Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This makes me feel a little bit better about my Summer Stock experience:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

grant proposal continued

Describe in detail your work process from inspiration through completion on a recent production you have designed.

A recent production I designed is entitled Deshar Alhat. The translation of this Sephardic Jewish term is Leave Sunday. The production was a choreographed abstract narrative including twelve dancers, six female and six male. When presented with the production material by the choreographer, I began reading about Sephardim. The books included Jubana and Farewell Espania: The World of Sephardim Remembered, as well as internet resources including the Jewish Virtual Library and the Center for Jewish History. Jubana offered and easy-to-read, contemporary insight into what it is like to be a Cuban-Jewish Americanas well as a first-hand account of Castro’s takeover and of a family’s emigration to the United States. Books such as Farewell Espania offered a more extensive look at Sephardim, offering stories dating back millennia. This allowed me to to recognize basic themse about this culture, a major theme being diaspora. Deshar Alhat means “leave Sunday.” As the choreographer describes his work as abstract narrative, I matched my design process. We met after several months of individual brainstorming to discuss preliminary research and drawings as well as to view the movement. In viewing mmovement, I took note of what functional qualities were necessary in design. It was important to consider partnering, upside-down movement, and excessive floor dancing, which requires special construction methods and design qualities.

As choreographer/artistic director knows better his audience, we select styles, research details, and fabric together. Then I measure and make color selections coordinating with dancer’s features. Because this work was so solemn in them and the dance would create distinct imagery we decided that the piece could not be “over-designed,” in contrast to the piece I designed for the same company the prior year about Xavier Cugat, a thirties Hollywood musician. (This piece included necessary details all the way down to shoe fasteners.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Betrayal set

music man photos

TCG grant app--first two questions

Help edit my grant application. Please? Here is a link to the grant description and requirements:

1) What inspired you to become a designer? What subsequent influences-theatrical or otherwise-have influenced your career aspirations?

Candlewood Playhouse 1990: “You’re never fully dressed without a smile,” I hear belted across the audience Thursday, Friday, Twice on Saturday, and then again on Sunday. “Let me entertain you,” I see a woman take off too many articles of clothing. In the Connecticut suburbs of New York City I am witness to my sister, a young stage actress, every night of my childhood whether at home at the piano, or in the theater.

Later love of geometry and fabric developed as a young child (twelve or so). My best friends mother, Pat, was a seamstress (the seamstress in town who made everyone’s prom and wedding dresses). My mom asked her for sewing lessons for me. Pat of course was too proud to take money, so my mother paid her in groceries. Pat taught me everything I needed to know to complete a garment from a pattern.

When I was sixteen, I discovered classes for high school students at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I convinced my parents to let me take Metro North to New York City on Saturdays to study draping. My father was worried about me getting to school so he made sure to give me fifteen dollars cab fair every weekend, but I saved the money, walked to school, and spent it in the garment district.

Through high school and college, the idea in my head and the final outcome could always be critically compared. But after a decade of design execution, I feel I am adept at executing ideas.

Whenever I am in an art museum, I have this restless feeling of wanting to be as close to a work as possible so as to feel what the artist was doing when he was creating—the strokes and blending of color, the planned and improvised, instinct, intent.

In live performance, a viewer has more insite into these processes. As not-for-profit theater seems to be growing more and more engaged with its community through talk-backs, tours, and educational endeavors, a patron of this form can truly immerse himself as much as he desires. As a designer, ther is the ongoing opportunity to literally enter your artwork—by viewing from the audience during technical rehearsals, editing work on the stage, and returning to the audience. Work as a designer is dually rewarding because of its collaborative nature. You don’t answer only to yourself, there is a director and a board of directors, and a community who are in your mind who must also be satisfied and inspired.

2) Discuss your strengths and weaknesses as an artist. Why is this the right time for you to apply for this program?

Some of my strengths are a commitment to a high-quality, aesthetically interesting product, the ability to work with a broad spectrum of personalities, humility, a welcoming and mature attitude to criticism, flexibility, a fresh outlook on old and new stories, commitment to appropriate means of story-telling with a balance of inspiring innovation, self-motivation (I wake up early and work very long hours on interesting projects), a genuine interest in life and people, excitement about life and work, work within budgets, interested in solving problems outside the theater
world such as human rights standards, energy conservation, and recycling.
Some weaknesses are that I work so much I am out of balance in personal life. Also, I would like to me more direct and exact in design (i.e. get it right the first time) rather than having to explore a solution during production. I feel this comes with age and experience.

