Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Couple Cabaret Photos

One of my mentors in Chicago always says "You should have one note after final dress."  Seeing as how in this case first dress was final dress, I had about seventy five notes after final dress.  Which ones do I do, the directors or mine, I think.  Director had no less than a tantrum during tech because he didn't get everything he wanted, from all departments.  Bear in mind the show boasts a production budget of give or take $4000.

Moving on, I've started Fiddler on the Roof.  The New Director is quite patient and encouraging.  He also looks to designers for ideas about their field.  He posted all of his research in the studio for everyone to look at and explore.  We've had several productive meetings, and are communicating quite well for people who just met.  Although I have to say Fiddler on the Roof is not exactly the open heart surgery of costume design.  You screw this one up and you might as well choose a new career path.  I'm able to hand over a lot of the collageing and altering to my assistants and they are doing a great job.  

My big project for Fiddler is The Puppet.  When an elderly widower is matched to marry the soft-hearted Male lead's oldest daughter, the widower's dead wife rises from the grave to scare away the bride-to-be (well mostly the bride-to-be's mother).  Normally, this character is done with a singer carried on the shoulders of a man and an extra long dress covering both bodies.  Instead, we are using a puppet I have designed.  I've never made a puppet before.  And I am getting help from a few people in carpentry and scene art who have.  

Other than that, I'm exhausted.  I haven't felt this exhausted since I was in college.  I know challenges are good, but sometimes I wonder if all these projects are actually more deteriorating than strengthening.  I haven't been out for a run in over a week.  I at more meals at Dunkin Donuts and Burger King in the past couple weeks than I care to admit.  And still I love it.  I wish I could be a little more controlled and realistic sometimes, but the fact that it always gets done keeps me going.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

so who cares so what

"Do designers get private housing?" I ask during my interview.
"Oh yes, of course, private housing."
"Where is the studio space and what resources are there?"
"The studio space is in a ski condo.  The theater company only operates during the summer, so it is not set up when you arrive.  You may set it up as you see fit."
"How many sewing machines do you own?  Irons?  Serger?  Steamers?  Tables?  Stools?  Sewing supplies?  Shelving?"
"What is your stock like?  May I stop by a couple weeks in advance to have a feel for it on my way to visit home?"
"Don't bother coming early.  There will be nothing here for you to see."

Apparently in Summer Stockish,

Private Housing = Sharing and Kitchen, Bathroom, Family Area, and hallways with my three immediate co-workers and six other company members.

Studio space in a ski condo = choosing between an 8x10' room in the beating hot sun with 100+ costumes and three coworkers, asking performers to try on costumes in the bathroom with no mirror, and being in virtually the same room as the performers all day, so that I can't listen to Patty Smith, let alone hear myself speak.  Oh, and the space is essentially an unfinished cement storage area that is literally crumbling around me.  Sweeping doesn't help.

NO REPLY = They don't know what the hell they have.  "Fifty costumes," I hear one day.  And the next day I am asked to load and unload fifty bins of clothing from someone's storage tent to the unfinished cement rehearsal space.

Don't bother coming early as there will be nothing here for you to see = We won't even let you see your space or your costumes until almost a week after you are called to be here.  


