Monday, September 16, 2019

It Always Comes To This...

Life / Work balance?

Good one!

No matter how carefully you try to schedule (and, really, how hard do we try?), there will always be weeks where The Show takes over your life.

Not only do the dishes not get done, but the Bard set dressing from the last show doesn't even make it all the way from your car to the garage prop storage.

Last week was the week of the Indian Show - a heads-down attempt to finish before opening.  Or at least 98.5% finished!  (The Cave scene turned out pretty cool.)

Go see The Royal Dilemma at ThinkIndia / MainStage Irving Las Colinas.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Books and Such

(Look another post - and so soon!)

First, here's a fast peek at an upcoming show, a collaboration between Mainstage Irving Los Colinas and Think India.  For a few years now they have collaborated on huge (and I mean Huge) story/song/dance spectaculars.  This year I'm designing the sets.  (And I mean Sets: there are not one, not two, but three separate Indian palaces in the story of The Royal Dilemma!)  So here's a just random, warming-up-the-audience Ali Baba style cavern to start out:

Concept sketch for scene 1 of The Royal Dilemma
set design by Clare Floyd DeVries, production by Think India/Mainstage Irving Los Colinas

So that's the "and such"... The "books"?  

I recently had a chance to tour a young designer and a student around two of my sets on stage and generally Talk Design - always fun.  Inevitably the subject of books came up (doesn't it always?).  Now I will admit that these days the first attempt at research is always a matter of googling - and I love internet research - but the second, more serious deep-dive always includes books.  The thicker the better.  Every designer I know accumulates at least a modest library.

Here are a few books from my shelves that I refer to often:

Authentic Decor: the Domestic Interior 1620-1920, Peter Thornton
Period Details: a Sourcebook for House Restoration, Martin and Judith Miller
The Elements of Style, Stephen Calloway ed.

And, for the skills, methods, and how to achieve a scenic effect,
Designing and Painting for the Theatre, Lynn Pecktal

Book talk usually wanders off into fiction and "so, read any good books lately?"

Here are a few of my favs:

Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series of magical police novels.  Set in London.  I love the characters and especially the protagonist's wry and snarky voice.

Uprooted by Naomi Kovic.  Another magic-is-real novel, but with a tone like a Russian fairy tale.  (I made the mistake of checking out the Good Reads reviews - wow - this seems to be a love it or hate it book.  Vote me "loved it!")

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel.  I think of it as a post-apocalyptic tale of art and Shakespeare.  It is structured unusually and reminds me, in some ways, of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas another terrific and strangely "accumulating" story, one that gathers weight and meaning as it goes on.

Obviously I've been on a speculative fiction / world-building reading binge.  But I also read other things...  I can highly recommend the odd-duo I'm reading right now, in alternate bites: The Mueller Report, Volume II and Marcus Aurelius' Meditations.

Moral whiplash, those two together.

"The best revenge is to not be like that."
Marcus Aurelius

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Catch Up Photos

Soooo that "I'm going to Blog!" resolution went about well as expected.  It's been very busy this spring is all I can say - six shows in the last six months, one of them Off-Broadway - so there's that.

Here are a few catch-up photos at least:

The Ballad of Little Joe at WaterTower Theater - 
set design Clare Floyd DeVries, photo by Jason Anderson 

A super dramatic look at the climax of The Ballad of Little Jo  at WaterTower Theater in Addison.  Here's another view, showing the "geological" levels: 

The Ballad of Little Joe at WaterTower Theater - 
set design Clare Floyd DeVries, photo by Jason Anderson 

Speaking of geology... try cramming the Grand Canyon into a basement space!  I found a good photo of my Men on Boats at Circle Theater:

Men on Boats at Circle Theater, set design Clare Floyd DeVries, photo Chris Herrero

And here's a random memory, the first good photo I've found of the top-of-show setting for Blasted at Undermain Theatre:

Blasted at Undermain Theatre - set design Clare Floyd DeVries,
 if you know the photographer I'd love to credit them properly

Scenically this show was a clever trick... because in a couple minutes this nice hotel room becomes a bombed-out hellscape.  (The secret is that wainscot and fiber "wallpaper" above, which disguises a collapsing wall.  Shutters of the "bomb damage" swing in to change everything - very very fast!)

I'll toss in a few sketches for three shows at Kitchen Dog Theater this spring from which I don't yet have good photos:

You Got Older, Kitchen Dog Theater - set design Clare Floyd DeVries

Wolf at the Door, Kitchen Dog Theater - set design Clare Floyd DeVries 

Reykjavik, Kitchen Dog Theater - set design Clare Floyd DeVries

Reykjavik and The Ballad of Little Jo are still running!  So go by tickets if you can.

As soon as I have both the time and the energy I'll tell you about my adventure in NYC, which was exhausting and pretty cool...

