Block 143: July 10, 2013



Date: July 10, 2013

Crane: 143

Days Spent on Project: 143

Location: Apartment, Washington Heights, NYC

Person I would have sent it to: Meredith W.

Meredith, along with Eli McC (Crane 127), is one of the special people in my life who helped me develop into a costume designer. As I explained before, I started designing and building clothes for Kenyon’s dance concerts. My first design was for Eli’s first choreographed piece (ever?) during the fall of our sophomore year. I apparently impressed enough people with that experience that I was asked, by Meredith, and allowed, by the dance department, to design Meredith’s piece for the Spring Concert.

For Eli’s piece, I was lucky that it was a small concert over all, and that she only chose two dancers. I designed princess-seamed jumpsuits with extremely flared legs, made out of a crinkled rayon knit. To highlight the “emotional” feel of each dancer’s movement, one jumpsuit was a shade of brown, the other red. The dance was performed to a song by Shawn Colvin. I forget which one.

While I could describe Eli’s piece as “earthen,” Meredith’s was the exact opposite: airy. It was danced to one of Enya’s songs…

The Spring dance concerts were larger affairs, with more dancers, more pieces, and in general more of the costumes were built because the design professor designed specifically for them. Because of that, as a student, my work took a backseat and had to pulled from stock and altered. I found leotards, had full circle skirts stitched onto them, and then dyed them a series of pastel colors.

To further accentuate the movement of the dance, Meredith and I planned on giving each dancer a large, lightweight scarf to wear, carry, and “partner” with for sections of the piece.

Being all of 20, and completely ignorant of how each fabric wants to behave, I chose a poly-organza… because it was lightweight and sheer and looked like it would flow through the air gracefully.

Oh, how wrong I was.

I mean, it worked, on some level. But I now know I should have chosen a china silk.  Or if I wanted it sheer, maybe a chiffon or a georgette. Organza, especially a POLY-organza, has a structural quality to it that isn’t necessarily “airy.”

Things you learn.

Meredith and I had the opportunity to work once more together, I think. I always enjoyed her quality of movement, how she danced, and how she worked with people. It was a great introduction to costuming dance. It really was.

Music I listened to while sewing: I listened to Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is” today. A series of times.

I have to remind myself that the song isn’t necessarily “down.” Yes, the person having those thoughts in the song is a bit detached from life and emotion and experience, but she tells us she isn’t sad about it.

If that’s all there is, so what? She pours herself a drink, and goes dancing… not crying. She goes dancing.

We have to at least celebrate and pass the time, you know?

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: It’s funny to dedicate today’s Crane to Meredith W., and think again about my first experiences with costume design.

How it was fun. How it was spontaneous. How I didn’t know what I was doing and every choice felt big and important and artistic and new. How it was collaborative. How nothing was hanging in the balance; there didn’t seem to be much at stake. It was design. It was theater. It was dance. It was what it was.

It was fun.

And I felt good at it and I loved it and I enjoyed the opportunities and possibilities of it all.

Now, almost 15 years later, it feels so incredibly different. It’s now work. It’s my means to a livelihood.

And I don’t know what to think about that.

Would I do something else? If I HAD to, sure. What else would I do? I have no idea. Do I hate it, hate design, hate theater, hate sketching, hate researching, hate clothing, hate the schedule? No. I actually don’t.

I think and fantasize about giving up, about stopping this path and never looking back at what I’ve spent so many years doing.

And it makes me sad. I feel like I have so much to give! I have so many things I want to do! There are so many shows I want to design and try!

But, I will say this: I hate being so poor. I hate working on shows with absolutely no resources or budget and support, being forced to cobble things together when I could do so much better with… well… with resources. I hate not knowing that I’m progressing towards something; who’s to say that in 20 years, at 54 years old, I won’t still be at THIS level of scraping by?

I hate that I can’t splurge on things without sacrificing other aspects of my life. I hate that I don’t have time to hang out, and that my friends also are too busy to hang out. I hate that I’ll never meet anyone to share my life with because a) I’m overworked, b) I’m too poor to go out, c) I’m too tired to go out, d) I work in theater and therefore am an undesirable in New York City Dating Life, and so on.

This begs me to ask: even though I still love the chance that design gives me, I love the work I do, I love (MOST OF) the people I work with, how do I reconcile that with the ACTUAL life I lead?

If I love it, I have to find a way to be okay with the poverty, the sacrifice, the lonely nights, the exhaustion, the uncertainty, just like I welcome and crave the emotional highs of creating and working with artists and the freedom and the possibility that things could be perfect this time. Sometimes everything clicks and it feels so right.

Sometimes, like the random time when an actor literally has a screaming temper tantrum like a spoiled 2 year-old who insists that you’re trying to kill them and threatens you physically, it just doesn’t feel right.

Much to think about. Much to stew on.

Time for a break tonight. YouTube and McQueen videos await.


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