Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Week in the Life

This week may not be exactly typical, but it's not uncommon either.  A set designer's schedule can go something like this:

Weekend - spend some time preparing for the coming week by finishing one set of construction drawings and starting the next.  Also pulling portfolio photos of work for an up-coming introduction/audition/meeting thingie.

Monday - up at 6:30 a.m.  Breakfast.  Scan and email one (small) set of construction drawings for one show.  (Application Pending at Circle Theater.)  Pull clothes (and even iron!) for the interview.  Have the interview.  Seems to go okay... maybe
I'll get the new show?  
While wondering that, finish construction drawings then make a bunch of copies of those other drawings and design sketches for the other show you know you do have.  (Ironbound at Kitchen Dog Theater.)  Grab something out of the refrigerator at random to gobble while doing email one handed, then rush to the first read of Ironbound.
A fascinating reading!   Great cast.   Also got to meet for the first time in a while several favorite people from other shows. Snacks and chit-chattery very pleasant.  Production meeting afterwards.  (Have to be shushed at one point.  Scenic talk is too engrossing!)  

Sketchbook doodle during the Ironbound first read-thru
My sketchbook is really a Day Book, where I record whatever I'm 
thinking, reading, or researching about, plus meeting notes and
my earliest design sketches... and occasional grocery lists.

Home at 11:00 p.m.  Eat a sandwich in the bath because that refrigerator grab and snack at the Read-Thru weren't quite enough.  Also a drink.  Nothing better than a hot bath and a cold drink.  And a book.

Tuesday - sleep a little late - 7:30.  Create a model for yet another show so that theater's board of directors can approve the design.  (Sister Act at Mainstage Irving - Las Colinas.)  This involves making yet many more copies of yet more design sketches.  I'm getting to know the owner of the local copy place!  Hopefully I'll also find time to scan and send a director copies of an old 1950s version of "The Story of the Little Red Hen."  (Which makes more sense than it sounds like it would.  Really.)  I have a head start on model building in that I had the forethought to get supplies like foamcore board last week.  

Dinner at home with family, woohoo!  Wonder what I'll cook?

Here's an example of early design sketches - these are trying to
figure out how to make a few wagons (3) multi-task as about
87 different locations in Sister Act.  It is SO HANDY to have a 
sketchbook always on hand.  I buy my purses sized to hold one.

Wednesday - will be, in the evening, the production meeting that goes with that model.  Earlier comes the all-important lunch seminar on the American Disabilities Act which I need as continuing education credit to keep my architectural license current.  Lotso note taking!  

(My sketchbook is interesting lately: notes and sketches on several shows; ditto from my jury duty... sad sketches; ditto on an imaginary planet I'm designing just for fun; plus nice serious architectural ADA notes to balance out the frivolities.)

Thursday - a coffee-klatch with a fellow designer to look forward to.  

Friday - By now I need to have answered all the questions generated by my flurry of drawings - which may mean MORE drawings! - and have every show sorta settled for the weekend.  

Will I make it?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

North Texas Giving Day

A chance to support the arts in North Texas... with a little extra ooomph!

Kind people have pledged extra money to multiply your own kindness.  Now, there are lots of worthy groups, but I'd like call to your especial attention to theater in general and Kitchen Dog Theater in particular.

Your help is gratefully appreciated!

Friday, September 8, 2017

I Love Theater People

Harvey sent 4 feet of water through Sara Hames' house, leaving her family to build a barricade by her curb made of wet debris and ruin... 

So her family called their musical theater friends and they put on Les Harveyables:

Even if your barn is flooded you can still put on the show!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Not More Politics!

Sorry, it's the times we live in.

The latest upset?  President Trump ending the DACA program which protected those undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and who have lived their whole lives here.  

These "Dreamers" have clean background checks; they're going to school; they fight in our military; they work hard; they start businesses; they even die trying to help flood victims in Houston.  They are good Americans.  They just don't have a stamp in a passport.

I believe strongly that we should let them stay in their home country - the United States.

Since I'm having printer problems and can't mail my postcards to my legislators yet, please feel free to print n' send this one to your own.  

Please print and mail:  4" x 6" is legal postcard size

Or, if you're not into snail-mail, call your representative and senator.  Demand that they finally pass the Dream Act.

Sometimes we just have to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Tech: Lighting Color Fun

Tech Day is mostly for lighting and sound.  

Set is (you hope) nearly finished.  (Or maybe it's not.)  And Tech - or Technical Rehearsal - is a day to push scenic elements around, to roll wagons, and slam doors and generally make sure that the physical elements of the production are working.  Actors are there - their participation vital! - but they're usually bored out of their skulls at the stops and starts and sheer tedium of it all.

Meanwhile, it's wildly exciting verging on panicked for stage management and designers.  Especially for sound and lighting.  (Costume is madly finishing things for the costume parade and Dress rehearsals coming soon.  Basically, you don't want costumes on stage yet: the paint isn't all dry.)

