Friday, May 23, 2014

Runnin' Crazy, Or, Scenic Design as a Profession

Nutsy busy here.

Since I got back from vacation (very nice, thank you), I've been running to catch up with my career... which seems to have been careering off without me.

Monday and Tuesday were spent, in part, helping scenic paint the next show at Kitchen Dog Theater, Barbecue Apocalypse.  Its out-of-town designer hadn't known - until late - that KD has no in-house scenic painter.  Hence my volunteerism.  Lucky he packed his painting clothes, huh?

(It's amazing the teeny little bits of info any theater can forget to mention to new designers...  No existing drawings?  No pay?  No help?  Hot n' cold running rats?  Etc.)

Anyway, I helped with that plus catch-up on my stuff and Lotso Meetings.  In one o' those I picked up two shows at WaterTower Theater next season: one is a joint production with Stage West which will move from Fort Worth to Addison, The Explorers' Club (sounds like good fun! and a challenge) and the other is the classic All My Sons.

Then the first production meeting for Circle Theatre's Hope and Gravity.  I arrived late (darn DFW traffic!) with scribble-y sketches, ugly 3D computer sketches, and a duck-chewed looking model that was once the model for a different show on the same stage, ruthlessly reused.  Some designs are just hard to represent, you know?  This is a nice script... of the sort that calls for many fast changes of setting to which the director's desire for "ethereal" added another level of puzzlement.  Once I got my head around it all though, ethereal is exactly the way to go.  I'm looking forward to seeing this design, not in model or sketch, but for real.

Some good sets are impossible to show-n-tell, you just have to build and light the darn things.

One perk of helping paint was that I got treated to a nice lunch by Kitchen Dog's visiting designer.  He was kind enough to explain what work at the next level up is like - the traveling-between-bigger-regional-theaters gig.  In trying to balance family and work, he's set limits to how long he stays away from home.  Sensible.  The Big Regional Circuit pays better than the Stay At Home Regional that I'm doing... with travel as both part of the fun and part of the price of that gig.

We talked about the struggle to earn a living as a set designer.  His take is that it's not possible, but that it IS possible to create a living as a more general Creative: to stitch theater design with other creative work to make (quilt?) a viable living.  Of course, there will be good years and lean years.  I believe he's right.  In my case, last year's tax records proved to me that I need to make more money.  So time to stitch in more non-theater, better-paying creative work!  Sigh.  I'm not sure I really want to travel as much as he is - even if I could get the out of town gigs, of course.  Decisions, decisions.  

I can't over-stress how helpful it is it have another designer to talk to sometimes.

So... I think I'll go finish unpacking my suitcase.

Public domain image from

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