This week may not be exactly typical, but it's not uncommon either. A set designer's schedule can go something like this: Weekend - spend some time preparing for the coming week by finishing one set of construction drawings and starting the next. Also pulling portfolio photos of work for an up-coming introduction/audition/meeting thingie. Monday - up at 6:30 a.m. Breakfast. Scan and email one (small) set of construction drawings for one show. (Application Pending at Circle Theater.) Pull clothes (and even iron!) for the interview. Have the interview. Seems to go okay... maybe I'll get the new show? While wondering that, finish construction drawings then make a bunch of copies of those other drawings and design sketches for the other show you know you do have. (Ironbound at Kitchen Dog Theater.) Grab something out of the refrigerator at random to gobble while doing email one handed, then rush to the first read of Ironbound. A fascinating reading! Great cast. Also got to meet for the first time in a while several favorite people from other shows. Snacks and chit-chattery very pleasant. Production meeting afterwards. (Have to be shushed at one point. Scenic talk is too engrossing!)
Sketchbook doodle during the Ironbound first read-thru
My sketchbook is really a Day Book, where I record whatever I'm
thinking, reading, or researching about, plus meeting notes and
my earliest design sketches... and occasional grocery lists.
Home at 11:00 p.m. Eat a sandwich in the bath because that refrigerator grab and snack at the Read-Thru weren't quite enough. Also a drink. Nothing better than a hot bath and a cold drink. And a book. Tuesday - sleep a little late - 7:30. Create a model for yet another show so that theater's board of directors can approve the design. (Sister Act at Mainstage Irving - Las Colinas.) This involves making yet many more copies of yet more design sketches. I'm getting to know the owner of the local copy place! Hopefully I'll also find time to scan and send a director copies of an old 1950s version of "The Story of the Little Red Hen." (Which makes more sense than it sounds like it would. Really.) I have a head start on model building in that I had the forethought to get supplies like foamcore board last week. Dinner at home with family, woohoo! Wonder what I'll cook?
Here's an example of early design sketches - these are trying to
figure out how to make a few wagons (3) multi-task as about
87 different locations in Sister Act. It is SO HANDY to have a
sketchbook always on hand. I buy my purses sized to hold one.
Wednesday - will be, in the evening, the production meeting that goes with that model. Earlier comes the all-important lunch seminar on the American Disabilities Act which I need as continuing education credit to keep my architectural license current. Lotso note taking! (My sketchbook is interesting lately: notes and sketches on several shows; ditto from my jury duty... sad sketches; ditto on an imaginary planet I'm designing just for fun; plus nice serious architectural ADA notes to balance out the frivolities.) Thursday - a coffee-klatch with a fellow designer to look forward to. Friday - By now I need to have answered all the questions generated by my flurry of drawings - which may mean MORE drawings! - and have every show sorta settled for the weekend. Will I make it?
A chance to support the arts in North Texas... with a little extra ooomph! Kind people have pledged extra money to multiply your own kindness. Now, there are lots of worthy groups, but I'd like call to your especial attention to theater in general and Kitchen Dog Theater in particular.
Harvey sent 4 feet of water through Sara Hames' house, leaving her family to build a barricade by her curb made of wet debris and ruin... So her family called their musical theater friends and they put on Les Harveyables:
Even if your barn is flooded you can still put on the show!
Sorry, it's the times we live in. The latest upset? President Trump ending the DACA program which protected those undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and who have lived their whole lives here. These "Dreamers" have clean background checks; they're going to school; they fight in our military; they work hard; they start businesses; they even die trying to help flood victims in Houston. They are good Americans. They just don't have a stamp in a passport. I believe strongly that we should let them stay in their home country - the United States. Since I'm having printer problems and can't mail my postcards to my legislators yet, please feel free to print n' send this one to your own.
Please print and mail: 4" x 6" is legal postcard size
Or, if you're not into snail-mail, call your representative and senator. Demand that they finally pass the Dream Act.
Sometimes we just have to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.
