Block 213: September 25, 2013



Well, today has certainly been awash, in ways.

Date: September 25, 2013

Crane: 213

Days Spent on Project: 220

Location: Apartment, Washington Heights, NYC

Person I would have sent it to: Richard P.

Today I’m dedicating this Crane to Richard, who was another director I worked with in the seven summers I spent at the National High School Institute at Northwestern.

If I remember correctly, he was brought on as a Faculty Associate on summer, perhaps three years into my time with the program. The next summer, he was brought back on as a director. He directed Oscar Wilde’s play Salome.

This was strangely cosmic, I believed, back in that summer of 2004, because my very first set design project at the Yale School of Drama was to design an 1/8″ model for Strauss’s Salome. For a variety of reasons, the two week period you were put through the ringer with that opera comes to stand as the first test of many for the designers at the YSD. It was the first time I got the Ming Cho Lee critique. It was the first time I saw some of my classmates cry. It was the first time I was asked to think of the portrait gallery, building model pieces in 1/8″ scale, and drawing a set in correct perspective.

Jeez, just thinking about “Where is the damn cistern? makes me shudder and smile at the same time.

To go back to a place that felt like my theatrical home, a place where I had formed so many close friendships with theater artists, and have to design a (condensed) production of Salome… well, it was fun.

We ended up kind of staging the play in a “Ye Oldey-Timey,” vaguely Middle Eastern, Judeo-What-Have-You kind of world. Looking at the pictures now, the production did look a little fun.

Richard has remained working in theater, these years later. I randomly saw him in the distance in New York a few months ago. I’m not sure he’s thought twice about that production.

Music I listened to while sewing: No music this afternoon actually… it’s silent today.

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: Well, today has not gone according to plan!

The original idea was to wake up at 5am, get dressed, walk the dog, and then take a train up to New Haven, CT to pull costumes from the Yale Costume Collection. I had an appointment scheduled at 10. Things were going well, or as well as they could when you get up at 5am, until I walked into Grand Central.

The New Haven Line was down. Due to electrical failure. At rush hour.

Eventually, loads of people were squished onto a train that would make three select stops, dropping people off at convenient places for transfers so they could continue their journey. On board, we started making our way from the station only to have the 10 minute journey to the first stop (the Harlem 125th Street stop) take over a half an hour due to mechanical failures. We were told to disembark, where we would have to wait for a replacement train to pick us up and take us to another station to continue the haphazard trip. At that point, I was late for my appointment and just got an email that the clothes I wanted were on hold for someone else.

I walked out of the station and started making my way home.

BUT, strangely, I ran into Sydney G. (a Crane from last April?) who is now a student at the YSD, who was similarly stranded in NYC. We walked through Central Park, went down to the Upper East Side. We ate sushi.

We talked about Soul Doctor, the infamous show that fired me because I was “too experienced.” Sydney was supposed to be my assistant on that; she was actually re-hired to assist the person who took my job.

We talked about her first weeks at grad school. We talked about how she was more than prepared for it.

Afterwards, it made me think: would I go back to grad school? Would I go to Yale if I had the experience(s) I have under my belt now?

I’m not sure. While I’m happy with everything I learned while at Yale, and am proud of the work I did there, I can’t say it was the best time of my life. It was artistically inspiring and stimulating and provoking. I did a lot. I learned a lot. I’m a much DIFFERENT designer and theater person than I was before I went. (I could have said BETTER just now; I didn’t on purpose… think about that.)

If I have any regret, if I could change anything about what I had done up until my 24th year, I would change this: instead of wanting more than the work I was getting offered while in Louisville and thinking that grad school was the right step at that time, I should have just bit the bullet, no matter how scary and frightening, I should have moved to New York and slummed it here, working in the New York scene just to get used to this world. I learned quickly at Yale that the Regional Theater world was NOT something they were training me for… my experience wasn’t anything they cared for.

Talking to Sydney today, who has five years (?) of New York design and assisting under her belt as of now, right when she’s started at the YSD, I realize how much of a leg up she has on everyone.

I’ve done a heck of a lot of work in the seven years I’ve been in New York. I have continued to learn. I am still working. I am managing to survive (barely). In ways, I am successful.

But, there are times, when I look back and wonder how different it would all be if I had had more patience and a little more bravery when I wasn’t yet tied down to things.

Interesting day, for sure.


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