Monday, June 23, 2014


I just read a very interesting blog post by writer Patricia C. Wrede titled "Six Things I Wish I'd Known."  As I've discovered before, writers writing about the act of writing have a knack of hitting on issues that apply to any other creative field.  (And they're so darn articulate about it too!)

In this case it was the element of jealousy.

Of other writers, designers, creators.  Theater is famously rife with this green-eyed problem.  Actors, poor dears, are so bad at pretending they're not envious.

Ha!  Designers feel the exact same poisonous stew of envy and competition.  There's always someone else who gets the show you wanted or the award you think you should have won or - equally unsettling -  you suspect that you don't deserve the show or award as much as they do.  It really can be a poisonous snake.

Public domain image

The only thing to do is to do your very best work and then to mutter your mantra to your snakey self.  For me it's, "I'm in this for the design."  (Not the rewards, fame, popularity, whatever.)  "I'm in this for the design."  Perhaps others are in it for the poor pay or long hours, but I find the reminder that what I want is just the work to be very soothing.

Do it for the work.

Read Ms. Wrede's thoughtful post HERE.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Quote of the Day

 “Till of late years England was as free from Criticks, as it is from Wolves.”
-  Thomas Rymer, 1674

Isn't that lovely?  An Edenic England.  So I suppose the Criticks arrived here in the States with the Mayflower?

Now (having poked the critics with that stick - was that wise?), come on out and judge for yourself: Circle Theatre's production of Hope and Gravity opened last night!

Public domain image from

It's a minimal set and, I hope, an "ethereal" one... with an elevator I'm particularly proud of.  (And you wouldn't believe how long something so simple took to do.)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

HighBrow? or Lowbrow?

One of the funnest... most fun?  okay, most giddy! joys of being a theater designer is getting to play riffs on the "class" game.  For any show where you determine the look of a character's environment, you get to peg them into their little round or square hole in society's Game of Class.

(America class-less?  Hardly.)

Choosing just the right detail or set dressing to illustrate the character's situation and aspirations is fun.

So today's little internet gem (thanks BoingBoing) is a 1949 chart from Life magazine that spreadsheets and illustrates the differences in taste between High-Brow, Upper and Lower Middle-brow, and Low-Brow.  See it big n' beautiful HERE.

1942 Life magazine chart of  The Good Life, by social/intellectual status level

Hilarious.  And, as far as I can judge, pretty darn accurate.  I know that in the 1920s the U.S. Census Bureau had a similar sort of checklist that helped workers peg families into their status-holes - so many points for books in the parlor, more points for a piano, a rug, etc.  My favorite book to discuss these matters - from the 1980s - is Home Psych, by Joan Kron.  (Read an excerpt, "The Semiotics of Home Decor" HERE.)

So what would today's status/class markers be?

Things - objects - are easier come by nowadays than in the past, but I'm pretty sure owning  "real" art would still  be one marker of high-brow-ness...  So would be reading high-toned literature.  What else?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reset the Net

It's been a year since Edward Snowden's revelations about how government spies spy on us all... and, although there is a lively debate going on, the U.S. government has still not restrained the spooks to within Constitutional limits.  The recent USA Freedom Act voted for in the House is a much-weakened version of a not-tough-enough-to-start-with piece of legislation.  A farce, basically.  Cream pies any minute!

Unless it's very well done, I'm not that fond of farce on stage...

I'm less fond of farcical spy-romping in my medical records, my finances, or my personal and professional life.  Our whole lives are online or over cell phones these days.

But we don't have to wait for politicians to get their act together.

A photo from the farce Too Many Cooks at Circle Theatre
See the guy under the counter listening?  

We can MAKE the internet more private.  Ourselves.  And we can demand more security from providers and websites.  I find the TV remote challenging, but even I know the most basic security move we all need to take:

The first step - right now! - choose different passwords for each website and choose stronger passwords.

"123456" is no good.  Neither is "abcdef."  "Letmein" or your address or your dog's name are just lame.  Choose a long string - 12 digits is good - and make those a mix of upper and lower case letters plus numbers and, for extra toughness, some punctuation.  Make passwords random!

But you can't remember such a long random string.  So you'll either need to write this down somewhere very secure indeed, or need to post it to a secure "lockbox" kind of internet service (which makes me nervous), or make your "random" string actually a mnemonic that you CAN remember... but that no one else can guess.

Password strength is the first layer of protection against identity theft and peeping government.

Read BoingBoing's good article on net security HERE to learn much much more.

Let's keep the eavesdropping on stage, huh?  Where it has a chance of being funny.