Prop Weapons Policy

Emerson College encourages its students’ creative endeavors, and strives to make sure its students are performing in an environment that is as free from risk as possible. This document provides students and their advisors with protocols for use of prop weapons in theatrical or film productions by recognized student organizations at Emerson College. No document can cover every circumstance, as the specific needs for each production can vary widely. This document seeks to outline issues common to the vast majority of theatrical combat and/or “threat”-based scenarios that use prop weaponry, as well as to provide you with resources to obtain, use and care for prop weaponry. 

Defining Prop/Stage Weapons

A prop weapon, or simulated weapon, is a weapon manufactured to give the illusion of authenticity without the ability to cause harm, compared to how its “real” counterpart might. Prop weapons should always be treated as real weapons, as they may still be capable of causing injury. Moreover, the prop may be perceived as real, and thus a cause for alarm, by an outside observer who happens upon your rehearsal or film shoot.

It is also important to recognize that everyday objects, which may include but are not limited to, pencils, lamps, rolling pins, etc., may also become weapons when staging combat scenes, and the protocols regarding weapon safety must still be employed.

Not Permitted at Emerson College 

  • Real weapons, including firearms, blade and blunt weapons, manufactured with the intent to cause harm 
  • Disabled guns (defined as guns initially manufactured to fire ANY type of projectile that have been modified to an inoperable state)
  • Any sharp metal blades for a fight scene or struggle
  • Live ammunition, blank firing cartridges and loads, paintball or airsoft pellets, or anything else designed to be capable of being fired
  • Cap guns (considered a pyro-technic)
  • Storing prop weapons in your residential hall/off campus apartment

Please note that Performing Arts/Emerson Stage’s Props Department does not loan out prop weapons. You will need to purchase or rent any and all prop weapons for your production - the Emerson Stage Props Director can point you in the right direction.

You may not use prop weaponry without College approval. To obtain approval to use your
proposed prop weapon:

  • Recognized student organizations must receive prior approval for use of such props from Student Engagement & Leadership at seal [at] (seal[at]emerson[dot]edu).
  • All those seeking approval for prop weapons for VMA coursework or VMA-adjacent student organizations must submit an application through the VMA Production Portal
  • All other individuals, groups, and organizations wishing to use a prop weapon must seek approval directly from ECPD

Please note, ECPD must physically inspect the actual prop in its performance-ready state. This means that if you are renting theatrical weaponry, you will need to rent the item(s) BEFORE you know whether the College will approve its use. It is therefore advisable to rent only from reliable theatrical prop weapon suppliers, such as those listed below, to decrease the likelihood of its being rejected. 

Safety Guide to Using Prop Weapons

Prop weapons can cause unsafe situations and harm if they are not used and cared for correctly. Please use the guidelines below to ensure the safety of all project participants.

Safety Common Sense

  • The first rule of safety: when in doubt, ask. Understand what makes a rehearsal or performance safe and do your best to act in a professional manner. If you ever have any questions about safety, contact SEAL, the Emerson Stage Props Director, or the VMA Director of Production Safety.
  • Safety begins long before your rehearsal or performance. It is the responsibility of each member of your team to educate themselves and one another about safety. Arrive to rehearsals and performances on time, well rested, and healthy.
  • Accidents are caused by negligence, lack of awareness, and lack of foresight. It is important to stay alert and understand potential dangers. Work toward anticipating safety hazards ahead of time. 
  • Follow your instincts. If it feels unsafe, it probably is. And if you think something is unsafe or someone is acting in an unsafe manner, say something. By calling attention to the safety hazard, it gives your Stage Managers, Director, crew members and fellow actors a chance to reevaluate the situation.
  • Safety must be your first concern, making a great piece of art or media is second. Everyone wants the production to be great, but it is never worth risking the injury or death of anyone involved. Take care of one another.

General Prop Weapon Use

  • Treat all prop weapons as real weapons. Handle all prop guns as if loaded (even if it is a wooden cut-out). Treat all prop knives as sharp. Be especially conscious of the point on bladed weapons, as they can still cause penetrative injury even though they’re dull. Prop weapons can cause severe harm or worse and should be treated with respect.
  • Prop weapons must always be locked behind two locks when not in use in rehearsal or performance - for example, a small locked box containing the prop inside a locked locker or closet. You may consider using the lockers on the fourth floor of Paramount or on the fifth floor of Tufte. 
  • When transporting your prop weapon make sure it is not exposed. You must keep it inside of a lock box inside of a bag during transport.
  • It is crucial that your prop is cared for and maintained. Always inspect weaponry before and after every rehearsal and performance. Perform regular cleaning and maintenance on the props as recommended by the supplier. Do not use a damaged prop.

