A prop, formally known as (theatrical) property, is an object used on stage or on screen by actors during a performance or screen production. It may be anything movable or portable on a stage or a set, distinct from the actors, scenery, costumes, and electrical equipment.
The earliest known use of the term “properties” in English to refer to stage accessories is in the 1425 CE Morality play, The Castle of Perseverance. The Oxford English Dictionary finds the first usage of “props” in 1841, while the singular form of “prop” appeared in 1911. During the Renaissance in Europe, small acting troupes functioned as cooperatives, pooling resources and dividing any income. Many performers provided their own costumes, but special items—stage weapons, furniture or other hand-held devices—were considered “company property”; hence the term “property.”
“Hero” props are the more detailed pieces intended for close inspection by the camera or audience. The hero prop may have legible writing, lights, moving parts, or other attributes or functions missing from a standard prop; Most hero props are made to do or look like something that really doesn’t exist, making the hero prop more expensive and less durable. The term is also used on occasion for any of the items that a main character would carry in film or television (which are often hero props in the first sense as well).
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