Monday, May 30, 2011

Creativity 'N Cool

I love this quote from Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Growth:

"Don't be cool.  Cool is conservative fear dressed in black.  Free yourself from limits of this sort."

Historic Preservation

Today's walk around the Texas State Capitol was a good show-N-tell tour of how architectural preservation and restoration should be done.

The handsome original Victorian-Classical building - of pink Texas granite - was restored to almost its original condition... but with air conditioning, elevators, public restrooms, modern security, and all those useful anachronisms.  The best additions of earlier periods, like the beautiful terrazzo floors that replaced the earliest tile ones, were kept, with a small area of tile flooring restored? re-installed? to show visitors how things used to be.  At the same time that the old structure was being lovingly refreshed, a brand new addition was built at the north side - creating a new lawn dotted with memorials and a new sub-surface mall that ties together the capitol and several adjacent government office buildings, plus a (much needed) garage and public amenities.

A very successful merging of history and modernity, sentiment and practicality.
image courtesy of Son of the South

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Architectural (partly) Field Trip

Today's visit was to the Dutchman Family Winery southwest of Austin.  Good wine - Italian varietals, mostly estate grown - wonderful Italian food at the next door Trattoria Lisina - and charming Tuscan buildings.

It's interesting to see how naturally the presently fashionable Tuscan-Italian style of architecture fits the dry, rocky terrain of the Texas Hill Country.  Thick masonry walls (up to 3' in places) are built of local limestone and are reminiscent of buildings by German settlers in Fredricksburg, except that here narrow Roman terracotta-colored brick is used for gentle arches over windows and doors.  Clay tile roofs recall Spanish or Mexican colonial architecture of San Antonio, not far south.  There is a blocky simplicity to these buildings that I admire - I wish I knew who designed them.  The gardens include native oaks older than the vineyard and herbaceous plants that suggest Italy, the south of France, or the great wine region of America, Napa Valley...  seeming perfectly at home in Texas' hot, dry climate.
photo courtesy of Dutchman Family Winery (the garden has matured since)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Film Fest Outing

Just saw the film Something Borrowed at the (very cool) Magnolia Theater.  An interesting rom-com - I enjoyed it - worth a ticket.  Quibbles: I thought the hero was a little weak (I preferred the best friend) and I think Kate Hudson is getting type-cast... go re-watch Almost Famous, still her best role - a terrific film.  Best line?  "The Hamptons is a zombie movie directed by Ralph Lauren."  (Deja vu moment - did I read that line pointed out in another review too?  It feels already said somehow.  If so, worth repeating!)

Opening Night!

Marvin's Room at Circle Theatre, Fort Worth, 8:00 p.m.  Come join us!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Today's Lesson Children?

Don't step off the ladder into the paint bucket.

Pulling Furniture

Theater warehouses are like dusty, rather mildew-smelling Aladdin's Caves.

Universally ill-lit and with narrow aisles, a theater warehouse is always piled rafters high with a motley collection of furniture: some of it real antiques come on hard times; some of it humble pieces jazzed up with trim and new upholstery, like an actor in stage makeup and costumes; and some of it built for a show and hanging on to help out, like many stage crew.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


The Freakonomics Blog just made me aware of Google's Correlations site, so I typed in "finding an architect".  As it happens, that search best follows the data for "homes in Maryland"... but who cares?  What I found fascinating/horrifying was the plunge in searches for architects between 2003 and 2011! Ouch.

Freakonomics and its new sequel are fascinating reads.  And there's even a documentary!


Time for a new series of Snippets from my theater set design book Alice Through the Proscenium - this time from the chapter "Design Elements:

What exactly is design?  What are you designing and what bits and pieces are you designing with?  The elements listed below are some – not all – of the elements of scenic design.  They are often elements of Design in General, whether of plays, pastries, houses, or hats.  These are listed here mostly so you, the designer, can go, “Huh! Forgot about that!”  And then think about it… 

Mass – This is perceived heaviness and solidity.  Sets, being built of light materials, often lack this, instead looking cardboard-y.  But real life has mass and real walls sometimes substantial thickness.  Mass adds importance to an element.  Aida’s Egyptian columns need size - and not to quiver when leaned upon.  At other times you may want delicacy and lightness.
 Solid/ Void – Solidity tends to read as stable and massive – void as light or empty “negative” space.  The interplay between these qualities is sculpture.  Study the model. There has to be a lot of empty space on stage to put actors in, but avoid aggressive voids which suck energy and life from the production.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


No matter how carefully you try to think through the scope of a set design, it's always possible to over estimate just how much can get built - either within the budget or within the hours/manpower available.

