Block 416: April 27, 2014


Second day in LA. If it’s possible to have a slight case of jet-lag, I think I do.

Date: April 27, 2014

Crane: 416

Days Spent on Project: 434

Location: West Hollywood, CA

Person I would have sent it to: Geordie B.

That first season I was with the Brown/Trinity Rep Consortium, I was to design costumes for a total of 6 shows: two-second year Shakespeare Projects, two third-year thesis projects, and then two productions to be shown in New York as a part of a directing/acting showcase.

My first production, Twelfth Night with Makaela, was a good introduction to how the experience was going to be. There weren’t a lot of resources to work with, I would be working out of a converted storage closet in a basement, and ambitions were on (on their end, and on mine).

The second production I worked on there, a pared down production of MacBeth, was even more of an introduction into the process of working there. It was an ambitious work- taking Shakespeare’s play and narrowing it down to five actors playing perhaps a dozen characters only. It was a modern dress show, and I ended up dressing people like the people I saw in my neighborhood at the time: Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. (It wasn’t quite yet an urban environment, not quite yet Jersey-esque, but full of easily identifiable “types.” I remember, I had a hard time sitting myself down to draw out characters. I should have just done research boards for all the people in the play; I was going to shop most of it in thrift stores and cheap, cheap Brooklyn stores with no return policies, so I didn’t want to get too specific with clothing items, but I wanted to nail the ideas behind characters.

That was a lesson in learning that sometimes research boards, or tear sheets, are more helpful than sketches for a production.

And, also, because I was just fresh from (just months actually) the Yale School of Drama, I kept hearing Ming’s voice in my head: “Who are the witches?” The witches are your introduction to the play, the first character visual in the text, and deciding how they should look sets up the entire production. What does a “witch” in “this” world look like to you?

Haggard and hoary and gross and old and feminine? Wart covered nose? That’s so tried that it’s cliched now; knowing what the world is, what specifically is a witch for the production?

Being that this was a somewhat urban environment, it should have been easy: they should have been the homeless person you see and quietly ignore on the city streets or the subway platform. There was a fantastic picture I found in a book of two men- well-dressed in suits, talking together while seated on a wooden bench at the 14th St, Sixth Avenue subway platform. Underneath them, under the bench, huddled and pressed close to the ground, was a homeless man passed out.

That’s what the witches should have been.

Instead they turned out to be custom-made (by me!) jumpsuits with faceless hoods and eight feet long arms, made out of an olive-grey pleated chiffon and fake hair sewn out of the ends of their appendages. It was gross and weird and scary- not very real- and so I never knew how I felt about that design going forward.

Anyway, working with Geordie was fun because that was a kind of energy he brought to the table- a balance of the real and the strange could exist in his worlds and he liked that.

I would later design his NYC showcase (Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter) and then a small play of monologues in 2008. I know he’s still in New York (Brooklyn, I think), but I’m not sure what he’s up to these days.

Music I listened to while sewing: No music… other than the birds chirping outside the apartment that I’m couch-surfing on this week.

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: LA is so different than New York!

There are birds chirping outside the window (instead of the constant grey noise of traffic on the George Washington Bridge)! Palm trees! The sun was out! People actually were smiling outside (instead of looking stressed)!

It’s always very weird, leaving New York City.

Sitting in the airport at 5am, watching “Breaking News” on CNN, it’s always a little eye-opening how in a bubble I am. The world is such a bigger place than the island of Manhattan, and it’s so easy to forget that when you’re immersed in that activity. It’s all so… insular, I guess?

I don’t think I’ve left New York for more than 5 or 6 days (tech weeks for shows) in… well… hmm. Maybe since 2010?

No wonder I feel like I’m so out of it.

Anyway, it’s good to be hear right now. I have brunch plans, followed by a trip to an art gallery, on top of what I decide to do at night! Tomorrow is a big day for me…

Ta ta.

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