Tech Day is mostly for lighting and sound. Set is (you hope) nearly finished. (Or maybe it's not.) And Tech - or Technical Rehearsal - is a day to push scenic elements around, to roll wagons, and slam doors and generally make sure that the physical elements of the production are working. Actors are there - their participation vital! - but they're usually bored out of their skulls at the stops and starts and sheer tedium of it all. Meanwhile, it's wildly exciting verging on panicked for stage management and designers. Especially for sound and lighting. (Costume is madly finishing things for the costume parade and Dress rehearsals coming soon. Basically, you don't want costumes on stage yet: the paint isn't all dry.) Here's what lighting was up to at yesterday's Tech for Echo Theater's production of Ruined.
I'm loving the colors glowing through the slats of Mama's Bar! (Thanks to the eagle-eyed company members who spotted their neighbor's old fence out on the curb for the trash! Great weathered texture.) The rest of the set? Well, someday soon I'll actually have all the scenic painting done. Fingers crossed...
What with one thing or another (hurricanes, politics, jury duty, etc.) this blog has gotten a little behind on, you know, theater! So here's a grab bag of images, in no particular order:
King o' the Moon at Circle Theater - sketch
Two shows back... King o' the Moon at Circle Theater. A fun one for me because it was larger and more detailed than I often get to design for this small basement thrust stage and because the carpenters and (new) scenic painter did a terrific job!
Notice the brick: that wire-cut effect (vertical lines, see 'em?), all pure paintery.
King o' the Moon at Circle Theater - rehearsal photo
I think this next show was right before that show (or after? this season anyway). Rasheeda Speaks is set in a surgeon's reception area - another uber realist set. With those fun hip-waiting-room-of-today colors.
Rasheeda Speaks at Circle Theater - sketch
Rasheeda Speaks at Circle Theater - rehearsal photo
This next is an oooold project, an indie film shot here in Dallas. Sometimes photos just float to the top of the internet, ya know? This shows the kitchen of the condo where we shot... and where most of the cast and film crew lived during filming. I painted and accessorized that kitchen, I set dressed it, I sealed it off with tape and a huge "HOT SET!!!" sign... and still I cleaned up after everyone's lunches (and breakfasts) over and over and over again. Like being House Mom at an extended teenage boy sleep-over.
Ciao a film by Yen Tan
To round out the Old Projects theme, here's my only TV game show design.
Dallas has a park in Uptown that's named for Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
I've always liked this park.
It's beautiful. In the spring azaleas bloom. All year round there are trees and grass, a handsome building (loosely modeled on Lee's Arlington) and a fine bronze equestrian statue of Lee and an adjutant. I like equestrian statues. To a designer it sits especially nicely on the site. Plus the granite steps at its base are a good place to eat a sandwich.
General Lee is an fascinating historical figure: a great and still-studied general; a traitor who chose the Confederacy over the Union; and a slave owner who freed his slaves during the Civil War... although once I researched that fact, it turns out that he did so only because it was required by his father-in-law's will. Complicated and ugly history.
Even before Charlottesville this was a controversial park and statue.
Before Charlottesville I would have suggested that hiding history is a mistake - better that the statue be left as it is but with context added, and not just that doomed adjutant and a few informative plaques. I'd like to call in a brilliant artist like Kara Walker to add that context physically, perhaps adding bronze silhouettes in her style spiraling out from the original bronze. Silhouettes of... slaves and those slaves made to dig trenches for the Confederate Army, of wounded soldiers of both armies, of lynching, of civil rights protesters and Dr. King, of Black Lives Matter and the Dallas police who were killed, and now, sadly, of Charlottesville. There is also a local artist who might add projections to this ensemble, turning Lee and these contextual bronze cut-outs into screens for the continuing story of race in America.
I think that could turn a memorial of Jim Crow Dallas into a living, growing, and perhaps important art work pointing toward an America that lives up to its promise.
I'm afraid even great art might become only a magnet for alt.right, neo-Nazi, and the KKK.
I do wish we could keep just the horses. Horses are innocent.