My As You Like It design is pushing those limits.  So I've been fielding questions: if there need to be cuts in scope, where those cuts would hurt least...?  I'm  hoping that doesn't happen, but, then again, it's nice if the build crew gets to, you know, sleep.  The Trinity folks are working hard, but building two ambitious sets simultaneously - mine and the Scottish play for another designer - is kinda nuts.  Doing beautiful work.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kitchen Dog's New Works Festival

Salutations Friends of Kitchen Dog!
One show left in our critically-acclaimed 20th Anniversary Season and it's a DOOZY! In its THIRTEENTH YEAR (Can I get a WOO HOO??!!)  Kitchen Dog Theater's  New Works Festival promises to be one of the best yet!  The lineup for the Festival totally rocks! All events are FREE for Kitchen Dog 10/11 Season Ticket Holders. 

Not a subscriber? Just get a Festival Pass  - only $35 for 12 plays includes your ticket to PONZI!
Come on down to the Dog and take in some of the best new plays around! See you at the Theater!  

(World Premier of PONZI opens FRIDAY, May 27 at 8pm - with playwright Elaine Romero in the house.  Parties?  Sunday June 5th following the 9 Circles reading & Sunday June 19 following the Exit Pursued by a Bear reading - sponsored by our friends at Dripping Springs Texas Vodka.)


You always think you'll be all visiting-designer-y, standing back, directing, clean... but then you grab a screw gun and... by the end of the evening I was cutting Styrafoam with a jigsaw (fun) and had polystyrene-bead snow in my hair.  (And in my ears and down my... everywhere!)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Set Designer's Day

Today is Build a Tree Day.
photo of Trinity Shakespeare As You Like It courtesy of G. DeVries

Carpenters will assemble  the sono tubes that make the basis of the big double-trunk tree in the photo above and then add strips of thin plywood and fabric to create the swelling toward the roots and bark textures.  While I stand there waving my hands, crying, "A little more toward  center stage, a bit more, a smidge, there!"  In a very important, bossy (and I hope helpful) way.

This is the painted model.  You see the final (non) color scheme.  Funny, I'm a big fan of color so my sets tend to be full of the stuff, but this season started with a black and white show (Death Is No Small Change!), followed by a black/white/gray/silver show (Broadway Our Way), and now by a low-color one (As You Like It); three in a one season.  Obviously my time to learn about value and shading, eh?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

TV Vampire Fest

For some reason opaque to me, our civilization is in the midst of a Vampire Kick.  From Goth fashions to best-sellers, the undead are unavoidable.  So - purely as a cultural commentator, you understand - I've been sampling this trend.  (Such scholarly plodding research.)

Lately I've been watching the short-lived TV show Moonlight.   Enjoyed it.  As much because of the cheesy dialogue, I think, as because the main vamp character is cute.  I liked his best vampire buddy a lot (following him to Veronica Mars, a good and well-written teen-detective show that's surprisingly vamp-free.)  Really, Moonlight's vamp-detective idea is just Angel-lite.  I would strongly recommend first watching the it'll-be'classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer then its spin-off Angel.  Angel the vampire has his followers, but for me, his show and Buffy are really the Spike Show.  More vamp-y goodness (with more sex and gore) at True Blood.  I haven't caught Vampire Diaries.

So what is this fascination?  Some of it is the pure hotness of recent TV and Film and Lit vamps, the whole forbidden romance with edge o' danger thing - very attractive to young human females.  (And to the not so young, please, ladies, skip the Team Edward T-shirts, they ill-become you.)  But I think some of it may be a wish that our modern world have more mystery and magic than it seems to.  Religion and superstition used to fill this gap - nowadays we get by on a thin ration of crystals, yoga CDs, and supernatural-romance novels.

Link to earlier Vampire Film Fest post and to a goofy supernatural stories kinda Squidoo site.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Criticism in Context

Before reading my last post on Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides or any other review, please keep in mind that it is infinitely easier to critique something than it is to create it.  It's easy for me to feel dissatisfied...  very very difficult for a designer to satisfy an audience.  And  creating the Fountain of Youth - make no mistake! - is a tough gig.

