Friday, April 11, 2014

Yeesh

Sorry for the arid desert between posts here... it's Tax Time.  'Nuf said.

There's something about going through last year's mileage records (really?  I drove to Fort Worth again that day?) and old pay stubs (really?  that little?) and badly folded receipts (really?!  that much!) that makes me feel all jaded and Wordsworthian:

"The world is too much with us; late and soon / Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers..."

I love my theater design job, but annual tax up-gathering sure can suck the juice out of it.  Like a bad review.  (Not much like W's "sleeping flowers," all these shekels.)   

Meanwhile, actual reviews have been good: Gidion's Knot at Kitchen Dog Theater is getting good press.  A tremendous clash of actress power in this show!  (The set's getting nice notice too - "meticulously executed."  I'll take it!)

Here's the full Wordsworth piece for Today's Poetical Pleasure:


THE world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; For this, for everything, we are out of tune; It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

A moonlit sea by Carlsen - a public domain image from Vintage Printable

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Good Advice

I just stumbled across this post "11 Things to Know Before Starting Architecture School" - full of great advice!

My personal favorite is the admonition to actually get sleep.  Very important, sleep.  It made all the difference in my own college career - my grades rose amazingly as soon as I swore off pulling all-nighters.  One of my prof.s used to say, "A project designed at 2:00 a.m. should only be critiqued at 2:00 a.m."... and then he refused to show up at that hour.  Seriously, what looks like a good idea when you're all sleep-deprived is usually not a good idea.  The companion advice is: Don't Draw Drunk.

Friends Don't Let Friends Draw Drunk - and wouldn't that make a great bumper sticker?

The applications of this architectural wisdom to theater is pretty obvious.

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli (public domain pic).  What the painter MEANT to call this work, 
obviously, was The 2:00 a.m. Design Idea.  Equally obviously, the swooning character is the sleepy designer.

So get your sleep.

Yes, the deadline is unforgiving, but you'll be so much more efficient and make so many fewer bone-headed mistakes (especially with dangerous tools) that any hours "lost" to sleep will repay themselves many-fold.  I promise.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What to Wear to the Theater

This is not fashion advice for the theater audience.

They mostly know what to wear - something a bit dressy or artsy or chic, yet casual (this is a casual age) and, pragmatically, with some sort of wrap so that they can adjust to the venue's air conditioning or failure thereof.  No, the audience knows what to wear... except You!  There!  Dress up a little huh?  This ain't cleaning out the garage!  Dress for Art please.

No, this is fashion advice for theater designers.

I've learned: never wear anything to the theater at anytime that can't to get paint on it.

If I do wear good clothes - even for an instant, even for a non-painting day - I am inevitably doomed to paint.  Or to rip, tear, stain, or otherwise ruin whatever I'm wearing by some other means.  Most recently, on an I'm-just-carrying-stuff day, I ripped a favorite dressy shirt.  Every pair of my "painting shoes" started out as "good shoes."  Ditto my jeans.  I wait for the first paint on new jeans with the same fatalism that new car owners dread The First Scratch.

Solution?

Wear jeans and accept a few splashes and rips as a badge of artistic virtue.  (No need to pay extra for 'em at those fancy fashion stores.  In fact, be sure to sneer as you pass their show windows because your paint and rips are for real.)

Wear only designated "paint shoes" when painting.  (I go barefoot if I've forgotten them.)

Shirts?  I wear worn-out dress shirts gifted to me by family, but the very best solution if you want to spent a few bucks, are thrift store Hawaiian shirts.  Don't ruin vintage or gorgeous shirts obviously (those are dressy wear!), but you can ruin ugly ones with a clear conscience.  The wilder patterns will disguise enough paint splatters that you can even go out for lunch decently.  My all-time favorite was a bright red grocery store Aloha shirt with dragons on it!

Aloha shirts - public domain photo from Wikipedia, taken by Vera & Jean-Christophe

* Another nice photo of glorious Aloha shirts HERE.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Sale! Book Sale!

