Block 447: May 28, 2014

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I really miss my dog.

Counting down the days.

Date: May 28, 2014

Crane: 447

Days Spent on Project: 465

Location: Conway, Arkansas

Person I would have sent it to: Marina D.

Back in the early spring of 2008, I received an email from Marina, asking if I wanted to assist her on a new production about a Nigerian musician in the 1970s. Even if I had been busy with work, I would have wanted to; how many times are you asked to work on something that different? Imagine the research I’d be doing!

We talked once or twice over the phone- I was in Providence, RI at the time- and set a time to meet in person at a Starbucks on the Upper West Side. I think that was in May. I didn’t stop working on the off-Broadway production of Fela! until October, when I was asked to document everything for a possible transfer to Broadway.

Marina is a working costume designer in TV, film, and theater; she was doing at least one other high profile project while Fela! was going on that summer, in fact, but wouldn’t talk much about it. She had graduated from the Yale School of Drama, after having come to the United States from Romania.

How much did I learn from Marina? A ton.

How much did things change in my life because of Marina and that show? An unimaginable amount.

Where would I even be now if I hadn’t worked with her? My time with her, and Fela!, switched gears incredibly for me. Looking back, I think that show was the first show where I felt like I was coming into my own as a New York based theater designer. It was no longer about needing to shop the show as cheaply as possible, renting things that would pass for the right period, and making do with nothing. Yes, we didn’t have riches of money to throw around, but there were resources to get things done.

Because of Fela!, I got to work in New York based costume shops. I saw the process of how things went together in New York. I saw the level of craft, first hand, that go into making certain items wearable for theater. I got to design- and have made- custom shoes for the first time. I learned about delegating and working hard and having a vision and sticking to it and a different kind of design process. I got to know so many resources that were available in New York that I never would have seen doing low-budget or no-budget shows.

Because of Fela!, I was able to leave my Brooklyn apartment and move to Manhattan. I was able to feel just a little more a part of the city, and not just a visitor. In all the incarnations of Fela! through the later years, I was able to live comfortably, for the first time. I was able to get into the design union. I was able to go to the Tonys one year. I saw Marina get recognized by winning the Tony for best costume design.

Because of Fela!, I was able to adopt my dog.

I’m incredibly thankful to have had that experience. Not everyone gets to work on a Broadway-bound show. Not everyone gets to work on a Broadway show that then transfers to London for a different production. Not everyone gets to go to the Tony Award ceremonies.

Weirdly, because of Marina, I was able to check off my “ultimate” job goal. I worked on a Broadway show. I designed some details for the show. I worked on three other Broadway shows. I would even, regardless of my last experience, love to work on another and another and another.

The summer of 2008 was a big point in my life. Meeting Marina in that Starbucks was important.

Throughout the course of this project, and trying to dedicate 1000 Cranes to 1000 people in my life, I’m starting to realize that some people will have more influence or importance than others. Some people will get a Crane just because I like them or thought about them at a random moment. Some people, and I guess this includes Marina, get them because they did something important in my life.

Music I listened to while sewing: My roommate for the rest of my time with this summer theater festival arrived in town yesterday. I’m in the living room of the apartment, still quiet, because it’s early. No music. This morning, I’m listening to the snores coming from his bedroom.

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: Why don’t I realize that I have worth as a costume designer, as a person, as someone who’s “done this before?”

Today, I’m wondering about that lovely topic again. I won’t be more descriptive than that.

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