Film Fest Outing - Pirates!

A film review in two parts of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides.

PART ONE, AS TICKET BUYER - Fun!  It's got Jack Sparrow and Barbosa and Mr. Gibbs and Penelope Cruse as a pirate; it's got exciting chases and sword fights; it's got as much plot as needed and more clarity than the last Pirates flicks; and some wonderful new ideas, like the fate of the Pearl and the way mermaids are envisioned.  Oh, I'd absolutely recommend buying a ticket for a couple amusing hours in the cool and dark of your nearest movie theater...


(MILD SPOILERS)  I think the film's creators made one terrible omission: they left out most of the comedy.  No humorous pairs of pirates (that wooden eye!) no pairs of Laurel-N-Hardy soldiers.  No really comic side-kicks, few really characterful character actors - and those were serious-ish.  Less funny talk, fewer quips, less ridiculousness all around.  I hadn't quite realized this, but it's the quirky background world I enjoyed - as much as the adventure - in the first three movies.

New characters in this film (like a mermaid and a religious junior-romantic-lead) are well done, but they're serious folk with serious problems.  Blackbeard and his daughter are serious-minded.  Mr. Gibbs is subdued this time - even the monkey has a one-note part.  And Jack Sparrow?  He's himself, bless 'im, but not as loony as before, or so it seems, because there's not a single character who's properly exasperated by him.   Bugs Bunny without Elmer Fudd.
Ponce de Leon at the Fountain of Youth - believed public domain

PART TWO, AS A DESIGNER - My overall feeling is of opportunities missed.

The zombie idea was hardly used: mentioned, but no zombie jokes, not even a handshake with a hand left behind, nothin'!  (Go watch Shaun of the Dead.)  The mermaid idea is more developed (lovely special effects), but after the first minutes they are treated as mundane.  The logistics of coping with a mermaid prisoner on a hike are... well, cheated, I think.  So much opportunity for complications and comedy!  Only a couple of these were used - resolved in a mundane way.  Heck, we didn't even see anybody turn youthful!  As a designer, I just itch to step in (years ago) and point this out to the film's creators.

The production design effects me this way too.  The ropes on Blackbeard's ship are cool - otherwise it's standard issue pirate ship.  (Standard for this world - it's beautifully done, of course.)  London is wonderfully period, but not heightened or quirky...  Where are Florida's swamps?  Is it not Florida?  The swamp as we approached Tia Dalma's hut and then her hut, held a LOT more visual and story interest than anything in this film, including the Fountain of Youth.  Mind you, I have no idea how you'd improve this setting... but it's The Fountain of Youth!  It's given a nice environ, but the Fountain looked corporate-plaza-plop-art to me.  I tell you, my fingers itch - Itch! - to correct this.

But I'll watch the next flick.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Architect Barbie ?

Make that Barbie TM.  Spare me, please!  No, I'm okay, deep breaths, deeep breaths.  Architect Barbie - sure, why not?  Barbie has been an astronaut, after all, and probably a brain surgeon, as well as a princess.  But no pink on the architect dress!  For all I know, pink spacesuits and surgical scrubs may be realistic, but architects wear black.  Now, I wouldn't wear those heels, but I have seen them at job sites.  At least Mattel didn't include any sequins or tiaras.  But - oh no! - her little bitty architectural model (of a Dream House) is, is, is PINK!

At Architizer Blog or see her sweet little model on her site.

Jane Eyre

I just finished listening to Jane Eyre on CD in the car (coming home at midnight after a run-thru).

I've loved the story, of course, ever since I first read it as a teenager... Jane Eyre is exactly the sort of novel a teenage girl can moon over properly and a good many grown women retain their affection for the book.  (Hence the reappearance of film versions every generation since film was invented.  The latest here.)  But though I've read it quite a few times, I'd never had it read to me before.

Hearing rather than reading the book made me realize how elaborate its language is.  Not unwieldy nor purple - quite - but ornate, rich, teetering on the border of over-the-top.  For instance, Jane doesn't just not understand the person she's talking to - no - she was, "sensible that the character of my interlocutor was beyond my penetration."  And house guests don't just open bedroom doors and stick their heads out to see what the fuss is: "door after door unclosed; one looked out and another looked out."  There's an elaboration and a leisure to the writing that carbon-dates it as from another time.  Interlocutor? That's just big vocabulary.  Unclosed?  That's kinda silly.

