what army? How do you make tiger intestines or a shark’s gullet? What works best for ice cream onstage under hot lights? It’s amazing the amount of detail and research that goes into just one prop.
Typical Day I normally start at 8am reading the notes from rehearsal, but after that, it’s never the same. One day, I could be making a bloody sheet for “Macbeth;” the next, I could be showing the cast how the fireworks will function in “You Can’t Take It With You.” We build the props, costumes and sets for all of our shows, and sometimes we have more than one show happening at a time. But, that’s also what makes it so much fun.
Proudest Moment We do co-productions with theaters in different cities. When those shows leave my control and work well, I’m extremely proud. I like knowing I’ve sent a good product for another audience to enjoy.
Best Job Perk We get to work with an amazing variety of directors and designers for our shows. I also have a wonderful staff here at The Rep. I couldn’t do my job without them.
Craziest Prop Search Without a doubt, the vibrators for “In The Next Room, or the vibrator play!” Trying to find working vibrators that are over 100 years old is almost impossible. And did I mention they have to be variable speeds and look exactly like the ones from that period? I finally found a 1920s vibrator that looked similar to the older styles and had the variable speeds the show called for. I have to say, calling a seller on eBay to ask if an antique vibrator works makes for an interesting day!
Goals for the Future I want to continue working on shows that make people think. Doing props for a movie or TV show might be fun eventually.