Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gappiness in Blogging

Sorry for the long gap here.  It's been busy (as is usual) but also trips, visitors, chores, more chores (i.e. yard work), and general laziness have delayed blogging.

Sadly, it's not been due to wasting time hanging out at the movies... since there's been nothing I wanted to see lately.  (Though Guardians of the Galaxy was a hoot.  The Visitor is going to get dragged to see it soon!)

Have had a few other interesting experiences in the meantime though:

On the book front, I read and liked Netherfield, a novel set during the events of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice but centered on the life of one of their housemaids.  Very good.

On the theater front, during intermission for my Kitchen Dog show, Thinner Than Water, I chatted with an audience member who turned out to be an architect who noticed theater sets.  He liked this set, so I admitted to being its designer (if he hadn't I wouldn't!).  But even nicer than that compliment was his recall of other good sets at the theater... including another one I designed and am proud of, The Goat: or Who's Sylvia?

The Goat: or Who's Sylvia at Kitchen Dog Theater - photo by Matt Mrozek


Now THAT's a compliment.

More fun at Fun House Theatre and Film, where their rock n' roll musical Mortgage was a blast!

I'm presently drawing construction drawings - slowly, with as many interruptions as I can arrange - for a production of The Explorers' Club which will debut at Stage West in Fort Worth, then move to WaterTower Theater in Addison, on this side of the Trinity river.  The set is going to be a Victorian men's club all wood, leather, and taxidermy animal heads.  Thank goodness! we have someone willing to loan us those.

More - and sooner - next time.

After-Thought Addendum:  Among all the audience comments on my sets that I've heard, my favorite has to be: "Gross!"

This was on the set for Urinetown, featuring The Dirtiest Public Toilet in the World... so that was, like, Success!  Also the box office clerk's mother - a bit of a germophobe - had to leave at intermission because she couldn't look at the filthy-looking (but nice clean painted) set a moment longer.

Ah! the giddy power of Set Design!

Wahahahahaha!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Set Dressing

Well, the set for Kitchen Dog's Thinner Than Water is about wrapped up (bar last minute things).  Which is good since Opening is tonight!

Here's a photo taken by our hardworking set builder Dean McBride.  (Someone who shows up at 5:00 a.m. to build deserves my official Hardworking! badge for sure.)

That's me sorting through comics to dress the Comic Shop... one of seven locations crammed into the MAC's black box.  Just barely showing to the left of me is the Apartment Stoop; I'm sitting (worn out) on the Comic Shop floor; behind me is the outside door to the Hospital; then the Hospital Waiting Room; to its right the Coffee Shop patio; and in the foreground the Living Room.  (The seventh setting is a reveal.)

At this instant the Hospital sign isn't up yet and neither are the Coffee Shop's chalk board drawings.  Phew!

Thinner Than Water at Kitchen Dog Theater - photo Dean McBride

Now the chalk gets drawn...


Thinner Than Water's coffee shop 



And just for fun, here's a look at the model this is all based on (a very fast model made from cut-up sketches mounted on Foamcore).

Thinner Than Water model 

"Early or Latte" the set gets finished... As one of the last duties, the faithful set builder showed up at 5:00 a.m. again to tidy up the edges of my faux plank and concrete and to paint the rest of the stage floor black.

Opening is tonight!  Thinner Than Water by Melissa Ross at Kitchen Dog Theater.

Come see.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Internet "Fast Lanes"

Also mean "Slow Lanes."

This blog would probably neeeeeveeeer load.


Before the FCC sells the internet to the highest bidders, let your senator and representative know you don't want that.  

What we need is Net Neutrality.  It increases competition, it's fair, it's democratic.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Successful Smearing

Years ago a good set designer friend -  who was an excellent scenic painter with years of NYC experience - explained to me that there were "scenic painters" and there were "smearers."

Just imagine the New Yorkish tone of that "smearer"...  Just as in "a bagel and smear."

Scenic painters (as I'd been discovering for myself) are amazingly talented painters who use their well-trained and experience-honed super-talents in the Cause of Theater, or rather, Theatre.  "Smearers," on the other hand, are poorly trained saps who can, just barely, wipe a little color on a set... maybe usefully.

I, sadly, am a smearer.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons, via a deli review

There's no way I'm ever going to get the classical theater scenic painting training or get enough time with a brush to re-invent that wheel by myself and I doubt I have the innate drawing talent required to be a true scenic painter anyway, but I can, when pushed to it, wipe a little color on a set in a useful way.  (This admission still leaves me more skill than one memorable painter / helper who had never held a paintbrush before.  Sad, but true.  She just could NOT keep the brown paint only on Sleepy's plywood headboard and the white paint only on Sleepy's plywood mattress.  Not even painter's tape helped.)

Anyway, yesterday was largely spent doing just that, getting some TLC onto part of the Thinner Than Water set at Kitchen Dog so that a few publicity photos can be taken.

So, okay, not great scenic painting as such, but useful?

I guess my painting must be effective enough: one set I painted, for Kitchen Dog's Detroit, just won a DFW Critics' Forum Award.

Wahoo!  Thanks to director Tim Johnson for the live-grass idea (that I'm sure is what caught the critics' attention) and to all the many, tired, muddy Kitchen Dogs who helped build and landscape that set, with specially big "Thanks!" to Abby and Mike upon whom I always depend.