But the story seems to be proving itself timeless enough.

Set Designer's Life

Got home last night at midnight after the designer run through of Marvin's Room.  (Good, funny, sad.)  Up at 6:00 today, in part to email those set notes to carpenter and painter before meeting at 9:30 a.m. at the warehouse of a theater kind enough to loan out furniture for Five Women Wearing the Same Dress... if we can find what we need.

Eep!  Gotta run...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pimping My Ride

One unexpected result of this blog is that I've started practicing with computer graphics.

Blog entries just look so empty without an illustration!  So, after recycling all my sketches I can, I find myself searching for public domain images - like Tenniel's wonderful Alice in Wonderland illustrations - then tweaking and combining and coloring and...  There's no end to it.

The illustrations are starting to develop a life of their own:  like Alice with her newly pimped ride:
Alice just wasn't satisfied, even after I painted on the name of her vehicle (learning how to distort lettering was a trick).  Not satisfied until she had both colored wheel rims and a hood ornament of the muse of theater painting, Scenosmearia.

(My late buddy Wade Giampa would have laughed hard at "Scenosmearia."  According to him, there are scenic artists or painters and there are "smearers."  I, alas, am only a smearer, but Wade was a beautiful painter.  I remember visiting him on stage once as he was painting - a flick of his brush became a birch tree, half an hour and he had a whole birch forest.  Amazing.  Good painters are amazing.  I miss Wade.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Finding Solutions

Well, today's scenic crisis seems to have gotten solved more easily than I thought it might at 2:00 a.m.

Basically the theater's stage is set so high above the auditorium floor (4'-0") that adding my rake, though it's a low one, created sight-line issues from house right.  After debate, we ended up agreeing to drop only the first 4'-0" of the rake, turning it into a step, and thus easing the view angle for the worst seats.  The carpenters have to be relieved!  (I am.)

The broken car problem was even simpler to solve - all it took was throwing great huge unwieldy gobs of money at it.  Easy.  Painful.  But easy.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Love Theater People - They're Handy

A Set Designer kinda day.  More driving, this time I visited the stage and shop at TCU where my As You Like It set is being built.  The raked, twisted platform is built (looks and feels great!).  The stage right and stage left legs with their portals are built and up, making big upside down U shapes.  Trees are coming: I saw sono-tube trunks and cut foam branches.  I was very encouraged at the progress.

Then I walked to my car.  Dead.

Battery okay.  Gas okay.  No start, no sound, no click even.

Walked back to the theater for succor (in the form of internet searches for tow trucks etc.).  Instead I got a helpful and handy lighting designer who whacked my car with a hammer until it started.

Tomorrow I'll be visiting a different kind of "shop."  What a day.

Gotta Laugh

Phew!  A good review for my Broadway Our Way set from a critic famous for, um... unpleasant reviews... and credit for my set went to someone else.

(A gaff deep in the program which this critic didn't cross-check with front page credits.)

It's funny.  Honest.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Cabaret - the Quibble

The Dallas Theater Center's is a terrific version of Cabaret and it's a terrific show - deserving its reputation - (Please read previous post.)  But... purely personally...  

What's with decadence?  

Sure, I know pre-WWII Berlin was like this.  Decadence has proven and continuing appeal.  Just ask any rock star/drug lord/jet-setter/etc.  But if "life is a cabaret," can I sit in the kitchen?  Please?  There's useful stuff to DO in the kitchen, kitchen people have purpose.  Plus usually it's quieter and the lighting isn't so murky.    

This is my quibble with the supposed glamor of the Anne Rice style vampire too: after a few hundred years, wouldn't decadence get... boring?  How about after, like, ten human years?  Or after the years 21-27?  Six solid years of decadence (while young enough not to mind hangovers) seem like plenty to me.  Could I get a couple years off for extra bad behavior and only serve 3-4?  

Seriously.  Cabaret strikes me as Chuck E. Cheese for adults (not grown-ups): the same clashing chaos of lights, sounds, violent movement, heat, and crowds - all but the manic ding-ding-ding of games - that make that rat-palace an inner circle of a parental Hell.  All the Kit Kat Klub needs is one of those ball-pit playrooms... I shudder to think what they'd get up to in there.  

