Block 276: December 6, 2013



Thank GAWD it’s Friday.

Date: December 6, 2013

Crane: 276

Days Spent on Project: 293

Location: Apartment, Washington Heights, NYC

Person I would have sent it to: Jane G.

Jane is, in my opinion, one of the current living legends of costume design.

She came to Actors Theatre of Louisville to design one of the plays for the Humana Festival my first season with the company. Clueless, I knew who she was (she is a chapter in the Lynn Pecktal book on costume design, after all), but I didn’t have much of a reference for the scope or breadth or longevity of her work and career. I was assigned to work with her by the shop manager; she told me I had to as a young designer-in-training.

The show was a somewhat simple one: three actors were involved, one playing Rembrandt and two others playing an old married couple. Rembrandt’s clothes needed to be of the period, very real, believable. The clothes worn by the married couple should look appropriately New York, every day. Jane, being who she was, didn’t have a difficult time with the project. She came to visit a few times, we had our fittings, I did some shopping with her, I sat in tech rehearsals with her… it was like any other show’s process.

But, at 22, I got to assist Jane. (!)

Her last night in Louisville, as I drove her to the apartment the theater had provided for her, she and I talked about what her next projects were. She asked what I was thinking about doing after my time with Actors Theatre came to an end. Jane is one of the costume professors at Yale; she asked if I had any intention of applying or going to grad school. I said I was.

She said she hoped to see me there soon.

And like that, the trajectory to the Yale School of Drama began.

I have to thank her for that initial vote of confidence that pushed me towards taking grad school- and my chances of getting into Yale- seriously. If she saw something in me that could fit within the Yale School of Drama community, maybe I could belong there. As hard as my time at grad school was (it is an Arts grad school, after all), I have to be thankful to have had that time there. I have to thank Jane for telling me, not so explicitly, that I could be there.

Jane’s clothes are always understated, very period, wonderfully made. Her work is great British Design. I love her work. I’m not sure, the more I actually design, that her style is mine… but I love her work.

Music I listened to while sewing: I’ve got the Chill Out Playlist on this morning. I haven’t had a rough week at all, although I did finish teching that dance concert this week. I had two job interviews (one isn’t gonna happen, the other went well but there’s no work right now). I’ve got a bunch of stuff done. I feel okay, but I still feel like I need this week to calm down.

Thoughts/Feelings Behind the Block: So, yesterday’s interview with a costume designer that I really admire went well. I think he’s great. I think his work is great. I’d love the chance to work for him, but I don’t think he’s got any work to offer right now. That’s maybe not great news, yet the talk with him was so very encouraging I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet him officially.

And after two hours, as I left his studio, I was left thinking that Life and Theater and Design and Work never really change as you age. It’s always the same outer-drama and inner-trauma as you go through your process, no matter what the budget, the people, or the circumstances involved. Someone will always be difficult. There will never be enough money. Someone will always assume they can do your job better than you. You’ll always be worried that maybe you made a wrong choice along the way.

Some people will love your work. Others might not. A few might even hate it and, strangely, you by extension. And we all will the need the chance to embrace- and wallow in- those times, but then we need to allow ourselves the opportunity to move on, to heal, and even to learn from those experiences. I’ll admit I’ve had some sh-tty times this year. 2013 has not been easy at all. But it’s time to make a choice and move on to a different time and accept that things happen for a reason. And sometimes, you aren’t meant to be involved in certain projects or work with certain people.

There isn’t one way in This. You just have to find your way, and it is YOUR way. It might take a year. It might take 15. You never know.

Strangely, The IT you dream of might never happen. But some THING will. And it’s your choice to accept that and be gracious about it or not. What you shouldn’t become is bitter that the Thing wasn’t the It you wanted. That unexciting Thing might actually be the It other people strive for… you never know.

If you constantly face life with the attitude “When I get this, then I’ll be happy,” you’re not living and enjoying the present. When I design this project… when I work with this person… when I get to that level… when I make this much money! If your happiness is always contingent on something coming later, you haven’t found the thing that makes you happy now.

Money makes it easier, but money doesn’t solve everything. Consumerism isn’t about being content with what you have; it’s about always needing something else. We should consume life, of course, but we should also remember to live it while we can.

Marathons are hard; we’re all running our own, and we’re all running it in our own time. And that’s good enough.

But the key, the KEY to all this, is to realize that we should face the day with gladness and thankfulness… because we’re blessed if we really are driven by a passion to do this work, whatever your “this work” is. And it can be anything, you probably already really know it… even if you don’t.

Honestly, maybe it is true that people can the read unhappiness you feel on the inside; take a look in the mirror, focusing on your eyes, and ask if people would want to get a drink with you after a 12 hour day. Would they? Would you?

In the end, at 34, maybe I should be aware that I live in New York (in Manhattan!) in a weirdly-laid-out one bedroom apartment and I have a French Bulldog who’s currently snoring next to me on a pillow and I grew up in rural Indiana and I escaped that and I’m crazily managing to (barely) eke out a living making clothes (costumes) for people (characters) on a stage and I’ve had amazing times and I’ve had low times. But I’m still here. And what I do is cool. I always want to do more of it, regardless of what happened prior; that let’s me know I’m on a good path.

I want to design more. I want this work. I selfishly want to work with companies that will support my work, my vision, my life… and I don’t think that desire is bad. I want this.

And, as crazy as it seems, you have to allow the chance for the universe to provide. It’s blatantly Pollyanna-ish to say that, but things do work out. I have to trust.

Food for thought.

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