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Blogging Habit - a Huuuuge Catch-Up Post

"Where have you been?" my faithful readers (all both of them) might ask.

Sorry, it's been a wild few months and I haven't posted a thing.  First there were a bunch of shows and family health issues and holidays, then family weddings and more shows, and now home repair and yet more shows...  Blogging - like exercising - turns out to be hard to do regularly, but much much harder to do if you get out of the habit!

I'm trying to regain the blogging habit.

So, what did I miss blogging about?


The shows at the end of last year included Once, my first show ever at Theatre Three.  I never got to see the final show.  We had tickets and friends lined up to see Opening, but spent the evening at the hospital instead (all's well now, so no worries); rehearsals however were wonderful!  Here's a sketch, inspired by Dublin's architecture and street art scene.

Once at Theatre Three - sketch by Clare Floyd DeVries

Almost simultaneous was Men on Boats at Circle Theatre (my last there as Resident Set Designer - they're getting rid of residents, new management, new philosophy).  Suggesting the Grand Canyon on Circle's low-ceilinged stage was a bit of a trick!  Here's the model... which was finished and painted in a hospital room.  (A great conversation starter with nurses.)

Men on Boats at Circle Theatre - model and design by Clare Floyd DeVries

The actual set was built from ordinary flats and platforms with an added layer of carved foam and then paint.  Big thanks to the great carpenters and painters who pulled this off with while I was preoccupied with other things.  Thank you.

At Kitchen Dog Theater, Radiant Vermin was a completely different kind of design - a minimalist sort of Monopoly house all-white stage with spiffy model house footlights.

Radiant Vermin at Kitchen Dog Theater - sorry, I don't know who the photographer is (tell me and I'll eagerly credit them).  
The floor and wall - to ensure perfect, seamless whiteness - were built very smooth and flat, then covered with stretched muslin painted, and frequently re-painted, white, white, white.

Radiant Vermin at Kitchen Dog Theater - sketch by Clare Floyd DeVries

And, lastly, Kiss Me Kate at MainStage Irving Las Colinas.

Kiss Me Kate at MainStage Irving Las Colinas - a construction drawings, just for variety

It was a little hectic just last Fall!  

Since then You Got Older at Kitchen Dog has opened and closed...  

I don't have any good images for that one yet, but I'll add them asap.  Basically, it was one of those scripts with many varied settings that are difficult to do on a small stage - reality, fantasy, garden (with growing/dying bean plants), bedroom, kitchen, dive-bar, hospital room, woods during a violent snow storm, imaginary cabin snowed-in during that blizzard...  

Our solution was to build a seemingly simple wall of "weathered" wood slats that opened up or pulled out and thus transformed to suggest the different locations.  I compared it to a Swiss watch... but maybe more a Swiss cuckoo clock?

You Got Older at Kitchen Dog Theater - sketch plan by Clare Floyd DeVries


Several exciting things are coming up, including Office Hour at Circle Theatre (my first as a visiting designer), Wolf at the Door at Kitchen Dog, and - the BIG excitement! - my first Off-Broadway show, an Equity Showcase of Self-Injurious Behavior at Urban Stages in NYC.  Can't show sketches of this yet - the director needs to see them first - but I thought I'd blog the whole process here as it goes along.  

So, new section...

Self-Injurious Behavior - the Off-Broadway Adventure:

To date, this show - written by Dallas actress/playwright Jessica Cavanagh -  has had a first, very successful, run at Theatre Three's downstairs space Theatre Too.

This run was so successful that it was decided to pick the whole thing up and move it to New York: props, costumes, director, whole company, and designers...  except for the original set designer - who had conflicts - and the original set - which wouldn't fit this completely different stage.

Hence me!  A lucky fluke... which is often how Big Breaks work I notice.

More on this show as it develops...

Monday, October 29, 2018

Why You Might Want to Vote for Beto O'Rourke

I voted for Beto on the first day of early voting.

Here's why:

1)  Ted Cruz is a bad senator.

When Cruz was elected to represent us - Texas - he took the Tea Party promise never to compromise while in Washington... kinda missing the whole point of representation.  You know, Congress working together - making deals and compromises - to help as many citizens as possible and advance the country.  Instead, Ted shut down the government.  

Then he ran for president.  

That meant he missed a LOT of votes in Washington and a lot of constituents in Texas.  Even after losing, Ted visits Texas now for fund raisers, but few open town halls.  He's infamous for not listening to constituents. I met one Muslim gentleman (phone banking for Beto) whose group not only couldn't get their senator to meet them... but Cruz's office staff more or less shoved them out the door and turned off the lights.  As they did during the controversial votes on Obamacare.  He hid from worried constituents.