This is the right time for me to apply for this grant because I have built up many well-nourished contacts in the Chicago theater community. Whenever I finish a design project, I feel as though I have poured my entire life into them. All of my time, exhausted all of my friends help. I wonder “How many more do I have of these in me?” When I finish a show, I feel I have just run a marathon. I always accept the projects that come my way and I always end up working just as hard on all of them no matter how much they pay. With this grant in my future, I would be able to look more critically upon design offers, editing options so that my life goals always stay in sight.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Deshar Alhat
As I sit listening to Ruddigore, my upcoming design project, I'm wondering where I even begin to start describing the last three months of my life. There is no need to specify that i am writing about the "costume" section of my life, because lately costuming is my life! In October the Harold Pinter play, Betrayal opened in a very small black box theater. My good friend did the lighting, so it was that much more enjoyable to work on. This show was unique because not only did I design costumes, but the set as well. The set design was difficult for two reasons; I have no background in set design and we had no budget. So basically I did some rendering and model making and the director did some thrifting, and together we built something that loosely resembled the renderings and actually worked very well for the play.

For those of you who don't know the story, it goes backwards in time basically starting from the end of a love affair and reversing to the beginning. The telling of this story is applaudable for the mere fact that writers rarely tell a love story in that direction. More often we hear see the acts leading up to the truest of love, but when do we ever get to wittness its undoings--and backwards for that matter? The peice was definitely a theater-goers choice. Not for the masses and not for the family and not for the romantic-once-a-year-date-to-the-theater. Although the audiences were half-full at most, I felt I was working on a real thesbien's play. The fact that there was no musical element helped me pay more attention to the language and rythm of the writing, realizing that Pinter was not only a master of pauses (as he is famed for) but double-entendres as well. I watched the play several times during the tech process and liked it more every time, where as usually I feel more and more annoyed with a work the more I am forced to watch it.

As far as costuming goes, there was almost no budget, so I made an art of pulling from stock. The director came up with Memory Waistland as a visual tag for the production aesthetic which I feel read in the set. But if I had to describe in two words the costumes I would have called them British Cottage. The two men characters are both in literature, one an agent responsible for finding new talent in fiction and the other in publishing. The third character is the publisher's wife, who was also having an affair with the agent, the publishers best friend. And it goes backwards in time over two decades, and their are four different settings, and we had 20 square feet of stage, and we had no crew. But the cast was great and overall, I think it was an artistic success.


The work I was most excited for this year, Music Man, for a professional, partial-equity theater, was a logistical nightmere! "Lately I feel more like a racecar driver than a costume designer," I told one of my seamstresses. I never found a rental I could live with, let alone one that I liked. I ended up pulling and collaging from four rental houses, one lending, several thrift stores, and building a small collection of pieces. It was nice to work with some costume builders who I really enjoyed. One artisan, who is much older than me, had her own private studio where she also built costumes for movies that had come and left Chicago. She knew all the right questions to ask and did impecable work. I made patterns and then she built the costumes for Marian the Librarian. Marian had three major costume changes from her librarian suit for the first act, to her dancing dress in the beginning of the second act to her stunning and glamourous dress during the climax of the play and the famous song "Till There Was You," which I could have sworn was written by the Beatles.

Also, I was treated like dirt by the production manager:

"Hi, I'm here to measure the cast," I show up on the first day of rehearsals.
"Well I really wish you wouldn't," she glares at me. I stare back confused. With no production schedule update in the past four months, no indication of scheduling fittings for me, and no planned production meetings I really didn't think anyone would measure the cast for me. Nore did I think anyone was about to call me to ask when I wanted to measure and fit. I'm 26 years old, I look like I'm about 19, I dress like a little punk, and I'm always really excited about what I'm doing. My appearance and overzealousness seem to clash with jaded production managers who don't care if I can afford rent and food.
"Well Director said that tonight would be a good night for me to take measurements because the entire cast would be here." I explain.
"Mmmm Hmm." she doesn't smile and only looks at me with disdain. After about fourty-five seconds of ignoring me she goes on, "It's just kind of akward to break the cast up during their first full read-through. Sometimes Director ends up pissing himself off." This would be the first time she called me awkward.
"Oh sure, if tonight's not a good night, then when might be a good time? I guess I should have called you first."
Blank stare. Actually, I don't think she even looked at me. I think she continued to ignore me. Then "wait over there," she barked. Pointing to the quary of student folding tables and soda machine. Rehearsals took place in the basement cafeteria of a day-care center. She began sending me actors one at a time after tapping them on the shoulder.
A few months earlier, she had emailed the design team to see if we could do an additional tech rehearsal which wasn't in our original contracts. The email recipients proceded to list off days when they would be interested in production meeting. In response to my email of availability all she wrote was "That's great but can you do the extra tech rehearsal?" In other words, fuck the production meeting. We'll just give you all that extra rehearsal at the last minute and hope for the best.
When I realized she was not going to coordinate a meeting between the director, other designers and me, I proceeded to meet with the director on my own and do my best with the set renderings, his concept, and my own ideas. To be continued...