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STC Women in Charge: Elaine Sabal


This fall, more than 50 Washington, D.C. professional theatres are participating in the momentous Women’s Voices Theater Festival, showcasing more than 50 world premiere plays by women. In the spirit of the festival, Shakespeare Theatre Company wants to highlight some of its Women in Charge. Theatre is a collaborative art, and a successful production involves stage managers, scenic designers, administrators and grant writers, costume designers, prop masters, trainers, and so many more. That is why we are taking the opportunity to highlight some of our women behind the scenes who keep our theatre, and the art form, alive.

During the run of Yaël Farber’s Salomé, our contribution to Women’s Voices, we will be publishing interviews with some of the women you will not see onstage, but who keep STC running smoothly. We’re proud to put these wonderful women in the spotlight!

We hope you enjoy the second installment, featuring Elaine Sabal, STC’s prop shop director.

Props Head of Department

Prop Shop Director Elaine Sabal, “Head of the Department”


How long have you been working in the arts?
Since the Reagan Administration.

What’s your favorite show that you have helped make happen? Why?
A four-way tie between The Seagull at NY Shakespeare Festival, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, and Man of La Mancha at STC. The Seagull because Mike Nichols directed it, and Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marcia Gay Harden, Kevin Kline, Christopher Walken, and John Goodman were all in it, and it made me very popular that summer! The Daily Show with Jon Stewart because Jon Stewart is brilliantly funny and kind. The Colbert Report because Stephen Colbert is a genius. Man of La Mancha because I got to hang with Alan Paul and Allen Moyer and watch Anthony Warlow and Amber Iman perform.

What’s your “dream show” to help make happen? Why?
Realized: I worked on Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Theatre for a New Audience in New York. It was a brilliant show, and it’s fascinating to watch great directors work.

Unrealized: Mean Girls 3 starring Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, Dame Helen Mirren, Patricia Clarkson, Lily Tomlin, and Dame Maggie Smith. Written and directed by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

What do you love about STC?
The production values here are truly on a par with Broadway or The Met Opera. The staff is amazing. I’ve never worked with a more professional and friendly group of people. I’ve been proud to have been a part of every production I’ve worked on so far.

What got you started in the arts?
My toy piano when I was 5 led to a real piano when I was 8, which led to piano study at summer arts camp (Interlochen National Music Camp, Michigan), which led to skipping out on practicing piano to paint scenery and make props for the productions, which led to a BFA and MFA in Theater and steady employment for the past 25 years.

Tell us about a time you “saved the day”:
That time I stayed up for 48 hours straight to paint the sets for the 2008 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall. (I think it was the first year Neil Patrick Harris hosted and Bret Michaels got hit on the head by an ill-timed flown in flat.)

Can you explain your role in the theatre world, for those who might not know?
If you think of the set as an empty house, then the props would be everything needed to fill that house. Furniture, rugs, paintings, lamps, kitchenware, etc. Also fake heads, body parts, blood special FX, fire and pyro FX, and weapons.

What’s the best part about your job?
Every single production and every day at work always present a new challenge and adventure.

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