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Little-known theater jobs: head props

Cie Martin supervises all of the props and furniture for Broadway’s “Sweeney Todd” — including the famed barber chair and a lot of stage blood.

Cie Martin (Credit: Courtesy of Print PR)

Cie Martin didn’t begin her career in the props department. In fact, a career in theater “wasn’t on the radar at all,” she said. Martin had planned to attend medical school, but while on the wait list, she was offered the opportunity to travel as part of the hair and wig team on the national tour of “Dreamgirls” in 1983. Since then, Martin has worked across nearly ever department backstage.

When a star dresser on that “Dreamgirls” departed the production, Martin took their slot until the tour closed in 1988. She then worked as a star dresser on Broadway and was promoted to wardrobe supervisor, a position she held on various shows from 1988 through 1998. 

“During my career I have always picked up extra work loading shows in and out of theaters,” Martin explained. “This is where I was able to work in many departments loading trucks, running cable through the theater, hanging lamps. It makes you a better stagehand when you know about other aspects of theater.”

In 2005, Martin landed her first gig in a props department at “Mamma Mia!” Eventually, she took over as head props and stayed with the production until it closed in 2015. But Martin didn’t stay in one place. She worked in the electrics and sound departments on such shows as “Misery,” “Tuck Everlasting,” “The Front Page” and “Jagged Little Pill.” 

Now, she’s back as head props at Broadway’s “Sweeney Todd.” Having served as the leader of props on shows like “The Music Man,” “West Side Story,” “Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus,” “Something Rotten!” and more, Martin walked Broadway News through the duties in her position as well as some of the secrets on Fleet Street.

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