Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Siege - Days 15 & 16 Or, April Fools!

I don't think there will be many April Fools jokes today.

But a friend did send me David Hockney's spring art work, shared through the BBC, he said, to cheer us all up - HERE

It IS reassuring somehow to see nature just go on about her business.  Like swans in Venice, daffodils or cherry blossom are cheering.  Here it's the happy appearance of a whole 'possum family in my back yard and a pair of rabbits in the front... because the world is quieter now and safer... for rabbits.

So go out and enjoy the spring sunshine!

Almond Blossom by Vicent Van Gogh

Whatever happens in the short run, or to us each personally, know that the world really will keep on turning and Nature will do her thing.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Siege - Day 14 (Another Monday)

Watching my new office mate leaping into Monday morning at (shudder) normal business hours reminds me of just how different theater schedules are.  Here are a few rules of thumb:


1)  Never call any theater person except a carpenter before noon.

Now, designers and tech folks generally get up and start work way earlier, but never assume that a director is ready to answer your questions before then.  On the other hand, it is not impossible that a director might call you - or have the stage manager text you anyway - after, say, 10:00 at night.  Or send a long, complex email at midnight.  Because they just finished rehearsal and their wide-awake brain is seething with ideas and questions for you.

2)  Know that you will work some evenings.

That's just when theater happens.  And even though the carpenters and painters tend to work daylight hours (when the stage isn't, you know, cluttered with actors), still there will be rehearsals you, as designer, must attend.  Certainly midnight emails you must attend to.

This can get a little sleep-deprivy when, as for an outdoor production, you must consult with carpenters in the cool of the morning, but also watch the rehearsal after dark (so lighting designers can work!) and take notes at the following production meeting.  Back home by 1:00 a.m. gets tiring!

In addition to the skew of your work hours to fit the hours of carpenters and actors, remember that many designers (maybe you too) have day jobs and just aren't able to do theater except during chinks in normal business hours.  (So if you nap to make up for the weird hours of that outdoor production, know that your nap will be interrupted at noon.)

3)  And weekends.

Set Load-In or Strike and certainly Tech all require so much time and so many different people that they must usually be scheduled on weekends.  Expect that.

4)  You're never truly off-duty.

If there's a problem, there's a call. (Or more likely a text.)  You will hear about it immediately and be expected to think on your feet in that awkward moment too.  Knowing that you could be interrupted can make it awkward to do other things... something to keep in mind as your show enters into its most fraught stages, heading toward Opening...



To non-theater people (especially morning people!) our weird hours and conditions of employment may seem horrible.  

But, eavesdropping on my work mate's Monday morning three-conference-calls-before-10:00am life...  Gee, I'm glad I don't have to think quite so hard, quite so early!



Sunday, March 29, 2020

Siege - Days 12 & 13

Taxes are done and sent!  Woohoo!  Turns out that my little Off-Broadway adventure was a money loser, when I fully counted hotel stays and eating and Lyft rides and so on.  But I'd do it again for the sheer thrill... and the small loss helped some on the taxes... if you can afford that kind of help.

Yesterday was our big grocery shopping day - picking up necessities and a few treats from Jimmy's Italian Grocery, Central Market, and the liquor store.  All went well.  There's now metered entry to Central Market ( a great, up-scale grocery for those who don't know) and red tape on the floor at both grocery stores to keep customers back a bit from the counters and staff.  Many people wore latex gloves and there were some face masks and one girl in almost complete zombie-apocalypse-chic: black hood-up hoodie - drawstrings tight - face mask, gloves... everything but the machete'.

Speaking of jungles... the tomatoes are visibly growing!

Jack and the Tomato Stalk!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Siege - Days 10 & 11

Losing track of time already...

Right now my drafting board is piled high with backup material for doing taxes - but I wish it looked like this:



What I need is a show to design!

This is an old photo taken during the design and model making for Kitchen Dog's A Wolf at the Door.  Below are a few construction photos:





The photo just above is from early in the build of the "rocky" landscape... involving A LOT of chicken wire and then more-or-less fabric mache'.  For the landscape of the more recent Alabaster, the main criteria - according the the Kitchen Dogs building it - was that there be NO chicken wire!  Hence the weathered plank retaining wall of the goat hill.  Ha!


While we're talking landscape... I'll add in a sampling of other "environmental" sets.

I think the first secret to good "natural" landscapes is to avoid any straight edges and tablecloth-slopes that reveal its carpentry bones.  Chicken wire or carved foam or any other method of creating softly broken and rounded edges are key.

