Thursday, June 29, 2017

How'd That Turn Out?

Thought you might like a few pics of the completed Native Gardens set:

Native Gardens at WaterTower Theater - photo Gary DeVries

Native Gardens at WaterTower Theater - photo Gary DeVries

Native Gardens at WaterTower Theater - photo Gary DeVries

That's real dirt people, and (mostly) real plants.  A heroic job by the set-build crew!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Arts and Healthcare

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.


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"!

Friday, June 23, 2017


A fascinating explanation about creating coooool....

The MAYA design theory by Raymond Loewy at The Atlantic HERE.

car design by Raymond Loewy - public domain from the Library of Congress

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Color War!

Wired has the best write-up I've seen on the feud between artists Anish Kapoor and Stuart Semple over the rights to the blackest BLACK and the pinkest PINK


Public domain image from

Design Contracts

I'm of the school of thought that: 

If you don't trust 'em, don't work for 'em.

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.

    If you want your way, you have to pay. 
    If you don’t pay, I have final say.

    Let’s create something great together.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dream Dilemma

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.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


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...  

Photo by Charles Duke / NASA - public domain
See it in more detail HERE at MFA Houston


There's a new thought and image to store up.

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.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Legendary Scenic Designer Eugene Lee

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...

Friday, June 16, 2017


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.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Big Tony

Last night The Dallas Theater Center was given a rare Regional Tony Award for their work.   

Well deserved!  

In a radio interview Dallas Theater Center's artistic director, Kevin Moriarty, credited this win "to every carpenter and..." going on to explain that it is the result of decades of good work under several ADs and by many many artists and box office clerks and so on...  

I agree.  This is, in part, a win for the whole theatrical ecosystem of DFW.  

Important as the DTC is and Tony-Award-winningly TM excellent! as it's work obviously is, it just can't do such high quality work without a whole supportive world of contributors.  Contributors of both ticket money and artistic talent.  A Tony!  Wow, what a great validation.


Speaking of Thanks Due, I'd like to nod now to several theater colleagues who aren't around to share this community thrill:  

Kristina Baker, who died seven years ago now.  A wonderful performer and singer who I remember best as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.  I remember this show well because it was my first set design for a musical.  (Who knew musicals were different?  Or so hard?)  Kristina was wonderfully patient and good humored about those crazy-tall kinda-welded-together rickety metal stairs I made her climb.  While singing!  This show put WaterTower Theater on the map.  (And me too.)  Kristina helped raise the bar for local actors, while being unfailingly kind and helpful to us all.  Helping create the kind of theater ecosystem we have here.

Wade Giampa, who died in 2009.  A terrific scenic designer.  Lovely scenic painter.  His work raised the production values at Lyric Stage - famous for their musicals - and wherever he worked.  I remember a conversation with him onstage at a civic theater where, as we talked, he nonchalantly painted with a brush on a long bamboo pole... creating, effortlessly!, a birch forest.  A good and wise friend to me as I was learning about theater, generous with his experience.  Kindly sharing hard-earned wisdom with the newbies is - as Wade's example models - one of the best parts of our theater community.

Rene' Moreno, who died this year.  A wonderful director and much sought after, he was famous for the intellectual seriousness of his work and his gift with actors.  But also a lovely actor.  I had the privilege of designing several sets for him and the unique chance to design a set at Kitchen Dog Theater that featured him in Richard III... in a wheelchair.  A design challenge - all ramps - except for one set of stairs where, at the early off-to-the-party-ditch-Richard scene, his Richard was left behind, unable to climb after the others.  From the bottom of those stairs the look on Rene's face...

Or his voice speaking Shakespeare's:

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

These were all exceptional people... and yet part and parcel of a work-a-day theatrical community that continues on, doing good work...

So great congratulations to the DTC on their Tony!  And a moment to give thanks to - and for - colleagues like these who create a community in which such a cool thing is possible.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


Just a quick note - crazy busy building two shows (and helping out on a third designed by someone else).  One show is King o' the Moon  at Circle Theater.  The second is Native Gardens at WaterTower Theater.  Here are a couple pictures:

The model of Native Gardens photographed at my studio window.

The set under construction... Real dirt!  Real plants!  Real hard work!