Block 435: May 16, 2014


It gets really cold at night here in Arkansas. Just in case you were wondering…

Date: May 16, 2014

Crane: 435

Days Spent on Project: 453

Location: Conway, Arkansas

Person I would have sent it to: G. Warren S.

I met G. Warren the summer I designed three shows for Peninsula Players in Wisconsin. I believe he was still in grad school at the time, working towards his own MFA in theater. Having just finished mine a year prior, I was super-thankful not to be going through that experience again.

Getting an MFA is a lot of work.

G. Warren was a props designer that summer, working on each of the shows that season. Even though everyone lived and worked together at Peninsula Players, I don’t remember spending much time with him until we started working on Little Shop of Horrors. We had a lot of conversations dealing with who was going to make that darned gas mask that the dentist had to wear during one song. I ended up cobbling something together out of an oversized bubble gum machine top and lots of fishing equipment bought from a local Wal-Mart and lots and lots of epoxy and duct tape. Oh, summer stock.

G. Warren would later move over to New York, and he’s still designing for theater and making a freelance career work for him. Over the years, we’ve talked several times via Facebook about needing to get together for a drink so we could discuss life and theater and bemoan how they intermix, but we haven’t managed to do it yet.

There was one time where I did see him in a crowd in the East Village one afternoon; he looked like he was on set for a small film shoot on 8th Street. He appeared busy. He also had an out of control beard, which I thought was kinda fun and awesome.

He also just posted on Facebook that his car was towed in his neighborhood in Queens. That’s a bad way to start the morning.

Music I listened to while sewing: Right now, it’s a morning filled with pop music. It’s Katy Perry’s Birthday right now.

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: I’m in a bit of a pinch and this is going to sound like a rant, but…

I’m really tired of productions being budgeted irresponsibly. I’ve followed and met and exceeded all the deadlines given to me on this project. I went to all the production meetings prior to rehearsal; I flew out here during the middle of a polar vortex last winter and I’ve done the Skype meetings and phone calls and returned emails and met with people over coffee to discuss research and sketches. I did the work expected of me.

(Although I will admit that I didn’t color my sketches. And I did because of the very issue I’m having currently here).

Every step of the way, no one looked at my sketches and said, “No, don’t do that.” No one ever said, “We can’t do this.” Over four months, someone could have said that. Instead, several people (director, shop manager, artistic director, and so on) said they were excited for these sketches and ideas and couldn’t wait for the show to start.

And then I got the budget. And it’s small. And I changed some ideas to be much simpler and pared down. I said some of the actors had to come from stock, and that no money could be spent on them. I said the ensemble sketches were really just blueprints, but needed to come from stock as much as they could… while retaining the idea that I drew. But, some sketches (like the principals) were just going to be what I drew. Maybe I could make the tiny budget work. But, I’m finding that may be a pipe dream.

I sat down the director and producer yesterday and said, “It’s no longer a question of IF I go over my budget, but WHEN I go over budget.” Things like dance tights just cost money. And because they’re dance tights and worn in a musical with lots of dancing and there are two show days and they’re dancing on a set made out of metal and scaffolding, they might get runs. So I should (yes, I should) buy duplicates of them. That just costs money. To do the minimum amount I need would cost at least a fifth of the budget I have. If I don’t buy them, they’re legs are bare.

They don’t exist in stock here. I can’t borrow them from stories. I kinda have to buy them.

That’s a simple way of explaining the problem I’m in here. I’m trying to wrap my head around being “the irresponsible designer who will appear to refuse to work within a budget” on this show.

But I maintain that I’m not trying to be difficult; I’m trying to do the work that you asked me to do and deliver the designs that were approved. And when you ask me to do a show that involves “period-esque,” “fantasy,” costumes that need to be danced in heavily and put me in a shop with no dance resources, it costs money.

I’m trying to be responsible, but it’s just going to happen.

And this is why I wonder if I’m a bad designer… that I worry about going over budget at the expense of finishing my show. If I were a good designer, I’d just buy what I needed, right?

Why do people expect us to work miracles?

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