But Chuck's kitchen - making pizzas - that's nicer.  From what I've read of kitchens (cough-Chez-Panisse), there may still be enough goings-on to keep boredom at bay, but with actual bay leaves and French cooking.  Wonder what they cook at the Kit Kat Klub?

Not a Review: Cabaret

Hard to believe, but though I knew the songs and story, I had never seen a production of Cabaret.  Which may give me a unique perspective on the Dallas Theater Center's version.

Singing, dancing, choreography...  amazing!  The first glimpse of the show is the M.C.'s arrival - memorable - then his "girls" and "boys."  (These and the jokes were as tawdry as expected, the physical gags rather more so.)  Story lines were fascinating: Sally Bowles and her writer; the landlady and her fruit-vendor suitor; the prostitute who up-grades from sailors to a nice Nazi-supporter.  The acting was so good that my heart broke first for the fruitier, then for his sweetheart, until I left nearly as bruised as the writer.  I wanted to shake Sally till her teeth rattled.  Both the prostitute and the Nazi were, if not exactly sympathetic... real-life sized and believable.  You could feel - way up in my balcony - the retired-tart just reveling in her new fur coat.  The Nazi...?  Believable.  And the ending tableau (which I won't spoil) was strong.  A powerful, beautifully realized production of a show whose fame I now understand, by director Joel Ferrell.  Go!  Buy tickets!

Bob Lavalee's set supported this well.  Nice to see an asymmetrical thrust in this space - a spare, well detailed arrangement of that thrust stage with a wider stage behind it and, behind that, the band on risers rather like restaurant booths.  Furniture and a doorway rolled in and out to furnish "rooms" on the thrust.  Behind and beside the band, stairs wound round to a L shaped bridge that worked perfectly as the boarding house hallway (occasionally clogged with sailors) and other "off" locations.  Behind this bridge a tall semi-sheer curtain sequestered further-off-stage acts like the writer's beating; from my seat, actors behind it were not always visible, but their gigantic shadows added a lot.  At the end, bridge and curtain played a very effective part.

A few quibbles and a little Dallas boosting: I got a little tired of furniture moving (show writers - do you think about multi-settings?).  I've heard some sight-lines are terrible and believe it - folks seated under the bridge can't see much of those scenes, for instance.  But my seat was okay, so why should I care?  (A very Cabaret viewpoint, that.)  The boosting?  How good to see Dallas talent put to use!  Mixed with visitors were many local actors/singers/dancers plus a local set designer and director.  Finally the DTC is becoming the foundation it should be for our arts community.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Film Fest

I recently watched two films with only one thing in common: Natalie Portman.

The first was Black Swan, where she gave a riveting performance as the White Swan ballerina struggling (in every sense) with the role of Black Swan.  A lot has been written about this film, so I'll only say, "See it."

The second was the newest super hero movie Thor, which I enjoyed.  Thor isn't a comics hero that I know well (I lean more Batman and Spiderman), but the contrast between the high language of Asgard and the comedic moments in modern New Mexico were fun.  Plus the interest of seeing Kenneth Branagh directing a comic book hero.  Portman was fine and funny, but didn't have quite enough to do; the actor playing Thor did, I thought, very well.  It'll be interesting to see Thor reacting with, say, Captain America, in the up-coming Avengers film that Joss Whedon is directing.

Off to see the Dallas Theater Center's Cabaret...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Architectural Continuing Ed

I think it's a wise law that architects (and most other professions) have to take continuing education classes in order to maintain their licenses - technology, laws, codes, environmental and other issues just keep changing so much and so fast that it's salmon-swimming-upstream-time to try to keep up.

This week's lunch seminar was on rain screen systems, hosted by Abet Laminate, an Italian company that makes phenolic panels.  Translation?  A rain screen is a sort of outer face that interrupts driving rain and "skins" a building, but is not the ultimate water-proof layer... it's similar to tents with a separate rain fly.  Air movement between the layers helps handle rain penetration, water vapor movement and condensation, and can shade the interior from solar heat gain.

image of U.S. Army tent in Iraq (with rain-fly roof) courtesy of wikipedia

Phenolic panels are essentially the big brother to the plastic laminate sheets used as kitchen counters - much thicker and stronger and just as hospitable to color and pattern.

image of rain screen building with phenolic panels courtesy of Abet Laminate

It's kind of fun to see the same principals being used in this rain-screen building - so much more colorfully!

