Date: August 17, 2013
Days Spent on Project: 181
Location: Apartment, Washington Heights, NYC
Person I would have sent it to: Paul T.
Paul wasn’t a member of the Kenyon community; he was Professor Tazewell’s brother, and a professional costume designer.
As my fourth year continued and my time at Kenyon was coming to a close, Professor Tazewell gave me his brother’s cell phone number. He said if I was interested in pursuing this as a career, I should talk to someone who was immersed in the world of design and freelance.
Looking back, I can’t believe I just called him and had a very long conversation with Paul about this life and career choice. Yeah, this was a pre-google time, so I couldn’t easily find information on his career and work. I wish I had. I can’t believe I had that opportunity at 22- to talk to someone who would later go on to have (and still does have) a successful design career.
I can’t remember much about the conversation or what we talked about. I’m almost positive that I was unprepared (how would I have prepared?) for the talk. I just wanted to know what I was getting into… what I should do… how do you start… where do you go…
At the time, I was still misguidedly under the impression that I could pursue my passion for acting and my desire to design costumes. I hadn’t had the realization that they’re two entirely different worlds, needing similar but NOT the same mindsets about a production. Acting and design are certainly not conflicting sides of theater- we are here to help each other, guys!- but it’s next to impossible to do both.
Paul was the one who heard my struggles with this choice. And he really just put it bluntly.
“You really just have to make a choice.”
If you want to do it all- acting and design- you’re not able to give your all to both. You’re going to have divide your time and thoughts and abilities. And, in the college world, where you have a faculty behind you to pick up the pieces you drop along the way of your young process, you don’t have that in the real world.
I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to design for the “real world.” I hadn’t yet experienced the pains and struggles and difficulties of having to do something as seemingly innocuous as buying a pair of shoes for an actor… and having to find several options depending on style and availability and use within the show and then having a fitting and having to return or exchange or re-shop or go to a cobbler and have the sole rubber and the buckles quick-changed and then painted. At 22, you don’t understand that buying a pair of shoes can take a day or more to accomplish. At 22, you don’t know how much time is involved in creating an entire show: getting hired, doing the research, going to meetings, drawing the outfits out, talking to the other departments, going to rehearsals, having the fittings, getting the alterations done, and then having to do it all over again when something unexpected complicates things. As a costume designer, I’m out there, opening the shops at 9 or 10am and I shop until they close, then I go to fittings, and then I go home and catch up on all the notes that I’ve been emailed all day.
Can you imagine trying to go to rehearsal and act with a dedicated and clear mind on top of all of that?
So, while I don’t remember much of that conversation, I’m humbled to have had the chance to talk to someone like Paul at that time in my very early career and theater life.
Music I listened to while sewing: I’ve put my Spotify “Starred” playlist on repeat. It’s a fun trip today; lots of Lady Gaga (understandably) and lots of other surprises… who knew I liked Bruno Mars so much?
Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: It really just comes back to that conversation I had over 12 years ago.
“You really just have to make a choice.”
Make a choice and go for it. Work towards that choice.
And, you know, if it turns out not to be the right choice, make another one.
And no one can tell you whether or not your choice is right or wrong; you’re the only one with that ability.
I’m trying to remember that life is not about one choice. It’s a series of them.
From getting up when your alarm goes off, to the amount of time I spend walking the dog, to the workout I do at the gym, to the emails I ignore, to the friends I reach out to, to the times I go out to bars to meet people, to the clothes I wear, to the work I do during the day, to the work I want to do… it’s all a choice.
So make some. Don’t just make one. And keep making them after that.