A mock-up of what the Lee statue might become...
(After the art of Kara Walker. If you haven't seen it, you MUST. Powerful, powerful stuff.)
Whatever eventually becomes of Dallas' bronze Lee, his sidekick, and their beautiful horses, we citizens must now make perfectly clear:
Bigotry is wrong. It betrays the soul of America.
We reject it.
Anyone or any group that advocates bias or violence against anyone because of their race, color, religion, origin, gender or sexuality is unAmerican.
ADDENDUM #1: Obviously, we need to change the name of the park back to its original one, Oak Lawn Park.
ADDENDUM #2: Another suggestion for unwanted but historic statues, plant them together in a park like the Russians have... read the BoingBoing post HERE. ADDENDUM # 3: Complicated issue isn't it? But I think a consensus is emerging that the confederate monuments should be removed. Here are Stonewall Jackson's descendants' views, from an open letter to the Mayor of Richmond, Virginia : "They are overt symbols of racism and white supremacy, and the time is long overdue for them to depart from public display."
ADDENDUM # 4: This has been a pretty serious discussion - here's the flippant one:
ADDENDUM # 5: Well, Dallas' General Lee statue is gone... removed to storage somewhere until, eventually, it goes to a museum. Let's let Lee himself have the last word. When asked in 1869 whether there should be monuments at Gettysburg he answered:
"I think it wiser... not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavor to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered."
“this country—this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, restless, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, good, and magnificent country.... What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We’re not getting done muchapart.” Sen. John McCain
If you haven't watched Senator John McCain's heartfelt speech, you should. HERE He's speaking to the Senate, but we should all apply his cry for bipartisanship to all our lives: talk to each other! listen! be open and work together to help each other and our country.
Call your representatives please. Tell 'em you like your internet neutral! Need more info? Listen to comic John Oliver HERE. And, of course, you can only watch that video because we HAVE net neutrality... otherwise mine would be a very slow lane indeed.
Two completely unrelated things: First: Whenever you're shopping on Amazon, please consider using the Amazon Smile page HERE where you can select Kitchen Dog Theater as recipient of free money! (Amazon donates 0.5% of qualified purchases.) Please and Thank You! We're saving to fix up our future Dog House so we appreciate every penny.
Second: A lovely and timely quote from Henry David Thoreau...
Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downwards through the mud and slush of opinion and tradition, and pride and prejudice, appearance and delusion...
till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place which we can call reality and say,
Anyone who's ever sat on a riverbank wriggling their toes in the green-y mud down to the cool, water-smoothed limestone below, you know how reassuring that solid, non-slip footing is.
Today - when life and especially politics! - seem especially slimy with opinion and lies... well, a fact that's an actual FACT is a comfort. I believe strongly that at this moment it is our civic duty to wriggle down through the muck to find truth.
Then to act on that.
The surface under our feet is shifting at this moment - rules for healthcare, the environment, the internet, education, immigration, trade, foreign wars and relations - all changing. We need to let our legislators know what we need and want RIGHT NOW.
We each need to figure out what truth we stand on.
(Thanks to Chris Tucker's review of the new Thoreau biography for reminding me of this Walden quote. Time to reread that book... and to look for that new bio: Thoreau: a Life by Laura Dassow Walls.)
Finding good names for colors is a vital skill for paint companies, but it's hard. I understand that, years ago, the endless torment of trying to decide whether to call that beige-y pink "Baby's Face Pink" or "Seashell Blush" drove one company to throw up its hands. (Corporations are legally people, people generally have hands, ergo corporations have hands.) They decided to just give colors numbers! Briefly. Because, turns out, #346-A7 doesn't sell as well as "Rhapsodic Red." It's a problem. Well, check out this post at Ars Technica on using artificial intelligence to take over the job... HERE Humans ain't outa work yet. My favorite AI generated names might be "Cremper Viulet" or "Kold Of Tale" - which would make great fairy tale character names. "Blue Child" (a pink) is a another favorite. But "Copper Panty?" ...bet that name sells!
