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A Minneapolis Theater 'Prop God' Retires


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Ding dong merrily on high...


Linus Vlatkovich grew up in the mining town of Hibbing, Minn. His father was a miner who hoped his son would become a dentist. And he tried for a while in college. But...

LINUS VLATKOVICH: It just wasn't the right place for me. And when I changed to theater, they were not real excited about that.

SIMON: Theater - a parent's heartbreak. But Linus Vlatkovich ended up building a career building props for 46 years at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. He eventually earned the nickname Prop God. His parents worried when the Guthrie first called Linus in 1972.

VLATKOVICH: They asked me if I would like to work there for the summer and then hire me in the fall. So I said sure. They said they didn't have any real money to pay me, but they'd pay me out of petty cash. So I got three $30 paychecks.

SIMON: Over the years, Linus Vlatkovich has built countless objects for the stage, mostly furniture...

VLATKOVICH: Don't ask me to show you my portfolio because I don't have one (laughter).

SIMON: ...But also a Rolls Royce for "The Great Gatsby," a pool for "Of Mice And Men" and Frankenstein's lab table, something he built for the first time in 1988 and again for his final production, "Frankenstein: Playing With Fire." Though Linus Vlatkovich retired as Prop God on Tuesday, his work still lives onstage.

VLATKOVICH: Yes. I do see my props that I've built used in other shows and other theaters. It's fun. Most of them I don't remember because it's - I've built so many things over the years and people have to tell me, no, you built this piece, so (laughter). oh, OK. Don't ask me what show it was from.

SIMON: The first order of business that Linus Vlatkovich has for his retirement is to finish the renovations on his own house.

VLATKOVICH: My wife thinks that it's time for me to start taking it a little bit easier.

SIMON: The Prop God never rests. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.