Wednesday, December 17, 2014

And so on...

Long time, no post.

It's the Holidays!

But today's little designer treat is an elegant on-line inspirograph - very cool!  Find it HERE.

What else have I been up to?  Well, The Explorers Club opened to good reviews (including set mentions), so that went well.  (If you don't see this funny show at Stage West in Fort Worth, please see it at WaterTower Theatre when it moves to Addison.)  I've just emailed off the construction drawings for Godspell, to be built and played in the San Francisco area.  I'm sketching away at ideas for Asher, the dramatization of a long-time favorite book My Name Is Asher Lev.  For anyone interested in art and the artist's life the book's examination of the conflict between artistic truth and personal and family feeling, between tradition and growth, is fascinating.  Chaim Potok is a good writer, but this is my favorite of his novels.

Speaking of books - I'm reading William Shakespeare's Star Wars Trilogy.   A hoot!  Very funny.  But even when the novelty of the iambic pentameter wears off, the author (really a guy named Ian Doescher channeling The Bard... if The Bard sat through a LOT of Star Wars rewatchings) gives characters clever soliloquies - like the priceless musings of the rancor's keeper.  Even sideline characters have comments on Imperial architecture.  And, you know, it's just flat a good story.

I'd love to see this actually staged.

Perfect for Shakespeare and/or Star Wars fans!

William Shakespeare's Star Wars Trilogy
Illustrations by Nicolas Delort, 
Author Ian Doescher.
Quirk Books & Lucasfilm Ltd.

Monday, November 24, 2014

More Quotage

I just happened across a musing on the necessary materials for creativity that exactly mirrors what I've observed myself:

"The first law of creativity: The act of imagination depends directly on the richness and variety of a person's previous experience because this experience provides the material from which the products of creativity are constructed.  The richer a person's experience, the richer is the material his imagination has access to."

This is from the writings of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, discussed in a post HERE at Keith Sawyer's blog Creativity & Innovation.

Mind you, a huge heap of building materials is not, in itself, enough to imagine building a creative house... The desire to build, the energy and time to build, and curiosity and wonder are even more important.  Only look at the vast numbers of richly experienced people who have never used that experience creatively.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Design Quotes

I like quotes.

Little nuggets of thoughts to turn over and examine.

These often lead to long monologues as you decide what you yourself think about the topic or to further reading, to research, and to then figuring out what you yourself think on the topic.  (Simply making the quote into a coffee mug or bumper-sticker rather short circuits that process, yes?)

Today's quotes...

From a webcast of the story "Edge of Your Seat" on the radio show 99% Invisible  this quote from architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, "A chair is a difficult object.  A skyscraper is almost easier."

Mies's Barcelona chair - Public domain image from Wikimedia

And from the book, Bambi vs. Godzilla: on the Nature, Practice, and Purpose of the Movie Business a snippet, a definition only, by David Mamet, "...entertainment, which is to say tincture of art..."

Tincture of art = art extracted by alcohol.


Not completely true, of course, but plenty truthy enough for any entertainment-artist's coffee mug.

Monday, November 3, 2014

And Here I Am...

...Taking forever to write the next blog post.

It's been distracting here is what.

My show, The Explorers' Club is being built in Fort Worth (need to go see that soon) and I'm consulting with a theater on possible new digs.  My guest and I went to the Women of WaterTower's fun n' fancy Halloween party (dressed as 2/3 of a coven in flower-bedecked pointy hats).

It's been all Fall stuff going on here: sweater-weather, a visit to the Dallas Arboretum to see the pumpkins, and Halloween itself with it's Jack-o-lantern carving, punkin seed roasting, and actual Trick-or-Treaters!... followed by the inevitable eating-the-rest-of-the-candy ritual.

Is there anything as nice as Candy Corn?

Happy Fall!

BTW A good funny/scary horror/ghost Halloween read is:

Great Halloween - or anytime - read HERE

An entertaining, clever, and horrible-yet-funny novel by Grady Hendrix , published by Quirk Books that will be especially appreciated by anyone who's ever shopped at a certain Scandinavian big-box furniture store.

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!


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.