Block 308: January 9, 2014

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It’s 20 degrees right now, and it feels so WARM!

Date: January 9, 2014

Crane: 308

Days Spent on Project: 327

Location: Apartment, Washington Heights, NYC

Person I would have sent it to: Cat T.

When I went to the Yale School of Drama, there would usually be 10 students in a design class, which broke down to 4 set designers, 4 costume designers, and 2 lighting designers. There was usually another “visiting student” (someone from another university [nationally or internationally]) that had impressed someone in the department (usually [no, always] Ming Cho Lee) who would study with us (actually Ming) for one year.

Because of the smaller pool of lighting designers at the YSD, those students were swept up into actual production work much faster, usually designing a show during their first year at school. The rest of us had to wait for our second year; it was a lesson to take to heart, as there were just too many costume and set designers and not enough work. Even when we made it to the second year, and had the opportunity to design, we often had to jockey for specific shows and projects. No one wanted to be “forgotten” when it came to the year’s design assignments.

Cat was the second lighting designer in my year, and I thought she was the best thing.

When I was swept into my work study assignments at the beginning of the year, before anyone else in my year had to deal with that time-issue, I was asked to work on the lighting crew. I had never been asked to hang lights, cable, gel, or focus them before. Cat, as the assistant lighting designer, was my saving grace. She taught me how to do it, taking it easy on me since I was a costume designer and clearly out of my element.

Cat had the best attitude and sense of humor about it all. She had a quick and loud laugh, and paired it with a big smile. As the three years wore on at Yale, I was always glad that she was in the same class that I was.

When I was stuck in the Atlanta airport this past weekend, trying to get home from a weekend in Little Rock, I couldn’t help but think about Cat frequently. She came to the Yale School of Drama from having lived and worked in Atlanta.

She was the first person who told me it was “Hotlanta.”

Music I listened to while sewing: I’ve got pop music on this morning, courtesy of Spotify. It tells me it’s playing the top of the charts presently… and it’s all the same music that I’ve heard for months, it seems. Does pop music never change?

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: It’s hard for me to think about my time at the Yale School of Drama. I feel incredibly conflicted about that experience.

On one hand, I’m a much better designer because of that education. Over three years, the amount of work I did was impressive. The quality of work I was doing in the classroom improved exponentially. Looking back at the work I thought was “costume design” pre-Yale and seeing the expectations I have of my current work, so much has changed. I have a deeper appreciation and understanding of this work. I can’t believe I was accepted at 24 years old, on the spot during my interview. I didn’t have any concept of fashion or style. I was coming from the Midwest; I don’t mean that to sound insulting, but I didn’t have access to, or even an awareness of, the idea of Fashion or Style or the specifics of fashion’s history or silhouette. I didn’t even know fabric stores could be better than Hancock’s or Jo-Ann’s.

I was in over my head.

And because of that, I grew increasingly insecure about my place there. I doubted that I had a right to be there.

But I was there. I was accepted quickly by the department when I applied. They gave me a hard time about my work, but no harder than my classmates.

Looking back, I wish I had identified and connected more with the people around me. I know now that grad school is more than doing work in class. A graduate education in Theater is about making personal connections to people studying around you. You want to find the people that inspire you and push you and excite you. Yes, there were people there that impressed me and I looked up to. I loved a lot of the work I saw there. I had a few experiences there where I was genuinely moved by the theater I saw. My idea of what theater is and could be blew up.

So, yes, it was a worthwhile and great education.

I wish, in my heart of hearts, that I had inspired someone else. I wish I had found someone there who was excited by me, as an artist and designer. I don’t know why I didn’t find that network or group there, but I feel like I failed on that end. And I think that’s the worst kind of failure you can have when you’re trying to get an MFA in design, when you want to move yourself ahead in this very cutthroat business.

I want my group here, and I honestly haven’t found it yet. There is so much possibility available here in New York. There is so much opportunity. I’d kill to work with certain groups and on certain kinds of projects.

Instead of getting down about it, I’ve got to realized that opportunities for me are here. But they could also be elsewhere. I’ve got to keep putting myself out there. I have to keep trying to be seen. I have to keep doing my best. I have to stand up for myself. I have to keep the faith in myself, my work, my ability, my path, my being.

Gotta keep moving!

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