Thursday, July 23, 2015


I'm rereading E.M. Forster's classic Aspects of the Novel, just now re-finding a wonderful passage on the troubles novelists suffer with characters as they write.  He then contrasts the woes of the novelist with those of the playwright:

These trials beset the dramatist also, and he has yet another set of ingredients to cope with - the actors and actresses - and they appear to side sometimes with the characters they represent, sometimes with the play as a whole, and more often as the mortal enemies of both.  The weight they throw is incalculable, and how any work of art survives their arrival I do not understand...   
...but, in passing, is it not extraordinary that plays on the stage are often better than they are in the study, and that the introduction of a bunch of rather ambitious and nervous men and women should add anything to our understanding of Shakespeare and Chekhov?

Anton Chekhov reads The Seagull - Wikipedia

Monday, July 20, 2015

Green Research

I'm studying up on how to make theater more ecologically sustainable.  And you know what?  I'm actually starting to find good sources of information on-line.  Ones that didn't exist a few years ago:

#1  The Broadway Green Alliance's website (and their Off-Broadway offshoot's HERE)


#2  The on-line guide, The NRDC Theatre Greening Advisor, by the Natural Resources Defense Coalition with the Broadway Green Alliance.

The other best source so far (not on-line) is the book, A Practical Guide to Greener Theatre, by Ellen E. Jones

It's about time! is all I can say.

Ackermann's Repository 1816 - public domain

I'm working on a little greener theater guide of my own, a companion to Alice Through the Proscenium, my how-to theater scenic design book.  (Which I'm happy to report is selling steadily.   I've seen mentioned from Utah to Kuala Lumpur to Arkansas... pretty cool!)  My  green tome will have a bit of a different spin on it...

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Eras End

This has been a period of changes in the Dallas-Fort Worth theater community.

One of the founders of Theatre Three, long-time Artistic Director Jac Alder, died earlier this spring.  He was an important and encouraging landmark, a supporter of talent, a gentleman of the theater who is much missed. This week there was a rather wonderful celebration for him.   (Dallas Morning News story HERE.) 

I can only say that I watched my first Moliere' play on his stage, decades ago.  I can't say that I knew Jac well - we only met a few times - but I still remember our conversation: how much more fun theater was compared to professional architectural practice.  He trained as an architect, a training that tends to stick; a tiny facet of life that we shared. 

Theatre Three is now in transition under a new, interim Artistic Director, the multi-talented Bruce Coleman.  

Adventure ahead certainly.

Pre-sale sorting at the rehearsal hall - Photo ?

The second change is that Kitchen Dog Theater, of which I'm a member, has lost its long-time home at the MAC.  (The building's being torn down to build something more profitable.)  For the interim we Dogs are moving to The Green Zone in the Design District.  Last weekend was a weirdly fun yet exhausting garage sale for most of our worldly goods.  Like selling off your scrapbook, really.  (Dallas Morning News story HERE.)

Ah! My poor green froggy-chair!  It debuted in The Bald Soprano at UTD
and lived in Kitchen Dog's green room.  Alas, poor Yorick.  Photo by Tim Johnson.

We'll see what new adventure awaits in our interim home...

UPDATE:  There's DMN vid and I'm in it.  (Why did I wear my dumpster diving shirt?  Oh, yeah, the dumpster loading thing...)  HERE

Monday, July 13, 2015

Importance of Habit

I get more blogging done when it becomes a habit.

Likewise, I get more exercise or writing or design or anything done when I set up routines and stick to them, just as many many writers swear by setting strict times or page quotas to encourage both creativity and productivity.

Dancer / choreographer Twyla Tharp wrote a terrific book on exactly this topic, The Creative Habit: learn it and use it for life.  A helpful book for any creative worker.  It's been a while since I read it, but I still remember that she advocated a version of the same a-box-for-every-project system that I use myself to organize the detritus of creation - all the inspirational photos, base drawings, go-bys, samples, texts, totems, and whatnot you always collect as you design.

Gotta get back into my productive, creative routines!  Today I actually exercised... so there's a start.

And here I am at least typing a little.  It's a start.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Back from the Beach

After a chock-full-o'-design spring and a refreshing beach vacation on Galveston Island...

Ah!  Hot shrimp gumbo, ice cold beer, and warm Gulf waters!

A view of Galveston beach at the turn of the last century by P.H. Rose, Wikimedia 

But now I'm back.  To Dallas.  To work.  To blogging.

While opening ten shows in five months this spring I did rather let the blogging thing slide, but I'll do better now.  At least until my (very faint) tan fades and the work schedule warms up.

Before getting back to Theatre... a beach book recommendation:  the brilliant graphic novel from the internet blog-comic by Sydney Padua:

The Thrilling Adventures of 
Lovelace and Babbage*
The (mostly) True Story of the First Computer

Review to follow, but why wait?  Buy it HERE, now.  