We had a studio run with most costumes today.  It put me in a sad mood.  Usually, I feel I have control over my designs and the quality of execution because I have time to execute them and my own skills to rely on.  With two weeks to put up a show while having to keep the other show running, it is nearly impossible to keep these controls.  I sat through the run disappointed.  I have thought about this show for months, shopped it, designed and redesigned.  But without a number of really skilled artisans to help, it doesn't matter how well-thought or well 
designed a piece might be.  I asked Props Master who is always watching, "Do you think it looks terrible?"
"What are you talking about?  It looks seedy.  It's a seedy show.  It's not supposed to look like The Rockets.  They're supposed to look destitute."  And she's right.  A fault of mine is that I think all of my shows should look Polished.  And sometimes it actually inflicts on the outcome.  If I could just get more inside the show, if I could just go deeper and think about how I would dress if I were a hooker or a gay, male hooker in Berlin in 1929, then maybe it would be a better show.  I have to stop thinking about my sketches, and my process, and my wardrobe tracks and think be the Character, be every character, and then when I go home, I can be my anal, aesthetically-obsessed, everyday self.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Just tell them if you have personal problems inflicting on the work environment, they should leave the problems at the door or don't bother coming in."  Stage Manager consoles me through my tears after I send one of my assistants home for giving me 'tude at work.  I felt like a parent must after they punish their children for the first time.  The reason I am so perplexed is that she isn't a fussy teenage intern.  The moment I met this woman, who is only two years my junior, I felt she was light years beyond me in maturity and self-assuredness; her solid stance, peaceful nature, and general care and awareness for her surroundings did it.  And after asking her to leave for the day, I second-guessed myself a lot and it made the next few days of working together in our 8 x 10' "studio" pretty awkward.  


"Bring me a fucking coat," Director indicates during rehearsal a day before.  
I give him a blank stare, "What did he just say?  Did he just swear at me as I am busting my ass, standing at a sewing maching eight to twelve hours a day for his show?" I think.  
"Designer, can I have an overcoat as quickly as possible?" I went to get him a coat as quickly as possible then dropped it on the floor next to him, pissed.  
I go home that night thinking, "I don't get paid enough for this.  My credit doesn't read Bitch.  Maybe I should go back to Chicago.  Maybe I should tell him to shove it and see how he likes it.  But I go in to work the next day.  After I just can't take my anxiety over the unnecessary cursing, "Director, can I have a moment with you
 outside please?" my heart rate doubles at the thought of confronting him.  "If you need something for rehearsal, I just need to know what scenes you are rehearsing the next day," as the daily call doesn't always say.  
"Why are you telling me this, I haven't requested anything...if I need something I'll ask."
"Um well the whole thing about the coat yesterday, with Earnst, if I had known you were doing that scene..."
"Ooooh,  thaaaat, oh honey, that wasn't directed towards you, I was frustrated with the actor.  If ever I'm having problems I will do exactly what you did just now and tell you straight.  The rehearsal was going all wrong--that just happens, I directed my negative
 energy to the wrong person.  I noticed his eyes were curved and kind.
The following day Director discovers me by the loading dock breaking down to Stage Manager.  "Is there going to be a coat for Kost you know that type of billow...oh, oh my" he notices my misty eyes, "Are you OK?"  He gives me a hug.  


I always hated those graduation speeches that were like "It's not about the classes you take or the tests you take, or the curricula, it's about the people you meet."  
I always wanted to reply to those "Than why the hell did I fork out $35,000 a year (or whatever my percentage was) when I can meet cool people working in a coffee shop.  But maybe then I was feeling obligated to be antisocial because I wouldn't have gotten through college otherwise.  With one show opened, one on the way, living with my co-workers and sharing a way-too-small ski condo with a way-too-small refrigerator, I am experiencing anxiety over new relationships, admiration for those I originally detested, and working on a truly remarkable story with perfectly marvelous people.  

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The nice thing about summer stock is that I have been fortunate to have just a bit more time to really focus on character and color, rather than just slamming out shows as I often times must do back in Chicago, as I work a full time in production on top of designing.  Here are some of my renderings for Cabaret:


Herr Schultz
Kit Kat Girl
Frauline Kost
Frauline Schneider

come to the cabaret

Friday, July 11, 2008

Postage Stamp Stage

I write to a friend in Chicago that this is the smallest Theater in which I've ever worked.  "I'm sure the stage is the size of a postage stamp."  She replies.  My first reaction to the dress rehearsal was that the wigs were way too big for the stage.  

Let the Memory Live Again

It's been some time since I've had an hour or two for writing.  As an update, CATS opened well.  Most of the houses have been sold out minus Sunday, which was seventy percent.  Dress rehearsal got pushed back 24 hours due to Tech delay because of the theater's dimmer melting.  We ended up making one cat suit, hand painted with hand-knit warmers, some wigs, and various accessories to polish the rental a bit.  