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Just Realized...

When Blogger was down, it lost the previous post.  I don't remember what I wrote, but here is the picture - from  the Stage Design by Joseph blog:

Set Designer's Life

Blogger was down for most of yesterday, but you, Dear Reader, didn't miss too much excitement: a trip to Fort Worth to paint some chairs Flamingo Pink!  (I took the actual flamingo into Home Depot to match the color.)  (A plastic flamingo, the live one wriggled too much.)  I got a couple looks.

Sometimes I enjoy the What-the-!   The Wonderland-ishness when theatre crosses "real" life.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Battlestar Galactica

I've decided that Battlestar Galactica is an opera...

No one happens to sing, that's all.  But it has all the heightened (not to say mildly-crazed) emotions, the surging music (drums mostly) scoring under the dramatic bits, the on-the-verge-of-bathetic crises...  Opera.

Compulsively watchable opera.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Here's That Sketch

The one inspired by Edward Gorey that I mentioned in my last post - on the Stage Design by Joseph blog.

Architectural Sketches

Even before Vitruvius, architects have needed to sketch in order to explain ideas.  Today?  Not so much.
sketch by le Corbusier

It's one of those generational complaints: older architects moan that younger ones can neither hand-letter nor hand-draw...  The computer making both skills less necessary.  Notice I say "Less."  I believe (and many artists would agree) a designer thinks using their trained hand, that when you sketch, you're not just recording information - as a photo does - but analyzing and internalizing your understanding.  It's the same mechanism that makes writing your own notes more memorable than photocopying someone else's, but added to that is the effort to really look.  To see.  The sketch needn't be pretty - that's a bonus.

Perhaps the only advantage of the terrible job situation right now for young architects and interns may be that they have time to look, sketch, photograph, and think.  Many good architects will leave the profession - go where there IS work.  But it wouldn't surprise me if, when building resumes, a new generation rises of very thoughtful, dedicated, and determined architects.  Some of which can sketch.

The art of architecture could use that energy.
sketch by Andrew Lewis

I love the economy of this sketch of the Alamo by Andrew Lewis.  You can see the artist thinking through the proportions, the symmetry, the geometries of the building.

ESP at work - my set design apprentice just called to discuss his sketching.  He's at the stage where he's looking for exemplars and is studying Edward Gorey's technique.  And here's an example:
image by Edward Gorey courtesy of Mental Flea Market

Mini Film & Book Reports

On the film front: I watched the classic 1969 Cactus Flower with Ingrid Bergman, Walter Mathau, and a young Goldie Hawn.  Still amusing, but undeniable quaint now.  The "wild life" Bergman's old maid discovers (in her mink stole) looks... kinda sweet - a mildly hippy-dippy nightclub where two glasses of champagne is racy.  I suspect the place might serve pot brownies, but it'd be Mom in the kitchen baking and they'd be served with warm milk.  My companion's reaction was: "So that's how movies used to be.  (pause)  Nothing blew up."

The novel equivalent might be the series by D.E. Stephenson I'm re-reading: I just finished Mrs. Tim Christy, starting Mrs. Tim Carries On, which continues this British Army officer's wife's adventures into the early days of WWII.  Not like that was what you could call an innocent time (genocide?), but daily life certainly seemed so.

I can only conclude that our own time will seem quaint too.  To some future.  Somehow.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


What a lot of running around - I think I drove a huge clock-wise circle around Fort Worth.

Set dressing.  First there was a trip to the big theater warehouse to pick up some furniture, but mostly to confirm that, yup, there are no chairs like what I need: 3 (not 2, 2 is easy) matching, side-chairs with arms, paintable, and, by preference, bentwood style.  Zip.  So after that a run to a fabric store for the muslin I keep forgetting (a liner to the plexi-glass faux glass block wall); on to Garden Ridge for cute, cheap, colorful chairs; on to my noon meeting; back to deliver chairs and fabric; home.  Sit.

A big part of set designing ought to be called set-driving.

(I once heard an amusing description of the New York City version of my day, except that designer was lugging furniture on the subway.  Poor soul.)

Set Designer's Life

Rushing out the door...