(That's The Author, by the way, struggling with her day job to find time to write.)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Not a Review: Sense and Sensibility

I recently got to see the Dallas Theater Center's production of Sense and Sensibility... 

Really enjoyed it.  I think it's a clever adaptation that - for once - catches the sometimes nasty edge of Jane Austen's humor and the real and frightening stakes involved with a young woman's reputation and future.  The Dashwood sisters live in terrifying times.  Marry or starve, basically.

Any of you who think Jane Austen is actually, you know, ROmantic, I advise you to read Robert Rodi's Bitch in a Bonnet and Fay Weldon's Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen immediately.  Sooner than that even.

I really did like this adaptation of S&S.  The general idea is that a Greek English chorus of nasty gossips shadowed and commented on the action, peering through windows and pushing characters around.  Cuts and simplifications to story, characters, and themes clarify the threat and strengthen the emphasis on gossip.  Some characters - like Mrs. Jennings who, in the book, has a good heart under her gossipy skin - became simple tattle-mongers.  (Not quite fair.)  In the program a comparison was made to today's ability to ruin a woman's reputation in minutes via Twitter and Facebook.

That's topical - just ask Monica Lewinsky.  In a series of entertaining webisodes called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, this ruining-her-reputation trope (this time from Pride and Prejudice) was translated for the modern day into the release of a sex tape online; in S&S days it sometimes took only writing a letter.

Reputation stuff still does damage.

I have to agree [sorta] with Mary Bennet, when she says: "...we may draw this useful lesson: that loss of [perceived] virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step [not necessarily her step, mind you] involves her in endless ruin; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex."

Tell'em sister!  Sometimes all it takes is breaking up with that "undeserving" dude...  "Revenge porn" they call it when he then puts all her sexts or too-personal photos etc online.  "Doxing" is when he - or other enemies - reveal all her personal information.  And though men also suffer from these shaming techniques, the victims are generally female.



Because I liked this production, I felt inevitably picky-picky about certain aspects: it's The Designer's Curse.  I'll ignore most of these as too picky to smudge an admirable production.  The set was simple and fitting.  (And, for the Theater Center amazingly! not extravagantly expensive.  Okay, picky, there had to be a better way to bring on London.  Sorry.)  The costumes good, especially the chorus, though there were a few choices I disagreed with.   (Col. Brandon's underwear?)   Lighting good (except that rain).  The acting was good (I'd change a little casting) with real stand-outs as Elinor and Edward, who made the show.

I don't know that this production will convert those who go into the theater thinking Jane Austen is either a) dull or b) mushily romantic... but it ought to.

Well done.

Less than a week to go, so get tickets!  HERE.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sometimes the Wheels Fall Off

Or you fall off the wheels.

Or there ARE no wheels.


Public Domain image of a theatrical set builder on a bad day.

It's been unspeakably busy here at Scenic Central lately.

Two shows opened almost simultaneously - All My Sons at WaterTower Theatre and The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas.  While, a close third, I & You at Circle Theatre is sloooowly finishing...  the slowness mostly because the carpenters and painters had to fit its build in with the Fort Worth Opera's schedule.

Juggling schedules, that's what it's all about for designers and builders... and for actors and directors and producers too.  Or sometimes just juggling.  On a high-wire.  On a bike, feels like.

Usually my sets get finished in good time before Opening - are mostly finished, except for details, for Tech.

This time?

This time I actually - no kidding - had exactly half an hour at home to wash the mud off before dressing and returning for the opening of All My Sons.  (Mud because I'd been scattering dirt and pea gravel on the "backyard" set, then stomping it into paths right up till the last moment.)

Because a few wheels fell off a few bikes this time...

The biggest whoopsy! bike-crash was when one poor TD drilled into his hand and had to have surgery.  That delayed things.  Some over-optimistic scheduling.  Some needing to redo or tweak hard stuff that didn't come out perfectly first time.  Some replacing of fake grass (more on that later).  Some hanging posters on some concrete walls.  Some small floods.   Most recently a desperate hunt for some replacement rolling desk chair wheels that fit weird Swedish-metric sockets.  Every rolling chair in sight had its casters ripped of to try their fit!  (It's like a desk accessory version of the glass shoe fitting thing in Cinderella.  But so far it's all Ugly Sisters; the builder is stopping by Casters R Us and International House of Casters tomorrow.)  So some delays and difficulties.  Some... well, lots of somethings actually.

But the MAIN thing, the IMPORTANT thing, is that everything did/will eventually, mostly get done and the sets are/will looking good on time.

Blood (literal), sweat, and tears, Baby!

Now I can put the casters back on my drafting chair before I fall off it again.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tech Hell x 3

That title says it all.

Three shows opening soon (so get yer tickets!):

All My Sons WaterTower Theatre, Addison
The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild Contemporary Theatre of Dallas
I and You Circle Theatre, Fort Worth