2) Beto is a good Representative.  Comparing Ted Cruz and Beto O'Roarke, only Beto values or practices working across the aisle to get things done.  Beto also holds twice-monthly town halls.  I've seen him in town halls... Beto will take an open question from anyone.  Really listens.  And tells you what he really thinks.

At a time when politicians shout accusations and threats and riled up partisans turn to bombs and guns... we desperately need representatives who listen to citizens, who work together, and who can speak politely and honestly.  Ted Cruz even snapped at the debate moderator who asked him about civility.

3)  Personality.  Both Cruz and Beto are smart and energetic.  Perhaps Cruz is also a great guy when you get to know him (though one Republican leader called him "Satan in the flesh"), but Beto definitely wins the traditional political challenge of who-you'd-have-a-beer-with.  

I'm not so impressed by that.  What I like is that Beto seems kind.  We need kindness.

And he's hopeful.  Instead of fear, Beto talks about how we can work together to make our country better.  I appreciate that.

4)  Policies.  I agree with many of Beto's ideas, but even if you hate Democratic policies, at this dangerous moment we really, really need Congress to act as a curb on the power of the presidency and of the party in power.  Checks and balances!  

Our country is choosing what kind of country we want to be - I choose kindness and civility and hope and balance.  

I voted for Beto - I hope you will too.

Monday, October 1, 2018


The last day to register to vote in Texas 
for this November is October 9th.

There's an online form at, but it has to be mailed in so MAIL IT TODAY or (since I don't trust the mail for something this important) GO IN PERSON.  The website can answer most of your questions.

This election is too important to miss or mess up.  

And if you argue that your vote isn't important or doesn't count or will be out voted... tiny violin players will not serenade you.  

Voting is your civic duty.  We all count on you to hold up your end of this deal, of this American Experiment.  So.  No... actually, yes, pressure.

Go vote.  

No excuses accepted.  

Early voting begins October 22nd.

Addendum:  Yesterday was the first day of early voting in Texas - I voted.  (And got the sticker to prove it.)  The crowd was HUGE!  So, if you have an opinion, if you care about our country... well, the other guys are voting their opinions - you vote yours!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

A Week in the Life of a Set Designer

Admittedly a busy week...


An enjoyable meeting with the set dresser for Kiss Me Kate at Mainstage Irving Las Colinas.  (For which I wasn't 100% mentally ready as a. I hadn't finished the construction drawings yet and b. I was totally consumed with other shows and other deadlines.  In my defense be it known that Kate doesn't actually open until November.)  

Anyway, we talked about basic design direction - simplified, stylized, black & white & gray plus punch-of-color, with those colors largely chosen from borrowed drops in order to tie this thing together!  Already a handsome three part dressing screen is found!

Here are rough photos of the very rough white model for Kate:

This is the ground state of the musical, the Backstage look.

This is the look for Downtown Padua in the play within the play.

And here's a look at Petruchio's House interior.  

In order to simplify all the (many many) setting changes, I have one large fixed unit that gets redressed now and then and four small-as-possible wagons that spin round to use their reverse sides as different set pieces.  That fireplace unit above will be particularly cunning since its reverse is the theater's stage door.

Also Thursday was a production meeting for Once  at Theatre Three.  After an afternoon of helping paint etc. in the theater and a short coffee break/chat at the nearby Thai street food place.  (I'm getting addicted to their iced Thai coffee!)

Here's the color sketch of the large scenic unit AKA "The Main".  Remember this, we'll get back to it anon.


First meeting with a new-to-me director for the next show at Circle Theater, Men on Boats.  This is going to be exciting and challenging...  How do you scenically convey the Grand Canyon?  (And on a stage with 9' high ceilings?)


All day (Day 1) Tech for Once.  I got home at 11:30.  (It was a good thing I'd gone fabric shopping for "wallpaper" that morning because the AC was freezing!  I wore my "wallpaper" wrapped round me like a shawl, even over my head, as I watched the Q2Q.)  The music is amazing!  Going to be a good show.


I was excused from more than a pop-in today at Once as Q2Q continued.  (The pop-in...  Me: "Any notes?"  Them: "Not yet."  Perfect!)


Print out set dressing photos for Once at home, frame them with frames from my garage storage mess, um, Tupperware TM  system, then return to paint some more.  9:30 pm production meeting on the next show for Kitchen Dog Theater (with the bestest title!) Radiant Vermin.  Here's an idea sketch of the sorta footlights, for which the prop designer brought in a fantastic 3D vacuform test model:


More painting on Once.


More painting on Once.  Here we are, three hours until Picture Call:


Once previews tonight and officially opens Monday - buy tickets soon because they're gonna be hot!  And keep an eye open for Radiant Vermin, Men on Boats, and Kiss Me Kate because, each in their very different way, they look good...