To Fort Worth to pull furniture for Marvin's Room (before the day heats up please) and noon meeting re: As You Like It.  First pasting up paint elevations, grabbing now-painted model (fast photos last night), hoping glue doesn't stick things together on the way over, stop typing!...  

Jane Eyre on CD in the car...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Art Fest

Sunday I visited the Cottonwood Art Festival in Richardson.   The Festival is always colorful and pleasantly crowded.  Artists' booths are scattered through the park - some in the sun, some in the shade of tall trees - along with bands, food wagons, and a shady outdoor cafe.  There are children and ducks (a fun combination) by the bridge over the pond; kids' crafts; more food; mobiles spinning in the breeze; and more booths filled with fascinating art...  This is one of the best shows around, with a very high standard of work.

Lots of photography this year.  Goldsmith Jo Jennings had her usual booth near the entry, though I noticed (due to the price of gold I'd guess) her work features more stones/ less gold than in other years.  The ceramic alligator-head sculptor wasn't there, but the fantastical-painters couple were, with a wonderful ceramic bust of... a conquistador?  if his helmet were to become a Spanish galleon, that is.

My favorite booth this year belonged to Stephen Dickerson, an artist working on wood panels with acrylic and colored pencil, which creates lovely complex color and a linear quality I like.  I bought a small incised panel with a pair of fish - one with a large, sapient eye.  (The painting below has similar fish, though none with that thoughtful eye.)  There was a large panel with an egret like this but, in the distance, a house on thin marsh-y green-y stilts which I'd love to own.

image courtesy of Stephen Dickerson's website

Cottonwood Art Festival happens twice a year - try to catch it next Fall!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Vampire Film Fest

A double feature (accidentally watched in the proper order) of The Lost Boys and Let the Right One In.

The first is a fun '80s teen-vampire movie with verve and humor and just enough gore, a lot of fun to watch.  (BTW a better precursor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series, than the movie by that name.)

The second film is a thoughtful, moody Swedish film (subtitled) about an alienated twelve year old boy who is being bullied at school, and who makes friends with the strange new girl next door.  Very effective film about a strangely touching friendship.  Highly recommend both films.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Coolest Kid's Room Ever!

A "real" pirate ship, floating above your head.  I want one!
By Kuhl Design Studio - check it out HERE.  (This article was brought to my attention by which I'm really enjoying.)

Not a Review

Broadway Our Way opened last night.

Here's what I always check first on my own shows: the set looked good.  The carpenters did me proud, the design's size and layers etc. looked about as I'd hoped, and the director and producers used it beautifully, turning in a way that helped the action on stage and kept the look fresh.  The lighting designer made the set and stage look fantastic!  Colors, patterns, lovely dramatic looks.

The show itself got all polished since I last looked.  Very effective.  Some funny stuff .  Some wonderful voices!   There really is a depth of talent in DFW... and all of it seems to be on stage at the Kalita Humphreys.

This is Uptown Players' fund-raiser so, please, go see this very entertaining show and spend money!  (One of my fund-raising tickets is a chance at a tiara - cross your fingers for me.)
tiara on Queen Sofie of Greece courtesy of the Royal Forums

Friday, May 6, 2011


Bits and snippets from the set design life:

Yesterday I helped the carpenters hang upstage fabric drape/flaps for Marvin's Room (they played "carpenters", I played "eyeball"), plus that Production Meeting.  Hanging around Fort Worth as two 100 mile trips in one day seemed, um, dumb.  So yesterday was teach-myself-computer-graphics day.  (See yesterday's post for the results.)  I've been sketching fly-in windows for As You Like It - next I need to finish those paint elevations.

Books: Still plugging away at Mark Twain's Autobiography.  Good, but a dip-into kind of book.  Meanwhile also rereading a charming old D.E.Stevenson semi-autobigraphical novel, Mrs. Tim Christie, about a 1930s British Army wife.

TV/Film: Still enjoying Battlestar Galactica.  An addictive show.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I've know for a while that I needed to get serious about learning to use the computer for collage - scissors and glue being only one short step up, nowadays, from chipping flint.

Today I had time to goof around.  Here's my first experiment:

Titania herself courtesy of Inigo Jones

Too Cruel!