Detroit was a killer set to build, mostly because of script requirements for breakables.  (Playwrights take note: breakables = hard to do!)  Well, and the required flames.

Detroit, at Kitchen Dog Theater, That's Tina drinking from a straw.  
And that's real grass... which needed painting eventually, but not, luckily, by me.

Nice to have hard work recognized.

Which makes the awards recognizing Tim Johnson's direction and Tina Parker's acting in that same show even cooler!

Congratulations to all the award winners!  With shout-outs to particular friends n' colleagues and shows I was involved in like the whole Kitchen Dog Barbecue Apocalypse team (I didn't design this one) and to B.J. Cleveland and his Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike actors (go team! I did design this one).  Also to Susan Sargeant's almost one-woman-theater-team; to Terry Martin (whose award shelf is crowded by now); Drew Wall; Liz Mikel; and the amazing Jeff Swearingen, whose play Stiff won a best-new-work award and whose young actors continue to rake in awards and good notices.

Stiff I also got to set-design, collapsing gazebo and all.  Design and smear.  (And did I smear!  It was supposed to look "bad."  A real break you'd think for a smearer!  But, honestly, this requirement was both lucky and terrifying because it's tricky to look bad-on-purpose instead of bad-because-incompetent...)

Earlier posts on Vanya and Sonia and Vanya and Spike HERE.  (I'll add more as I find 'em.)  More on the DFW Critics' Awards HERE.



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pen Award-Winner!

Wonderful!

Se Llama Cristina, a play by Octavio Solis which Kitchen Dog Theater produced last year (and I got to set design) has just won the prestigious Pen Literary Award for Drama!

Se Llama Cristina by Octavio Solis
This photo by Matt Mrozek shows actors Vanessa DeSilvio, Israel Lopez and the shadow of Jeremy Schwartz.  
Also my set... "mine" meaning many, many people's actually.  Christie Vela directed.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Film Catch-Up

Still in a cheer-myself-up mode, here are a few movies I've enjoyed watching just lately:

Guardians of the Galaxy - huge fun!  Rocket and Groot are my new favorite film duo.  I like the bantering dialogue and the sense of humor - especially the hero / villain confrontation at the climax.  I'm already looking forward to the sequel.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - perhaps a little grandiose at the end, but enjoyable, with a nicely even-handed portrayal of both apes and humans.

Begin Again - feel-good music-centric story with not the romance you expect.  I probably need to own this one.

A Hard Days Night - the classic Beatles flick.  Music, obviously, and a kind of Marx Brothers vibe.  I'd never seen the movie, but I'm glad Netflix delivered it.

Thinking of watching movies at the cinema versus at home...

Am I the only one who hates having to buy movie tickets way ahead and pre-select seats in order to be sure you can even get in?  Here in Dallas at the art-house Magnolia Theater, at the Alamo Drafthouse, and often at Studio Movie Grill it's almost impossible to just spontaneously go to the movies and get a decent seat or get in at all... and not just for the just-released "hot" film either.

Photo courtesy of everystockphoto.com HERE

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sigh


It's always when you're already busy that unexpected extra work lands on you.

Squidoo has been sold.  This is the on-line community where I've written a number of articles (including my Greatest-Hit "Theater Set Questions Answered," my Dear-Abby-ish answer to worried high school play designers everywhere). 

This means that I will have to reformat, rewrite, or abandon a lot of work.  Whatever I choose, the new owners, HubPages, can choose to drop any or all of it.

Sigh.


A polite sigh was not, mind you, my first reaction to this news. 

If this is having a rug pulled out from under me, it's a rug upon which I set a desk, a chair, bookcases (of course!) stuffed with books, assorted filing cabinets, a drafting board, a sofa, giant ornamental vases full of dried pampas grass, and maybe a stuffed grizzly bear. 

Grumpy as I feel... maybe the bear's not taxidermied just yet.


A collage from public domain sources, including Amedeo Simonetti's 
The Rug Merchant at Wikimedia Commons.  


In more cheerful news, among those books I'll have to virtually move (sigh? snarl?) is a recent read - Good Prose: The Art of Nonfictionby  Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd, the author of House and his long-time editor and friend.  This is a book I'll need to return to the library... then buy my own copy of. 

Other books I've enjoyed lately?  I'm working my way through Greek Revival America by Roger G. Kennedy, a writer on architecture and related topics whom I've followed for years... since he first introduced me to my role-model, architect/pirate Barthelemy Lafon, in fact.  I enjoyed Lindsey Davis' Enemies at Home, the second novel in her new ancient-Roman-detective series.  Try her Silver Pigs as a starter.  I liked Terry Pratchett's latest Discworld novel Raising Steam.

I think I'll go read a nice calming book.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The American Room

Just a fast snippet on the topic of the anthropology of interior design.

HERE's a fascinating little piece on that off-white All-American room you see in all those You Tube vids.

Saddening, really, all those bland, bland suburban rooms.  I suppose I should put one onstage, but it'd be too boring to stare at for two hours.  (The article mentions that problem in passing, actually.)  Here's the closest I've come lately to that vanilla room - for Se Llama Cristina at Kitchen Dog Theater.

Se Llama Cristina, Kitchen Dog Theater, sorry, I'm not sure of the photographer.