Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Volume of Internet Stuff

 In aid of getting out the word about my new second edition of Alice Through the Proscenium I ended up just, y'know, ego-surfing... to see what pops on the internet when I type in my name or catchy phrases like "Clare DeVries theater book" and like that.

As one does.

In that surfing I found (like notes in a bottle) photos I'd never seen of a show I designed last spring for Tarrant College SE, The Volume of Smoke:

Photos I believe are by its multi-talented director Brad McEntire

Friday, April 26, 2024

Alice Through the Proscenium - Second Edition is OUT!



Finally!  My second edition of Alice Through the Proscenium is for sale.  (I'm still wrestling with distribution through Amazon etc. but the publisher is now, um, publishing.)

This updated and expanded edition adds a new Case Study, following the full process of Kitchen Dog Theater's production of Alabaster by Audrey Cefaly.  I've also added information on topics I knew little about when writing the first edition, like all the various proscenium stage drapes or working with projections.  This new version includes color photos so is a bit more expensive (sorry), but I'm keeping the older, skinnier, cheaper version alive for the desperately budget-pinched.  

(One nice side effect of including a few color photos though is that now the hand-drawn color wheel illustration is in color!  Woah!)

You can buy Alice 2 at the Lulu Publishing bookstore HERE.

Side note: On Monday I was very excited to receive from The Live Theatre League of Tarrant County an award for Design and Technical Excellence!  Really pleased!

But, in introducing me, my introducer (another thrill, because it was the very distinguished Harry Parker, who said nice things) also told the world that Alice's second edition is OUT! 

Addendum: In his introduction he urged the audience to buy it, saying, "It's funny and I learned things."  Which, frankly, should be on the book's dust jacket... if it had a dust jacket... 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Eclipse Load-In


The load-in for Murrow into the Dallas Opera's Hamon Hall was also the day of the total solar eclipse in Dallas.  

Inside, we worked on unloading set materials, assembling the TD's cleverly pre-cut and labeled parts for the fabric frames and stretching muslin over them, trimming, touchup painting, and hanging the fabric panels.

Just after one o'clock we broke to go out and join the sun watchers outside.  

The Arts District was interesting during the eclipse: there was a band and a small crowd of people on the lawn of the park.  (I got the impression that most locals had been discouraged from gathering by all the warnings about terrible traffic etc.)  But this was a happy, chattery small crowd.  Little kids ran through the splash fountain.  A trailer sold hamburgers (and a bar sold "Tequilla Sunrises" ha!).  

Luckily the clouds broke for the totality which was breathtakingly strange.  Once I looked away from that black disc moon with white WHITE light ring around it, I could see all the little lighting usually washed out by daylight... the hamburger truck was a beacon - a lighthouse! - and all the lights inside lobbies or offices glowed amazingly ... then quickly faded from view as the sun uncovered.  Strange and beautiful.

Then we went back in to work. 

This is just after the Eclipse Break (every show should have one!), when we were starting to hang the first panel.  The Hall has a beautiful and super fancy fly-in lighting grid... though we ended up using a lift as well.

And here's the almost final result (under work lights), just before we added the black skirts to the platforms:

Set for Murrow - design & photos by Clare Floyd DeVries

(Mind you, I kinda dislike skirts on platforms because they evoke convention booths, but they are fast, effective, and free so I'll live with them.)

Friday, April 5, 2024

"Know Thyself"... If You Can

I found this musing on Socrates' old advice today... It's surprisingly hard to "know thyself."  

From an article by Maria Popova at The Marginalian HERE :

“One must know what one wants to be,” the eighteenth-century French mathematician Émilie du Châtelet wrote in weighing the nature of genius. “In the latter endeavors irresolution produces false steps, and in the life of the mind confused ideas.” And yet that inner knowing is the work of a lifetime, for our confusions are ample and our missteps constant amid a world that is constantly telling us who we are and who we ought to be — a world which, in the sobering words of E.E. Cummings, “is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else.” 

The article goes on to say:

"Try as we might not to be blinded by society’s prescriptions for happiness, we are still social creatures porous to the values of our peers — creatures surprisingly and often maddeningly myopic about the things we believe furnish our completeness as human beings, habitually aspiring to the wrong things for the wrong reasons."

As often, thanks to artist/writer Austin Kleon for bringing this to my attention!

(Following the chain of references starting from Kleon, through E. E. Cummings, led me eventually to this quote from Nobel-winning poet Seamus Heaney: “being true … to your own solitude, true to your own secret knowledge.”

"Know Thyself" but in Latin 

What's been going on?  Well, I've been crazy busy designing and drawing several shows and mentoring a talented group of early-career scenic designers.  I don't feel free to post those designs yet (I like audiences to be surprised), but two of them are seemingly very simple, mostly screens to play on with light and images, but one is Sherlock Holmes' famous 221B Baker Street apartment, and another is the musical Matilda.

Links to earlier blog posts on Matilda HERE and HERE from when I visited NYC, saw the show on Broadway, and was lucky enough to hear its Tony-winning set designer, Rob Howell, talk about it.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Eminem and the Necessity of Notes

 It can be interesting to see how creative people do their thing.

Today Austin Kleon's e-newsletter introduced me to rapper Eminem's obsessive, crazy-hoarder-looking notetaking... and I felt a rush of sympathy and understanding, for I too scribble notes.  (Less impactful ones, noted.)  

From Kleon to Jillian Hess's piece in Noted HERE, to a film clip with Eminem and Anderson Cooper (in this 60 Minutes clip at 1:11 HERE)...  This is a poet who is obsessed with rhyming and works out his lyrics painstakingly by ear and by hand on scattered bits of paper that he stores in boxes.

We should all be doing this!

Not the scribbled rhymes for us maybe, but the dedicated working out, ruminating, scribbling, and saving.  This is where much of the good stuff that bubbles up in us can be found again later when we need it.

Eminem calls his thought-storage "stacking ammo."


Tuesday, January 30, 2024

In Other, Non-Theatrical, News

I've been spending a lot of time over the last few years - since covid began - working with an international group of Minecraft builders, building what started out as a single Elven city and is now more of an... entire continent.  

This is the most recent work, the start of a new city, Saelengard (with it's adjacent port).  The community is built on the edges of a vast natural salt formation, a snowflake-like geological sort of tide-flat whose delicate landscape we're trying to respect and celebrate.

Anyway, an interesting design challenge!

  Saelengard in the world of Illias by AstrophagyMC:  Foreground buildings 
are by Brainpoix, background buildings by Barthelemy_Lafon, 
amazing landscape by AstrophagyMC 

You can see more ambitious Minecraft building at Astro's Instagram or You Tube videos.

Making Trees on Stage

Hard to do well.

But watch this great tree-making video by Hey Pete! that one of my set design students found:

(I'm in love with the circle-leaf tree canopies.  Magic.)

Sunday, January 28, 2024


 At yesterday's student charrette (which went well!) we did a lot of talking and the question of how to make good stone or brick walls onstage came up.  

My usual technique is to hand carve the mortar joints from sheet foam, using a snap-blade knife extended out a bit too far (be careful!) so it has a bit of flexibility to it.  Then layers of paint.

Here's an example starting with white, pebbley-textured polystyrene:

Photos from Uptown Players' Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike

 Another show using polystyrene but the carpenter's favorite - beautiful - technique called for many very coarse layers of paint spatter, then exposure to heat so that the least painted parts of the foam - like the mortar joints - melted most.

Humble Boy at WaterTower Theater

Here's another example, using that pink sheet foam insulation you find at the big box builders' stores.  Same knife technique:

The Beauty Queen of Leenane at Kitchen Dog Theater

In the center photo you can see where I was not quite finished yet - there's still some pink showing, as well as some obvious screw heads!

For brick I use a similar technique of foam cutting.

In the Other Room: the Vibrator Play, also at Kitchen Dog Theater

More stone!  This time with stones cut out individually, then placed on the wall.  
Circle Theatre's Incorruptible

Stop!  Stop!  Mercy!