Rehearsal and Performance

Do not attempt to work beyond your capabilities – pushing artistic boundaries is what school is about, as this should be a safe place to experiment, fail and grow. However, do not let that attitude prevail over proper safety measures – make your production, LITERALLY a "safe place to fail"! If you don't know how to make an illusion safe, seek out appropriate help, which could include hiring a professional fight director or stunt coordinator; working with personnel who have training and experience; and/or finding a creative solution to the story-telling needs that doesn’t include a prop weapon.

  • At the start of rehearsal, you must hold a safety meeting where all individuals involved in the production are informed that there will be a prop weapon in use, which individuals will be handling it, and how it will be used. If any plan changes, you must hold another safety meeting to update the cast and crew.
  • If a prop weapon in your performance is used in a threatening or combative manner, a fight call must take place before every performance with all cast and crew involved in the scene.
  • A notice must be posted on entrances and exits of any room where a prop weapon is in use. Be sure to take the posting down at the end of each rehearsal or shoot. If you are rehearsing in an unconventional rehearsal space and a prop weapon is in use, make efforts to ensure that persons outside of the space cannot see or hear your rehearsal, so as not to cause undue alarm. 
  • Consult with your producer or production manager to determine any need for notices to be posted during live performances. 
  • When a prop weapon is not in use, keep it securely and safely locked away at all times..
  • When the prop weapon is needed, the person designated as the responsible party must hand the weapon to the actor. When the stage action with the prop is complete, the actor must immediately return the prop weapon to the responsible party and secure it until it is needed again. The prop must not be preset on a prop table or left on a prop table after use. It must either be worn by the responsible party or promptly locked up.
  • While a prop weapon is in use, the user should never point the prop weapon at anyone or themselves. While staging, never aim a weapon directly at the face, head, or body of a performer or directly at audience members regardless of the prop’s capabilities.
  • Always aim off line, either up – or downstage of the “victim”.
  • Beware of disarms; when dropping a prop from a large height or from repetitive drops the prop can become damaged. Do not let the disarmed weapon become a trip-hazard later in the fight. Do not let a disarmed weapon slide towards the audience.
  • Never leave a prop weapon unattended, including on prop tables. If you need advising on how to properly store your prop weapon, please contact SEAL, the Emerson Stage Props Director, or the VMA Director of Production Safety.
  • At no time should there ever be any horseplay with a prop weapon.

Emergency Procedure

Despite careful preparation and steps to minimize risks as much as possible, accidents may still occur.

In the event of an emergency:

  • Call the Emerson College Police Department’s emergency line:
    • When calling from a cell phone while on campus: 617-824-8888
    • When calling from a campus phone: x8888
  • Call 911 when calling from an off-campus location

Make your call from a safe location, if possible. Remain calm. Speak slowly and clearly. Do not hang up the phone until the dispatcher tells you to.

Be prepared to give the following information:

  • Location of the emergency – give clear directions, street address, building, and room.
  • Type and severity of the emergency:
    • Fire – type and size of fire.
    • Medical – type of illness or injury, cause, number of victims.
    • Police/crime – type of crime, description of suspects and their direction of travel.
    • Chemical/hazardous materials – quantity and type of substances involved, hazards and injuries.
  • When the incident occurred.
  • Your name, location you’re calling from, and phone number.


The most important thing to remember to create a safe atmosphere for yourself and others to work in is, “when in doubt, ask”. Please use the list of the following people as resources for your project.

Personnel Resources

Ted Hewlett
Acting Faculty
Department of Performing Arts
ted_hewlett [at] (ted_hewlett[at]emerson[dot]edu)

Ryan Bates
Props Director
Department of Performing Arts
ryan_bates [at] (ryan_bates[at]emerson[dot]edu)

Homa Sarabi
Director, Production Safety and Sustainability
Department of Visual and Media Arts
homa_sarabi [at] (homa_sarabi[at]emerson[dot]edu)

Jennifer Nival
Office of Student Engagement & Leadership
jennifer_nival [at] (jennifer_nival[at]emerson[dot]edu)