Believed public domain image - found HERE with others!
On the subject of corporations as people... one of my trusty art and set dressing supply sources, Hobby Lobby, has just been caught illegally buying Iraqi antiquities, with the money possibly funding Islamic terrorists. This confused me because, um, why? New selections in Home Decor? Or in... Ceramics? But it seems they're starting a Biblical museum. Sigh. I've been trying to overlook Hobby Lobby's no-workers-here-get-birth-control-'cause-religion stand on the theory that workers can quit (theoretically) if that offends them. But I feel pretty strongly about knowingly fueling the stolen art market. Plus, you know, terrorists. So... Guess Michaels will be getting most of my business now. (Can't believe this, but I just took time to read Michaels' "Code of Business Conduct and Ethics" and to check their Better Business rating! They sound good. In fact, their "Code" seems admirable in content, presentation, and concrete examples. I'll hope they follow it.) Theater doesn't just talk about ethics, it requires 'em.
One of the hazards of relatively bad pay (and artists mostly earn low pay!) is that it comes - if it comes at all - it comes with relatively bad healthcare too. Whatever your politics, you need healthcare. This is the week to talk to your U.S. Senator to remind them how important your health is.
A very young Statue of Liberty
(Well... a very young protester merged with that goddess for online anonymity)
I messed with her charming face and the background... but couldn't improve her sign.
Speak up! I'm not kidding about the importance of good health - and the healthcare that helps preserve that blessing. A good friend, a theater designer, died prematurely because he couldn't afford insurance and so went to the doctor much too late. So. Take care of yourself. Find insurance you can afford (through a spouse's employer maybe? or the ACA while it lasts). Eat well. Sleep. And don't fall off that ladder while you're "exercising"!
Because, believe me, if your client doesn't want to pay you - or can't - no amount of contract language can make them. Not even small claims court. (And I've tried that. But I said "No" to the TV-judge-court, because that's just tacky. Long story.)
Luckily, most people are good people.
Likewise, if your gut or heart tells you that you're not compatible, believe it. (Your head will be screaming, "But we need the money!" Ignore it.) And, rarely, if you get deep into a project and then discover that you and your client have serious trouble understanding each other or have stopped liking or trusting each other, learn how to leave gracefully. One of my earlier bosses, an interior designer, taught me to Fire the Client.
This is not to say that every moment working with a wonderful client will be all celestial harmony and mutual admiration... there might be just a few fleeting moments of, um, disagreement. This is right and natural. Good.
The website BoingBoing today featured the design firm Segura's wonderful new client contract:
You give me money, I’ll give you creative.
I’ll start when the check clears.
Time is money. More time is more money.
I’ll listen to you. You listen to me.
You tell me what you want, I’ll tell you what you need.
You want me to be on time, I want you to be on time.
What you use is yours, what you don’t is mine.
I can’t give you stuff I don’t own.
I’ll try not to be an ass, you should do the same.
If you want something that’s been done before, use that.
Classic designer thing - go to bed thinking of problem / wake up with solution. This was what my muse handed me this morning:
I'm asserting copyright on this one - Clare Floyd DeVries 2017
(My avatar is the kid screaming over her bowl of orange sherbet. While the others are foolishly oblivious to the hazard of asphyxia inherent in running a motor boat inside a tunnel/canal completely blocked by more orange sherbet. I mean, come on! Everyone knows about this danger. I'm sure there are pamphlets explaining it.)
Hmmm... Not quite sure how to apply this to the problem at hand.
