SFOpera - At the Stage Door with Lori

At the Stage Door with Lori

Get an inside look at the people that make SF Opera happen—no badge required. 

Meet Lori Harrison our Master of Properties.

AC: How long have you worked here?
LH: I started in 1985 as an assistant stage manager. In 1986, I was an assistant technical director and did drafting. In 1987, I worked in the scene shop and 1988, on the prop crew. I took a few years off and worked on movies and other ventures and came back in 1998 as the prop master. So I started as the prop master in January of 1998.

AC: What brought you to SFO?
LH: Initially I moved to San Francisco because I had been jumping around to various theaters and opera companies around the country and I thought that I should just stay in one place. And when I was in Miami I heard a rumor that there were opportunities for women stage hands in San Francisco. As it turned out that wasn’t exactly true in those terms. But you know, I was a little tired of moving all over the country and there’s only so much you can establish in the way of roots when you’re going season to season in cities and suddenly all the people who are your best friends you never see again. I kind of picked San Francisco out of nowhere and showed up at the Oakland airport with my suitcase and a toolbox. I certainly wouldn’t be quite so brave nowadays but I sure was then and that’s what I did.
I applied to be the prop master while I was working in movies, I was having a great time, but what I really wanted to do was movies like Harry Potter or Jane Austin movies or Charles Dickens movies that had period stuff…you know historical significance. But the movies we did in San Francisco were more cops and robbers and Nash Bridges. I realized that if I wanted to do period prop work, that this is the only game in town so I came back this way.

AC: What is your favorite Opera Memory?
LH: I have a lot of opera memories that stand out. That one’s really hard. I’ve been here for a long time and a lot of shows have come and gone. I don’t know if I can narrow it down to just one.

AC: What would you tell someone who has never been to the opera before?
LH: I feel that opera is telling a story and is getting to the heart of it right away. Musically, you can hit emotions which—even if you skip half the words of the story—still tell the story more thoroughly and more humanly than all the words in the world can do. Tying music to that story and those people just cuts all the side stuff and gets right to the point. I think that any opportunities that people have to learn as much as they can about the stories behind opera but also about how opera is produced are worthwhile. It’s worth taking time to read the libretto in advance, to take a tour of the Opera House, to read the book that something is based on…it heightens your understanding. There are people that don’t want to see how we do things back stage because they feel that it may destroy the magic. I love giving backstage tours because it ends up doing exactly the opposite. It makes opera more magical. The whole theater world is full of what could be considered illusions and tricks but the fact is that they’re all tools for telling the story on stage: making it rain or snow or to have things break when they’re supposed to. There are a lot of stories to be told behind the story that is on stage. Any time anyone has the opportunity to see behind the scenes increases the value of the product. I recommend it.

Want to learn more? Check out a behind the scenes video of Lori in the prop shop! 

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