Saturday, March 26, 2011


Another big gap between Snippets!  (I've been preoccupied with other stuff, sorry.)  Here's another tidbit from the "Design Methods" chapter of Alice Through the Proscenium:

Designer’s Block -  It IS possible to feel your brain freeze solid.  Try the tips listed here or a vacation, but if the problem is a particular show, maybe your heart just isn’t in it. 4.18   Then a professional can fall back on technique and do an adequate – if not an inspired – job.  You can get yourself excited by bread-and-butter work, but be careful which shows you agree to design. 

Fear -  Your mental block may be intimidation…  Macbeth?!  When menaced by a Great Classic, ask, “What’s the worst?  I make a fool of myself – nothing new – but can I dim Shakespeare’s reputation?”  The comforting answer: “Naaaaaaah.”

The Bad Version – TV writers do this: you know it’s no good, but spit out the idea anyway.  Trying to improve it may lead to something with real potential.

Prejudices – Like stone tablets, some teachers hand out “rules” of scenic design, things like, “always have an entrance upstage center” or “never paint a set white.”  Bah!  Those aren’t rules, those are… more like guidelines.

Rules – Back in the eighteenth century there were real rules of design to fall back on, things like “classical unities” which guided playwrights.  Imagine the comfort of rules!  Nowadays creative types are left flapping - no rules need apply.  (Writers say one rule does still hold: “be interesting.”)  Freedom is scary - so give yourself rules.  If the theater, play, or budget don’t restrict you enough, give yourself the cozy blankie of rules: design only in black and white, or only with rolling elements, or…  Deciding what rules ought to apply starts you designing.

Habits -  Set up a regular place and hours for design.  (Mornings have the advantage that directors aren’t awake, so can’t interrupt.) In The Creative Habit, choreographer Twyla Tharp stresses habit, ritual, and organization in creativity.
4.18 Did you need the money? 4.19 Now earn it.
4.19  Needing the cash is a perfectly legit artistic impetus, as are deadlines and fear of criticism.  As Dr. Johnson put it, “"No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

BTW Alice is now fully functional (samples, pic, and the all-important BUY! button) at all three sources:, Amazon, and as an e-book for Nook, iPhone, and iPad etc. from Barnes & Noble.

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