Block 273: December 3, 2013



Why do I feel okay even though everything is up in the air?

Date: December 3, 2013

Crane: 273

Days Spent on Project: 290

Location: Apartment, Washington Heights, NYC

Person I would have sent it to: Tracy D.

When I first started to work at Actors Theatre of Louisville, the costume shop was gearing up for the first production of the season: Floyd Collins. It’s the musical based on the real life event of a man, Floyd himself, who gets stuck in a cave, becomes a national news item as his rescue stretches out, and then eventually dies underground. Sounds pleasant, right?

It was somewhat of a news items for Actors Theatre as well; the real life events happened in Kentucky and part of the actors’ learning experience was to visit the site and also go underground in local caves.

Tracy was the costume designer from New York who was hired to design the piece. The show was set in 1925, so we had the opportunity to make a few 20s dresses for the female characters and suits for what seemed like an endless cast of men.

I fell in love with Tracy’s sketches; drawn in pencil and ink, colored in watercolors, and on gray paper to reflect the mood of the piece, her renderings were evocative of the character and the period. Technically, Tracy was probably the first professional designers I would assist in my career. She came to Louisville with her fabric swatching, research, and sketching done in New York, so I didn’t have the opportunity to learn about those aspects of her process. But, over the next month or so, as I drove her around to shop supplies, she taught me so much. We went to a vintage suit store in Springfield, OH to look through their stock and rent and buy as much real menswear as we could. I learned, but probably didn’t appreciate until much later, how good real vintage looks on stage and how it really does help ground actors and characters in a period and a show. I learned how vintage clothes don’t always survive a month-long production that is set on a set made of metal scaffolding and grating.

I learned that it’s in your best interest to buy underwear for actors. Especially the women. Always the women.

I learned that miles add up when you’re driving someone around, looking for shopping supplies. I learned that when a theater company reimburses you for your miles driven, you want those miles to add up.

I learned that sometimes being an assistant means more than just helping out in a shop… you might be a “get settled in and learn the city” assistant, especially when you’re dealing with a designer who comes from out of town. I learned that when you’re just weeks into moving to a new city yourself, you’re not always the best person to show someone around a city.

And on September 11th, I remember having to rush to the Louisville Airport to wade through crowds of people and traffic. Tracy was supposed to have taken a morning flight out of Louisville that morning, back to New York, but that flight was obviously cancelled as we, the nation, saw what was happening. I remember frantically trying to call family behind an escalator in the airport as Tracy tried to retrieve her luggage, but not being able to get my cell phone to work as the network was down. That car ride back to the theater was slow, quiet, and a little tense.

(At that point in my life, I had never been to New York, so I didn’t really understand the importance of what was going on, how dominant the World Trade Center was to the visual element of Manhattan. When I first visited, in February 2003 for grad school interviews, a friend of mine specifically stopped me at 7th and 59th to tell me that you could easily see the towers from where I was standing. I had not asked for her to point that out to me.)

Both Tracy and Floyd Collins were instrumental in my theater education; I know that now. A few years ago, I saw Tracy in the Starbucks on 39th and 8th, obviously in a design meeting with a director. I didn’t get the chance to say hi; I often wonder what would have happened if I did.

Music I listened to while sewing: I’ve switched it up a bit this morning… I’m listening to my Jazz playlist.

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: As I said above, I feel okay right now even though everything in my life seems up in the air and unsettled.

On one hand, that’s great! On another, I worry if I should be a little more anxious about the next few months. Truthfully, I still need to find some solid, dependable work that will pay. I need to figure out some things out.

But I feel okay. I feel like things will work out. Eventually, once we get to 2014 and I get 2013 out of the way, I believe things will get back on track. It’s been a weird year.

But can’t get too complacent… still gotta make magic happen.


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