The second secret is to observe nature and then do the best job you can to mimic the growth of plants, to randomize the placement of rocks (which should look half buried), and to include weeds, dead leaves, and all the little accidents of weathering or moss or litter that add reality.

For Ironbound at Kitchen Dog Theater success depended on recreating the genuine scruffy kicked-up gravel and dirt and weedy neglect of a bus stop:


For Enchanted April at WaterTower Theater, it was a matter of aging the architecture and then getting the wisteria and roses to twine naturally:


Sadly, in Spitfire Grill (it and all following shows were at WaterTower Theater) there is some definite "table-clothing"... but, being a more stylized show, the unashamed fakery, the blatant erosion cloth, and the real leaves managed to suggest Wisconsin woods anyway:


For The Sugarbean Sisters we needed jungley swamp.  Giant reeds were mugged from a neglected property and supplemented with every church-social-hall-potted-fake-palm we could borrow:


Versus a tidier and more countryfied front yard for The Traveling Lady.  (Just out of sight, I planted dozens of naturalized silk daffodils.)  Notice how the nature gets more stylized as it goes upstage?  Those trees are just painted cut outs.  Frankly, they looked terrible until I placed a bird house on a pole right in front of them... turning the silhouettes into background.  (The human eye and brain are weird.):


Here, for All My Sons, the sky gets stylized.  But the lawn is as real as we could make it.  (Okay... it got realer just after this photo was shot.  Photographers always arrive a day too soon.):



For Native Gardens we used real gravel and live plants.  (Though the argued over flowers had to become silk - because live ones died on us!)


Last example - Humble Boy, where the carpenter's really excellent stonework and the little level changes sold the whole illusion.   That and those little errant spots of grass between the stones.  (Copied from my sister's dollhouse.  Really.  Little teeny tiny fuzz between the flagstones.)

All photos courtesy of their respective theaters... except the bad ones, which are mine.




Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Siege - Day #9

The weather remains radiantly wonderful!

Making the tales of illness from New York City feel absolutely impossible.

I'm still doing taxes and today was going through expenses from my adventure last spring of designing an Off-Broadway show.  New Jersey, where our AirBnB was located, was beautiful and spring-like there then... and I bet it's full of blooming forsythia and spring bulbs there now too.  Death and taxes, sure, but death and daffodils just don't make emotional sense together.


Public domain images mashed together


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Siege - Day #8

Working from home seems pretty great today!

It's the first warm, sunny day of spring.  The windows are open and there's a lovely breeze wiffling by as I sit here and, through the window, I can see budding branches move with the same breeze.  Gorgeous.  Even my new tomatoes are reaching up toward the sun...

I've spent most of the day finishing up the "gathering" phase of doing my business taxes: totaling receipts, figuring out my studio's share of utilities, and adding up mileage etc.  Tedious work, but necessary if I want to save some of my extremely-hard-earned-cash from Uncle Sam.

public domain image found HERE

Monday, March 23, 2020

Siege - Day #7

On the theater front:  I've suggested to some friends that we should come up with some theater-by-proxy project - I'm not sure what, but maybe puppets (with sets and props of course!) we could film?  Something that will let us play together at a distance.  We'll see if we come up with a good idea.

On the work from home front: the whole household is now - finally! - working from home.  Part of today was spent getting an extra desktop organized.  As a set designer it was my duty to point out that the Hickory Dickery Dock Clock kid's mural (left over from nursery days) might not be the best background for his Zoom meetings with clients.  (Ha!)




Still plugging away at taxes.  I've now got all the business receipts sorted and entered into The Book.  

The tomato plants look good so far.  Like us, here at home...

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Siege - Day #6

This is very strange...

For days - longer - I've been impatient that Texas authorities didn't seem to understand the seriousness of the coronavirus situation.  I've been, mostly, staying home myself and reading too much about Italy and to me the danger was clear:  Dallas County has 2.7 million people and, because of Texas' policies, 10% of those people have no health insurance. 

Potential disaster.

We got a heads up that the governor of Texas had a 3:00 public announcement... fifteen minutes late... and I really suspect that in those fifteen minutes businesses talked him into stepping back from the shelter-in-place order he had prepared.

So Dallas County ordered shelter-in-place instead.

And now that I got what I am convinced we need... I feel oddly shaken.  This is going to be bad.  So bad.

Good thing I planted tomatoes this morning.


public domain image


Well, those luscious tomatoes above are what I'm aiming for.  This is what I've got so far...