My printer hasn't been having as many sales lately as they used to, but today is a biggie -
Waffle Day Sale!

Waffle Day?  Really?
Really.

Alice 'n Waffles!
Shooped from public domain images

Find out more about my how-to-set-design book Alice Through the Proscenium HERE at Lulu.com.  When you order, be sure to quote the secret code:



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Conversations

I love working at the MAC!  

The McKinney Avenue Contemporary is the home theater(s) to Kitchen Dog Theater and also has several art galleries.  I was lucky enough to watch the installation of the newest shows and to get to chat with one of the artists, Masami Teraoka , whose show Inversion of the Sacred is a perfect counterpoint to our up-coming play Gidion's Knot.  Beautiful, disturbing work... huge triptychs of gold leaf, oil paint, and... well, see for yourself.  (But don't bring the kiddies.)  The artist himself was very friendly and we had an interesting discussion about the basis for his new work - the church sex scandals - and society's seeming retreat from the liberality of the '60s sexual revolution to present day repressions.  You can have great conversations with artists!

Then, by an odd happenstance, I got to have another good conversation with an artist just days later - this time with a young up-and-comer working at the Dallas Arboretum's Children's Garden.  (A cool museum-outdoors  filled with hands-on exhibits).  That conversation was on art museum shows - we both liked the Amon Carter's Romare Bearden Odyssey show (previous post HERE) and the Fort Worth Modern's Kara Walker show.  The artist?  Kevin Owens; you can see a little of his work at RAW Artists HERE.  A great chat!

But what are the odds of running into a Hunting Art Prize finalist randomly at the spring flower show?

Public domain image of tulips courtesy of  mypublicdomainpictures.com

My third conversation of note was with journalist Lauren Smart of the Dallas Observer... an interview.

Being interviewed is a strange thing... on the one hand you want it to be a relaxed, friendly chat so that the interview is actually, you know, interesting for readers, but, on the other hand, you don't want to say anything too stupid.  I think I may have managed that part.  Mostly.  Judge for yourself HERE.

So... what fascinating conversation will be next?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tell the White House What You Think

I've written about online privacy issues before*.

Today the White House is asking Your opinion.  Go give 'em an earful HERE

The right not to be spied on by our own cell phones and computers is an issue we should all be worried about.  You've heard about the frog in the pot of water?  Try to drop him in boiling water and he'll kick and leap away, but put him in cool water and slooooowly raise the temperature and he'll swim in the pot happily until he turns into frog soup.  You and I, my friends, are presently floating in warm water, using a carrot as a floatie.

Time to kick!

Illustration "shooped" from public domain images, including the cook pot at publicphoto.org


*Earlier posts on internet privacy, spying etc.: Woohoo! Hi NSA, Privacy, and The Fourth...

ADDENDUM: Still unconvinced that meta data poses a threat to privacy?  HERE's a study at WebPolicy.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Back to Work

Sorry for the long lull between posts, I've been out of town on other business.

But, as always when returning after Time Away, there's suddenly a lot to do!  Lots of meetings being scheduled and rescheduled.  Lots of running around.

Yesterday was an architectural Lunch 'n Learn (to keep me up-to-date for licensing), an interview with a journalist (who inexplicably seems to want to write about my set design), some scenic painting (to help a friend), and an impromptu tour of Mountain View College's theater.  Pretty impressive.  I got to see the waaaay up there of the rigging - including the metal wire mesh floor of the lighting canopy over the stage's thrust.  I'd heard about these wire mesh lighting grids - the primo way to go! - but walking on one was more uncomfortable than I expected, not because of the too-good view of the floor below, but because the wire mesh had just enough give in it to suggest walking on a tight trampoline.  Kinda disconcerting.  Very safe, however, certainly much safer than catwalks when you're wrestling heavy and awkward lighting instruments. You can see examples of wire mesh lighting grids HERE at SkyDeck.  (I didn't take pictures myself because I was hanging on with both hands.)