It's been a very busy year for me so far - both onstage and off - and, you know, sometimes you just need a rest. Artists especially, I think, need to refresh and recharge their creative batteries. Luckily, I now have a bit of a lull in theater deadlines. A break. So, rest. Yay! But recharging? How do you do that? Well, what I've found helpful before is as follows: 1) Take better care - eat and sleep better, exercise more, catch up on doctor's and dentist's visits etc. Buy new socks or underwear... and maybe a few cool summer clothes. 2) Have fun. Some of that exercise might be at the pool or beach! Watch movies. Goof off. Do something different... 3) Do / see / read / hear / experience something different. Like visit a museum. The Kimbell in Fort Worth has a terrific show about its original architect Louis Kahn right now. Lots of drawings and models, including a full scale mock-up of part of one house. (Plus, of course, the museum building itself. More HERE.) And the neighboring Amon Carter Museum has an interesting exhibit of Polaroid photography. More on that HERE.
I visit museums with a sketchbook...
you can't always photograph what interests you
After the sheer wonder of the BIG Polaroids I never knew were possible - 20"x24"! - the images I found most interesting were two by James Nitsch that incorporated both the actual object - a razor blade, a leaf - and its image. Fascinating to see the passage of time separate these objects still further... the razor blade rusts and its photo ages differently, the leaf dries and turns brown while its photo stays green. Time physically trapped in Art.
The most touching image was a Polaroid by astronaut Charles Duke during the 1972 Apollo 16 mission: a family photo (protected in a plastic baggie) lying on the dusty surface of the moon, a surface rumpled by astronaut footprints and the tire tread of a rover. That little snap-shotted American Family (kid in a tie!) lying there so long ago so very very far away... realizing that that kid's grown up now, yet that photo still lies there...
Artistic restocking is all about new thoughts and images stored up. Gathering!
So I'm reading, web surfing (is that still a phrase?), listening to podcasts and TED Talks (artist Dustin Yellen's work, wow! HERE). To someone who works in collage, Yellen's 3D collages caught in glass are amazing phenomena.
I'm going to the library again, now that I have time to actually bring back the books on time.
I've also traveled, briefly, to the Pacific Northwest - a beauty I hadn't seen before - and to today's Waco and HGTV's hot interior design Magnolia Market - a beauty I had not wot of. A marvel of marketing certainly. More travel soon!
Is it time for you to take a refreshment break too?
ADDENDUM: Found and added that great moon-snapshot.
A great interview with the legendary designer Eugene Lee... who's been designing sets for Saturday Night Live since it started in 1975! Oh, and little shows like Wicked and Sweeney Todd for Broadway. On Vox HERE. Sounds like the pace of live TV would kill me...
Perhaps you've heard about NYC's Public Theater production of Julius Caesar, which features a Caesar dressed as a Trump lookalike? This costuming gives Shakespeare's brutal killing scene - always upsetting - added, um, political bite. Obviously controversial. Let's be clear though, the production does NOT celebrate this murder. It's presented as a bad step in a tragic direction for the play's world. Pros and Cons... Personally, I think trump costuming in combination with graphic stabbing was a bad idea - though fair game artistically - but it just seems too violent for an ugly and potentially violent time. The recent shooting of baseball-playing Republicans (which the theater company couldn't anticipate) underlines the violence which we all feel simmering. On the other hand, many people are genuinely worried about a slide into authoritarianism - and a Juilus Caesar / Trump helps clarify those issues. Kinda a think-piece, this production. Certainly folks are thinking about it. But... a completely different quibble: doesn't the trump-look make the audience giggle at first appearance? I'll have to reread the play because I can't remember if that would be appropriate or not. I'd like to see the production, which is the only way to evaluate it. Artistic choices... Anyway, that NYC company has had serious push back - including loss of some funding and a huge public fuss.
Believed public domain image - Julius Caesar
Our local Shakespeare company has gotten death and rape threats! (They're producing one of the Bard's comedies and Quixote - not a toga in sight.) Maybe it's not surprising that people capable of vile emails don't read theater programs carefully. And, know what? writing vile emails is free speech and their right... just not the threats part. (Threats get sent to the FBI.) So please support theater. Even controversial theater. Because free speech matters. Art matters. Read further articles HERE. Or get a ticket to see the Bard locally HERE. Shakespeare certainly is keeping up with today's politics isn't he? ADDENDUM: I corrected the name of Shakespeare Dallas' production, just Quixote, no Don.