Those Battlestar Galactica writers...
A Three Part "to be continued"?!  Boy am I glad I'm not watching this with week long breaks between episodes.  How will Galactica get out of this mess?  Cliff-hangers drive me nuts.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Less Serene Today

A bit more painting.  Basically, there's no end to doing the fiddly stuff on a set - eventually you just stop because the audience comes filing in...  Today there was company and chat (gossip? never!) and a more bustling feeling as Opening gets closer.  Broadway Our Way. Uptown Players.  Friday.  Be there.

But before putting on my I-live-under-a-bridge painting fashion wear, I wore my architect-uniform for a continuing ed. lunch seminar.  Exciting stuff.  Insulation.  Yep.  Not just any insulation either: polyisocyanurate.   (Good roast beef sandwich.)  The previous lunch seminar was on elevators and more exciting since elevator systems have changed since I used to read the textbook on the subject - years after school - on those nights when I had insomnia.
image courtesy of Clipart Graphics

The Zen of Painting

A good day yesterday.  Finish-painting my Broadway Our Way set, I had the Frank Lloyd Wright theater to myself.  Sure an air conditioning guy thumped in the basement and Uptown Players staff worked upstairs - now and then someone would wander through - but for hours, just me.  Empty theaters can feel creepy, but the Kalita Humphreys feels warm.  (Not in temperature, it's always freezing - what's the A/C guy doing?)  If this stage is haunted, it's by friendly ghosts.  Still, I ought to have felt lonely.  Just me.  No radio. Paint buckets.  Doing fiddly stuff with small brushes.  Instead it was...


Serene doesn't happen much.  There's a rhythm to painting.  An absorption.  A relaxed concentration that leaves time for thought.   Another rare thing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Paper Architecture

I just came across two fascinating websites on paper architecture - building models made just from paper, often only a single sheet.
image courtesy of Ingrid Siliakus
image courtesy of Jill Sylvia

Monday, May 2, 2011


Rereading that last post it strikes me - Minerva is a goddess of War.

Theater Interrupted...

Yesterday was Tech for Broadway Our Way (a fun show, I think).  Midway through, an actress stuck her head from stage left to announce, "They've got Bin Laden's body!"  Rehearsal continued.

Another non sequitur is how I heard of 9/11 - an overheard fragment of talk, then realizing that radio was being broadcast throughout the fabric store where I was shopping for a show, "...smoke rising from the Pentagon..."  Both times it took a while for the news to sink in, but this morning I feel a fierce  satisfaction.  Am a little ashamed of that satisfaction.

Imagine living such a life that thousands, millions, celebrate your violent death?


The post I'd been intending to write (before this news) was a peaceful one about an almost-rainy afternoon in the lovely gardens of the Valley House Gallery.  Statues, mostly human figures of what looks like earthenware, dot the grounds and gaze at the pond, with a group of crouching figures, arms wrapped round their bodies, waiting stoically under a tree.  In the gallery is an exhibit of paintings by Henry Finkelstein.  Fantastic color!  My favorite was an interior in an expressionistic mustard-y yellow, showing a marble fireplace mantel with a bust of Minerva.  Gorgeous.

I'd been returning from a trip to WaterTower Theater to photograph my Lady set, happened to see the "garden party" sign, and stopped on a whim.  I should stop more often - it's a good gallery and there's something soul-restoring in those gardens.
photo courtesy of Valley House Gallery

Maybe the world's struggle is not really between governments and causes...  Maybe the basic conflict is between making and breaking - between the human impulses to tear down or to build up?  So fiercely satisfying to smash! So much quieter and more difficult to create art or a garden.  Thankless tasks, often. Yet, how can a sane person prefer death over life?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Strangest Industrial Injury...


Yesterday I put in some serious spray-painting (turning those beads silver).  Six cans.  Now I wonder how graffiti artists do what they do...  Do they build up a callus on their spray-can fingers?  Because mine is weirdly pins-and-needles today.

Film Fest Time

127 Hours.  Hard to watch, but worth the discomfort.  An amazing film about what seems an unfilmable event - a climber trapped by a falling boulder that pins his right arm to the wall of a narrow stone canyon... just a crack in the earth.  Gotta be tough to film an action movie where the hero can't move!  Beautifully photographed.  And a brilliant job by James Franco, who was nominated for an Oscar (and I can't now believe he didn't win).  It reminded me a bit of Castaway, both being of the man-trapped-alone-with-big-problem genre.