This photo is from the SkyDeck site HERE  If that manufacturer objects to my use of it, please let me know and I'll remove it.

I also got to see the waaay underneath of the fascinating platforms that can be controlled to form either the raised stage's lip or large steps or a sunken orchestra pit.  Whatever's desired.  These are powered, apparently, by Slinky-Structure!  At least the mechanism that raised and lowered the sections of stage were not the usual hydraulic pistons; they looked like Slinkies TM mysteriously coupled with stainless steel tubes... I'm going to have to do some research.

Otherwise...  My show at Kitchen Dog Theater here in Dallas, Gideon's Knot, has progressed while I was gone - there's a door now! - but I need to show up today to work on more classroom bulletin board displays.  (I'm printing out pics of Norse gods as I type this.)  My shows for Circle Theater will be tomorrow's visit: Venus in Fur is moving from Fort Worth to WaterTower Theater in Addison, so I need to consult with carpenters on that, and Circle's next show, The Other Place, should be pretty far along in its build so consulting ditto.

Busy, busy

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Garland's Residential Idea Book

Today I put on my architect hat and...

Okay.  No hat.  More like making sure I'm wearing only black, white, or gray. (No, fluffy yellow bath robe as some bloggers might wear to type this post.)  Corb glasses are optional.

Corb.  A 1953 color portrait of architect Le Corbusier by Willy Rizzo at Design You Trust

There!  Ready.

The City of Garland - my home town - has published a wonderful guide book: the Garland Residential Idea Book.

The City of Garland's Residential Idea Book - I believe this is public domain, 
since this was paid for by tax dollars and the book is a free download.  Get it HERE.

This book is filled with useful information.  It helps a homeowner identify what style their existing home is, then suggests ways to work with that.  Ideas for renovations or additions that improve that house... not ruin it.  The premise is that you can update, make your home more livable by today's standards and more inviting (or, to be blunt, more salable and a better investment), by helping along its original architectural style.  Finding compatible choices in paint color, details, and landscaping are demystified.  There's a great section on Curb Appeal.  And this little book is so thorough that it includes great floor plans showing, for example, how to convert your garage into a master suite or how to enlarge your kitchen, each tailored to fit existing residential styles.  

It's terrific!

The book - like the inner ring suburbs it champions - has a certain charm.  There's affection in describing the characteristics and foibles of Garland's historic building styles.

The book starts with a brief illustrated history of Garland's residential development.  Around the city center are its earliest houses - charming late Victorians from the 1880s to the turn of that century- then a wider circle of bungalows from the "Craftsman" period of 1910-1930 plus the "Tudors" of the 1920s-1940s.  Then came the lull in building due to the Depression, followed by the boom after WWII.  I like the style designations: "Minimal Traditional," "Traditional Ranch," and "Late Ranch."  ("Minimal Traditional"!)  Later came 1970s "Contemporary."  (Architects of that vintage called these "Contempos.")  After that are just dates: "1980-2000" and "2000-present" because it takes a while to evolve a good nickname.  (I guess the moniker for the '80s will have the word "Gilded" in it... or maybe just "Brassy.")  A brisk, useful style guide.

Suggestions for home improvements are pithy too.  Photoshop-ed TM color options on real houses illustrate advice on finding compatible paint colors.  ("Shooped" is, I hear, the new vocab for image manipulation.)  Good advice on landscaping.  Top Ten ideas for quick fixes.  Photos and advice about the importance of building details is particularly well done.

Garland Residential Idea Book would help homeowners in many other places.

Get the free book HERE.

Or look on Garland's webpage (with more good info) under "Development and Permitting" and then "Idea Book Series."  I certainly hope this becomes a series, because this guide book is terrific.  What a smart way to spend my tax dollars!  The firm of Quimby McCoy Preservation Architecture created the book for the City of Garland - many thanks to everyone involved.

Best line in the book?

"...improvements are not just about making individual homes better, but they are also about improving neighborhoods as a whole."

I tip my architect-hat to that sentiment.  Let's improve the world home by home.