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Performing Art
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Jul. 7, 2010 7 years ago

Prop scavenger

by: Heidi Kurpiela Contributing Writer

The Banyan Theater Company’s Annette Breazeale has all the telltale personality strengths of a good property mistress.

She is a meticulously organized multitasker with a bargain hunter’s soul, crafty when needed and calm under pressure ­— and, yes, she prefers the title “property mistress” to “property master.”

She says “mistress” with the air and grace of a rehearsed thespian. In addition to her work backstage at the Banyan, Breazeale is also an actress. Last year she played the mother in “Frozen” at The Players Theatre’s new black-box performance space. She’s also a member of the Woman’s Theatre Collaborative, a local performance troupe.

“My greatest strength is that I’m a creative problem-solver,” Breazeale says.

You’d have to be if you were running around Sarasota and Manatee counties with a two-page prop list that included a glass eyeball, two trumpets, a trombone (with case), Pall Mall cigarettes, fake marijuana joints (that can be smoked on stage), red-checkered curtains and something called an Orgone box, a contraption developed in the 1930s to harness sexual energy.

This is the property list for Warren Leight’s “Side Man,” a play set in the waning years of the Jazz Era. It opens Aug. 5, at the Banyan, which means Breazeale has less than one month to track everything down.

“You make things. You buy things. You adapt things. You borrow things. You steal things,” she says, giggling. “It’s all about creating workable illusions.”

A former sculpture conservator, Breazeale worked for 20 years in museums all over the world, including the Ca’ d’Oro Museum, in Venice, Italy, and London’s British and Victoria and Albert museums.

Now in her third season as the Banyan’s property mistress, she says her experience as a conservator has helped make her a better property mistress.

The first day she walked into the company’s storage shed near the Rosemary District, she photographed, catalogued and reorganized the prop inventory.

Watching Breazeale navigate the space is like watching a hoarder sift through the things in her basement.

Every piece has a story, and every piece is significant. A glass medicine jar stirs a memory. A tin coffee cup, antiqued to the point that it looks like it was pulled from a ditch, triggers an inside joke.

“It is absolutely a scavenger hunt,” Breazeale says, running her hands over an antique couch she pulled from the side of the road.

Last month she hit the jackpot when she drove past a yard sale, near Sarasota Children’s Garden, brimming with old appliances and rusty farm equipment — the perfect props for “Drawer Boy,” which is set in 1972 on a farm in southern Ontario.

The woman selling the stuff let Breazeale borrow it all.

She walked away that day with a wagon wheel, a milk jug, a 1960s Philco refrigerator and her favorite find of the season — a pot-bellied stove.

“I came dancing into the next production meeting,” Breazeale says. “It was very, very exciting.”

Did you know? 

Annette Breazeale worked on the set of rock band Shinedown’s 2009 music video, “Second Chance,” which was shot on Anna Maria Island. The band needed a prop suitcase for one scene, so Breazeale offered to bring in her own –– a black duffle bag from T.J. Maxx. The video shot to No. 7 on VH1’s “Top 40 Music Videos of 2009.”

Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected].


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