I’m feeling a little… um… stagnant this morning?
Date: August 15, 2013
Days Spent on Project: 179
Location: Apartment, Washington Heights, NYC
Person I would have sent it to: Professor Penaranda
My third year at Kenyon, there was a search announced for a new design professor to be brought in the following year. As one of the few students with an expressed interest in costume design, I was curious about it. I wanted to be a part of the search.
Towards the end of that year, a group of students were asked to attend three “classroom lectures” held by prospective professors. Penaranda was one of those three.
She was educated and trained in South America, so she brought a coolness about her that was intriguing and fun. Petite, she nevertheless had an overabundance of personality. Her sketches, at the time, I considered amazingly artistic and beautiful. I now know I can draw as well as she did; it just took time and practice.
She rounded out the drama department during my last year, designing the set for the Winter production and the costumes for the last show in the Spring. The first production of the year was to be my senior exercise to graduate; I would design and act in that show, which would turn out to be Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia.
Lots of lessons learned with that show. First of all, being on both sides of the stage, on and off, is a crazy amount of work.
While I never took a class with Penaranda, I did learn a few lessons that have proved to be valuable. She really was the first person to make me aware that the DETAILS are what make a silhouette. Arcadia is a play set in two time periods: now and also in Regency Era England. It was a lot of work for myself and Debe in the costume shop to do, and we did it to the best of our (especially concerning my experience at the time) abilities.
Penaranda, however, was the critical eye who kept asking me to look at the construction choices I was making (even if I didn’t sew them or ask them to be sewn in a certain way, I was still “making” those choices by allowing them to process, I understand now). Yes, the waist line of a Regency dress is directly under a woman’s bustline, and yes the skirt of the dress is gathered into that waistline, but… it isn’t a gathered dirndl skirt. The gores (the panels) of the skirt are shaped and the gathers start in a specific spot. It’s a period construction detail. It’s also more visually attractive on women, in my opinion, to do it the “right” (the “period”) way.
At the time, I was 21 and proud. I didn’t really take that lesson like I should. We were moving along as best we could. We were doing what we could.
But, now, I get it. A period silhouette is all about seam placement and sewing techniques and fabric and material and proportion. She was simply reminding me… well, teaching me… that lesson for the first time.
It’s a lesson I would have to be continually reminded of for a while. I still needed it in grad school. It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn, knowing the details and being specific and ASKING for the details to be done.
It’s now also proving to be a lesson to know when NOT to care about the details and just getting stuff done. Some productions- whether it’s a case of the show or the budget or the labor or the time or whatever- just need frocks on bodies. It’s also valuable to know when you’re working on one of those shows…
Music I listened to while sewing: I’m on an interesting mix of heartbroken 1950s pop music and 1920s jazz music. It’s my mood this morning EXACTLY.
Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: I need to do something a bit exciting soon.
I’m a little bored.
Thankfully the weekend is just around the corner and another project is starting tomorrow. Maybe some drama is approaching.
Hopefully the good kind!