During dress rehearsal, Rum Tum Tugger's wig just would not stay on.  I pinned it myself for the second dress, discovering that because of the punk-rock look of his character there is a fine buckram, yamaka-like base make the hair thicker and spikier at the top of his head.  It is impossible 
to pin into.  So, after spraying his pin-curls with lots of hairspray pinning the wig cap to the pin curls, and taping the front of his wig, we also turn the wig inside out until just the buckram is resting on his head and secure that part to his wig first, before putting actual wig pins into the pin curls.  I got it down to 20 minutes before I handed it over to our assistant musical director who doubles as wig and makeup consultant; he has his cosmetology license.  

Director ended up leaving town
 mid-CATS for personal reasons.  In his absence there were a few in-company self-nominations to take his place.  But Artistic Director ended up calling in a kind and wise young actor who was in the CATS national tour to coach the company into opening.  "Are you the replacement director?" I ask hopefully.

"No, I'm just the CATsultant."

Hehe, I think.  His dimples flirt with anyone in a 10-foot radius.  

Dress rehearsal with him is a breeze.  We talk openly and kindly about how to make this cat more sexy, and this one cuter, and he gives me some makeup notes, but mostly encourages the entire company and tells me just putting CATS up, whether I designed it our not, is a "major accomplishment."  The real satisfaction I feel is that I'm one fourth done with the summer and I'm not yet over budget.  I'm happy to see that it actually looks professional and polished on stage.  I enjoy the catchy music and most certainly am still moved by Memory, a song my sister sang incessantly growing up along with my mother's favorite, Barbara Streisand, whom I was forced to listen to while running marathon errands in my mother's 1972 Volvo (the angular kind that look like a giant Lego).

The day after opening I spot Director at CATS' Sunday performance.  Immediate anxiety sets in.  I don't want to go to the production meeting in the morning.  I stay up all night to work on renderings and read the script three or four more times.  I also make color palettes to share with the scenic and lighting designers.  But mostly I think I stay up because I want to savor my precious last moments before I must continue my working relationship with him.  "Nobody ever makes me feel this self conscious," I think to myself.  What is going on with me?

Our production meeting goes well.  I try to move it along to relay color concept with the other designers and touch upon logistics rather than getting delayed by details that the director and I can discuss without everyone waiting.  At the end of the day Director tells me "Everything's looking great.  Thank you."  I'm flabbergasted.  

In my newly re-instated self-security, I wonder about catalysts for human energy.  There are two main types initiate by one person onto another; positive and negative.  I discovered in high school that when someone yells at me to get me to penever come out or freeze up and not do anything.  I have also learned that when someone is too kind and understanding, I tend to go easy on myself as well, in work circumstances that includes, extending deadlines, and sometimes substituting verbal discriptions with hard visual illustrations.  I remember being considerable afraid of my father as a child and not because he was abusive or even really mean.  He did seem powerful and not to be fucked with.  From age twelve on, his inner softness, his inner child, and his humanity grew increasingly apparent and I can remember asking him finally, "What was that, you used to be so scary?" 

"I believe in raising children with a healthy dose of fear," my dad answered.  

Was this what Director had done to me?  Scared me shitless into producing a thorough set of costumes for him?  It is the opposite experience I have had with most directors; I think because with other projects, the directors picked me themselves.  In this instance, the Artistic Director hired me as a Costume Designer and him as a Director, which can get complicated.  Now I know to always ask to speak to the director before I agree to a job. Although at first Director's comments felt like a very negative attempt at getting what he wanted, I am at peace with his antics and rather relieved by his straight-forwardness.  After all, two weeks is a minuscule amount of time to make a meaningful and cohesive Theatrical experience.  

On the upside, this week I finally realized that I am meeting some wonderful people here, with whom I have already shared my dreams.