Concerning Couches

Hello all,

My apologies for the hiatus — its been a distracting one, but i’m now back in the saddle.

I recently wrote an entry about how the cardboard box is the hardest prop in the world. I may be revising that statement, although there are definitely some similarities. The couch, sofa, loveseat is, like the cardboard box, one of those props that everyone knows, and so they all think you know exactly what they want. But, turns out, theres a lot of variation from one to the other. And, like the box, the couch is an acting prop. As in, the shape, size, softness, alignment of arms etc. vastly influences how the action onstage works. Also, theres one in EVERY show. Well, not every show, but most of them. PLUS, because its such a crucial item, it really wants to get into a rehearsal room as soon as possible. Oh, and did I mention that they’re expensive and hard to transport? You get my drift. I hate couches. I no longer want one in my home.

Actually, I kind of want to throw the floppy purple sectional sofa in the living room of my apartment onto the street to rot in the snow, but thats a story for another time.

Sometimes I think that I have exhausted all couch-surfing (ha!) options, and my designer is still unhappy with whats out there. When I shop a sofa, the first thing I do is go to every thrift store in town (all boroughs included) with a camera, measuring tape, and notebook. Then I go to every commercial furniture website, upload photos. Then I send all that information to the designer. Nine times out of ten, none of these are right. Then I hunt on ebay and craigslist daily for a week. Sometimes I sneak in some of the older photos. Eventually we come to a consensus. But it never feels quite right. Often, all of the dressing changes to suit the couch. Or we reupholster. Or we have to reinforce the base (hard to act on a squishy sofa). Or we have to put metal in the back (hard to act on a creaky sofa).

As with many props, the hunt for the right sofa also gets the designer to refine their ideas about what they want. Because couches are so individual, and theres such a range, its hard to describe what you want, and sometimes you are looking for a feeling more than anything. So the act of propping a show functions as a research process for the designers and director.

I could wax theoretical about sofas for quite a while, but instead I’ll show you whats out there, and what I’ve discovered on my recent hunt for a “7-foot long sofa thats modern, has personality, and wrap-around arms and back that are at least 5″ wide and sittable” (Mr and Mrs Fitch), a “victorian-era settee with an oval back” (In the Next Room), and a “9-foot long modern white sofa that is firm” (Let me Down Easy). But we’ll have to do it on flickr because there are too many damn images. Need one of these sofas? Go for it. I’m not including the one we settled on most recently, because, by god, its going onstage in Mr and Mrs Fitch, whether they like it or not.

The funny thing is, especially after looking at so many of them, my hatred of the sofa is increased. What a ridiculous-looking piece of furniture. See if you feel the same way.



About meredithries

Meredith is a set designer living in Brooklyn, NY. See her work at: This is a repurposed old blog. Because continuity is important. Malaprop is a malapropism
This entry was posted in hardest props in the world, I don't shop for a living I WORK, props and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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