Here's what lighting was up to at yesterday's Tech for Echo Theater's production of Ruined.

I'm loving the colors glowing through the slats of Mama's Bar!

(Thanks to the eagle-eyed company members who spotted their neighbor's old fence out on the curb for the trash!  Great weathered texture.)  The rest of the set?  Well, someday soon I'll actually have all the scenic painting done.  Fingers crossed...

Saturday, September 2, 2017


Latest bad news from the Houston / Harvey floods...

This flood's in Brisbane in 1800ish... but you get the idea.  Public domain image

The lower level of the Alley Theater is soup.  

Expensive damage and their prop collection ruined.  Read more HERE.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Theater Design Catch-Up Day!

What with one thing or another (hurricanes, politics, jury duty, etc.) this blog has gotten a little behind on, you know, theater!

So here's a grab bag of images, in no particular order:

King o' the Moon at Circle Theater - sketch

Two shows back... King o' the Moon at Circle Theater.  A fun one for me because it was larger and more detailed than I often get to design for this small basement thrust stage and because the carpenters and (new) scenic painter did a terrific job!

Notice the brick: that wire-cut effect (vertical lines, see 'em?), all pure paintery.

King o' the Moon at Circle Theater - rehearsal photo

I think this next show was right before that show (or after? this season anyway).  Rasheeda Speaks  is set in a surgeon's reception area - another uber realist set.  With those fun hip-waiting-room-of-today colors.

Rasheeda Speaks at Circle Theater - sketch

Rasheeda Speaks at Circle Theater - rehearsal photo

This next is an oooold project, an indie film shot here in Dallas.  Sometimes photos just float to the top of the internet, ya know?  

This shows the kitchen of the condo where we shot... and where most of the cast and film crew lived during filming.  I painted and accessorized that kitchen, I set dressed it, I sealed it off with tape and a huge "HOT SET!!!" sign... and still I cleaned up after everyone's lunches (and breakfasts) over and over and over again.  Like being House Mom at an extended teenage boy sleep-over.

Ciao a film by Yen Tan

To round out the Old Projects theme, here's my only TV game show design.

Whatta Ya Think?! a TV show

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

After Charlottesville

Dallas has a park in Uptown that's named for Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

I've always liked this park.

It's beautiful.  In the spring azaleas bloom.  All year round there are trees and grass, a handsome building (loosely modeled on Lee's Arlington) and a fine bronze equestrian statue of Lee and an adjutant.  I like equestrian statues.  To a designer it sits especially nicely on the site. Plus the granite steps at its base are a good place to eat a sandwich.

General Lee is an fascinating historical figure: a great and still-studied general; a traitor who chose the Confederacy over the Union; and a slave owner who freed his slaves during the Civil War... although once I researched that fact, it turns out that he did so only because it was required by his father-in-law's will.  Complicated and ugly history.

Even before Charlottesville this was a controversial park and statue.

Before Charlottesville I would have suggested that hiding history is a mistake - better that the statue be left as it is but with context added, and not just that doomed adjutant and a few informative plaques.  I'd like to call in a brilliant artist like Kara Walker to add that context physically, perhaps adding bronze silhouettes in her style spiraling out from the original bronze.  Silhouettes of... slaves and those slaves made to dig trenches for the Confederate Army, of wounded soldiers of both armies, of lynching, of civil rights protesters and Dr. King, of Black Lives Matter and the Dallas police who were killed, and now, sadly, of Charlottesville.  There is also a local artist who might add projections to this ensemble, turning Lee and these contextual bronze cut-outs into screens for the continuing story of race in America.

I think that could turn a memorial of Jim Crow Dallas into a living, growing, and perhaps important art work pointing toward an America that lives up to its promise.

But now?

I'm afraid even great art might become only a magnet for alt.right, neo-Nazi, and the KKK.

I do wish we could keep just the horses.  Horses are innocent.

A mock-up of what the Lee statue might become... 
(After the art of Kara Walker.  If you haven't seen it, you MUST.  Powerful, powerful stuff.)

Whatever eventually becomes of Dallas' bronze Lee, his sidekick, and their beautiful horses, we citizens must now make perfectly clear:

Bigotry is wrong.  It betrays the soul of America.  
We reject it.

Anyone or any group that advocates bias or violence against anyone because of their race, color, religion, origin, gender or sexuality is unAmerican.  

ADDENDUM #1: Obviously, we need to change the name of the park back to its original one, Oak Lawn Park.

ADDENDUM #2:  Another suggestion for unwanted but historic statues, plant them together in a park like the Russians have... read the BoingBoing post HERE.

ADDENDUM # 3:  Complicated issue isn't it?  But I think a consensus is emerging that the confederate monuments should be removed.  Here are Stonewall Jackson's descendants' views, from an open letter to the Mayor of Richmond, Virginia :

"They are overt symbols of racism and white supremacy, and the time is long overdue for them to depart from public display."

ADDENDUM # 4:  This has been a pretty serious discussion - here's the flippant one: