Sunday, April 18, 2021

Olden Times

 I just stumbled across this 2005 NPR story on theater design that featured WaterTower Theatre in Addison.

This was the first time I was interviewed on radio.  A surreal experience.  The interviewer, Bob Mondello, was nice... and about six feet taller than I was.  The  sound stage was tiny - barely two chairs wide - but the microphone was huge - the size of a cantalope.  And I brought a drawing - "for radio?" he asked, but I had some logic actually, I wanted him to understand the design so he could ask better questions, which, afterwards he admitted was helpful.  

I haven't listened to it yet, so listen with me...

Flexible Theater Design and Intimacy Audience

Monday, April 5, 2021

A Fresh Spring Start

Took a walk by a lake today - all fresh breeze, the jingle of boat rigging, glow-fresh green leaves, and the crunchy remains of Easter cascarones underfoot, bits of colored egg shells and confetti.  

I wish you all an equally happy expression of Spring!

In Texas everyone over the age of 16 is now eligible for the vaccine.  Like trying to explain the feeling of Spring, I cannot express the lightness and relief of the vaccination, of knowing you're protected and that you are no longer a danger to others.  I was carrying at least ten pounds of concern around with me all this long year.  

Please, go get the shot - it's the easiest way to lose excess weight that I know of!

Feel the Spring breeze...  

Thursday, April 1, 2021

A Past How-To on Set Building

 I happened across an old web page of mine, a How-To on set building aimed at beginning theater designers and builders: "Theater Set Questions Answered!".  You can check it out HERE on Hub Pages.

I'm starting to read a new (to me) book, Stage Designers in Early Twentieth-Century America, by Christin Essin.  More a history and cultural study than a visual essay, it's very interesting so far...

Other intriguing reading and watching lately: comedian Colin Jost's memoir A Very Punchable Face; David Sedaris's memoir Theft by Finding; essays/demonstrations/rants/performance art? YouTube videos by Karolina Z'ebrowska (for a funny version of a film costume design production meeting watch "Boobs"); and the vid essays of Jacob Geller.  I particularly recommend (to scenic design fans) "The Intimacy of Everday Objects," "Control, Anatomy, and the Legecy of the Haunted House," and also "Art Theft."  But, honestly, they're all great.

If you're missing production meetings, here below is a tiny taste.  (Honestly, I've always been a bit shocked by the blunt talk by costume designers... this is actually kinda... mild.)

Addendum:  How to document a dream - the resin diaramas of Thalasso hobbyer HERE.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Here's a First

 A second post on the same day?  From Ms-Too-Depressed-To-Blog?  But then I found this quote from playwright Tracy Letts (in the NY Times):

"I can’t do the computer theater, it’s too depressing for me, and I’ve turned down a couple of on-camera jobs because I am just as scared of this virus as I was a year ago. Creatively, I’m lost." ...  "I’m guessing there are some other artists who identify."


I identify.

Possibly the Most Covid Day Yet, But in a Good Way

 One day last week I started the day with a wild party!

In Minecraft (so a virtual party), but a party!  We wore party hats, had a bounce house, party favors (rainbow color changing sheep), cake!  Well, we couldn't actually eat the cake (because virtual) but we fed the cake to virtual pandas who could virtually eat the virtual cake.  Other refreshments.  We inaugerated the Palace Ballroom with a dance party!  Real music from virtual jukeboxes and real dancing by virtual parrots!  Minecraft avatars can only sorta bob up and down, but we'll call it "dancing."  And we built a piano... all the stuff you do at parties!  

It was surprisingly fun.

And then I put on my mask and left to get my second shot of the miraculous vaccine.

What could be more happy-pandemic than that?

Switching topics slightly: here's the last of those Minecraft avatar portraits, this time for my guy.

I like the way Bart here is completely unaware that if he succeeds in maiming this kraken-squid that he's going to shipwreck and die...  Also, as a fellow player pointed out, Minecraft squids are non-aggressive creatures in the first place.

This portrait series has been huge fun to do!

The world I'm working in, Illias, started as a pandemic project.  It certainly became an important project for me during thiese last months.  Sanity saving probably.

If you're curious, HERE is a link to Astrophagy's You Tube videos.  And a little taster vid, "Running the Canals of Illias":

In... I almost typed "the real world", but this was, in fact, virtual too, kinda, Kitchen Dog Theater recently produced an online video play Last Ship to Proxima Centari.  (I should have promoted this here earlier - but never mind, check them out to see up-coming theater!)  I wasn't involved with this one, but I enjoyed it and thought it worked pretty well in the online format.  So theater IS continuing in some fashion.  

I did take part in their most recent Craft  episode, to talk about the development and design of the then new play End Times.  Two more episodes coming! May 20th and June 17th.  I really enjoyed being part of the conversation between the playwright, the director, and the designers.  The old video clips of me were strange to watch though: I don't think I said anything particularly dumb, but I did look younger and My Studio Was So Clean!  It was uncanny!

It made me feel homesick for theater.  

But theater is coming back.  And meanwhile there's a Minecraft city to build!

Friday, March 19, 2021

Again With The Portraits

Still amusing myself with Minecraft avatar portraiture... 

Drawings by Clare Floyd DeVries

Thanks to MCXopjesh and redsatchmo#6147 for letting me share these sketches here. (And to the others: Astrophagy, John73x, and Dolphinboy19 for the previous post.)

Don't you love people's nom de internets?  Online tags are always interesting!  

But, once email became mostly a work utility, I noticed all the wilder or ruder tags got very... boring.  Just too embarrassing to explain to employers or grandmas.  So a colorful online personality gets reduced from a weird tag on Reddit to... on gmail.  Just sad.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Getting My Hand Back In

As I'm ramping myself back up towards Efficient and Purposeful, I'm trying to do more drawing.

Today's fun little project was a few portraits - action poses! - of friends' Minecraft avatars:

Inspired by (which is pronounced, "kind-a ripp-ed-off from") the wonderful illustrations that medieval scribes decorated the edges of texts with.  Combined with MC avatar designs, of course.  



Thursday, March 11, 2021

A Year Besieged

 Today marks a year of Covid-19 in the U.S.

For me that means a year and 2 days ago I returned from a trip to California, getting my elderly mother back home just before the country closed down.  She had been visiting Texas, had accidentally broken an arm just before flying home, and went through the whole painful process of recovering - well, the first stage of hospitals and rehab - all juuuuust before covid.  Thank god.  We didn't know it, but it would be months before she could have repair surgery and recovered from that.  A painful year - with isolation and worry as frosting.

For me it means a year and 5 days since I was in a theater.  Watching an excellent production of Proof at Murphys Creek Theater in Murphys, California.  (I once designed that show and really liked this production's set!)  A year and eighteen days since I watched the last show I designed: Alabaster at Kitchen Dog Theater, Dallas.  I missed its strike while in California, but that show, my last show, closed a year and two days ago.

Haven't stepped on stage since.

Proof - at Plano Repertory Theatre - sketch & design by Clare Floyd DeVries

So what's different in daily life since a year ago?

While drinking coffee in my car (because coffee shops are not a thing for me nowadays) I jotted down the top few examples:

1)  Masks.  After more than half a million dead in this country, our governor has canceled the state's mask requirement.  (Texas ranks 5th most in the country in new infections.)  Yet today I wore a mask in the coffee hut's drive-though line - as did the coffee hut staff - and then drank it in my car.  I was drinking coffee because someone in my family forgot to take masks this morning for work so I met them part way with masks.  Coffee as good-deed-award!  Then, driving home, I saw two friends walking together in a park, both wearing masks.  Take that, Governor Abbott!  Or, as my favorite comment from the mayor of Austin put it: 

 “From the people who brought you no water and no electricity: no masks.”

Among sensible Texans masks are still a thing.

2)  Distancing.  My household is still cautious, Mr. Governor, sir.  Even though, due to our zip code, we have recently had the first of two vaccine shots.  But we are going out more than a year ago.  This week we ate out twice: once at an early, uncrowded hour on the patio of a favorite restaurant and again one evening at a picnic table outside a fish place.  The pizza was great and the sun that day lovely; the oyster po'boy was also good, but darkness fell and a cool breeze sprang up so that meal was hastier.  Still nice to eat food I didn't personally cook. I'm so tired of my own cooking.  Hot French fries!  Ambrosia!

Since my first vaccine shot I made a couple not-absolutely-necessary excursions.  Well, one.  A bookstore.  It wasn't crowded and I wore a mask and didn't touch much, but I didn't feel I had to grab-n'-go either which was wonderful.  Other than that it's just the grocery store once a week.  Two weeks after I get my second shot I'm planning to first, get a haircut! (it's been since, um, September?) and, second, try on blue jeans.  (I've been living in one pair for a year, wearing PJs or my formal black jeans while THE jeans go round and round in the washing machine and dryer.)  

Sadly, I figured out early on that the most patriotic, helpful thing I personally could do for my fellow citizens in this pandemic was to just stay out of the forking way.  I keep virus from spreading and keep stores uncrowded by staying home.  Sigh.  

3)  Stores.  Stores have changed from a year ago.  Our grocery shelves are mostly full again... kinda.  There's toilet paper!  But fewer brands.  That's true of every shelf - fewer brands and some empty spots where a particular item has run out and not yet been restocked.  Or won't be.  Plenty of hand sanitizer and TP... but no rubbing alcohol.  Lots of soup this week (that aisle was stripped bare during Texas' Deep Freeze!), but fewer brands.  Odds of finding your favorite flavor are iffy.  My store has stopped stocking my favorite tea (Twining's Jasmine Green Tea if you're wondering).  Since it's obvious they don't plan on stocking it again, I'm now ordering it online in big boxes.  I think most folks have an item or twenty they just get online now.  I've noticed grocery can aisles are shorter than in the Before Time, whereas prepared or partially prepared (chopped veg or kits and such) have much more supermarket real estate.  (This struck me as funny during our Deep Freeze weeks.  A friend stocked up for upcoming arctic weather... with freezer/refrigerator food.  The power outage surprised her.  Me, with my weather-proof, unpowered cans, was sympathetic.)

4)  Family and Friends.  A year of Zoom and Skype calls, or regular ol' phone calls, of emails, texts, and, oddly paper letters! later, many casual friendships have disappeared, but other relationships persist.  Now and then I'll synchronize making a cup of coffee with a friend and we'll chat and sip, connected by voices over the aether. It kinda works.  An unexpected problem though: when no one goes anywhere or sees anyone... there's less to talk about.  I've heard about one friend's exciting recent activity four times now - and I react like it's new! every time! because it's just so nice to hear their voice.  On the plus side, I've discovered that it really is possible to make new friends online.  (Carefully, obviously, but it's possible and welcome!)

The hard part is when there is a health issue - as with older relatives there necessarily will be.  Travel by air or car between states is difficult and discouraged; some states have quarantines that add expense and delay; and then hospitals mostly do not allow family to visit.  I'm not arguing with these safety rules!  I only point out that they are hurdles.  I know of folks dealing with illnesses, deaths, funerals, and settling estates during this pandemic... the process is even more painful than before.  And, honestly, this is in a family that's been blessedly, lightly touched by covid, losing one person to date, not more.  And also, for the most part, blessedly untouched by the economic fallout too. 

5) Economy and Society.  The economic fallout from covid is very real.  I see it most, personally, in the state of theater, which is Closed. (I'm out of work, yes, but I'm still housed and fed so I'm grateful.  Others?  Not so lucky.)  Theater will come back - with or without me.  Part-reason for my confidence about that is that more covid-relief seems to be finally on its way from Washington.  That will help.  Vaccinations, proceeding faster now, will help too.  Theater can't reopen until the pandemic is controlled.  The greater political situation... well, who knows?  No one, that's who.  But it looks more hopeful than it did a year ago.

So.  A strange year passing.  And, approaching, comes a strange new "normal."

I look forward to it hopefully.