Block 452: June 2, 2014


Today is my day off; I’m still planning to work in the shop to pass the time.

Date: June 2, 2014

Crane: 452

Days Spent on Project: 469

Location: Conway, Arkansas

Person I would have sent it to: Bill T. J.

Um, yeah, it seems a little weird for me to dedicate a Crane to Bill, as I was only an assistant costume designer on Fela!, but I feel like I should. He was the director and the choreographer, steering the ship through several incarnations over the years. And, sure, we interacted on a few occasions. How could we not, being in the same room for production meetings or rehearsal or design presentations.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wasn’t a very big cog in the machine that was Fela!, and that Bill was certainly the biggest wheel there; but still, we were both a part of it at the same time.

Much has been written about him, his career, his work by much better people, so I won’t try to add on anything else.

But, I will say it was educational to see how hard someone could work the people around him. Bill, he had an idea for a show, and he expected everyone else he brought into the room to be able to realize that vision to the best of their (his) ability.

As I stumble through my last ten days (!!!) in Arkansas, it’s been a question I’ve been wrestling with frequently. How hard do you push an idea? I have an idea for these costumes. What happens if the people brought here to help realize them either don’t have the ability to do so or the drive to do so? What if it’s just a hobby for them, something to do with a few weeks over the summer, and that it will be “done” is their ultimate goal?

I look at the work and I wonder why. What haven’t I done to excite them? What would it take to  get that extra effort? How better could I have communicated? I assumed the drive would be there, and I know now that’s wrong.

Is it better to expect the drive, the work, the effort to be there?

I expect you to be able to do this. You’re here; let’s do the work.

I’ve been thinking about Bill a bunch recently.

Music I listened to while sewing: Spotify, again. Dancefloor music playlist, still.

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: I’m designing one show that’s a part of a summer Shakespeare Festival in Arkansas. Of the four productions being realized and rehearsed at the same time, mine is the only musical and the only non-Shakespeare. The attempt to “pare the production down” was made by the artistic director, the director, and then myself when I realized how little money and resources were available to us.

As hard as I tried, I’m over budget. We have a week until our first dress rehearsal. There are still loads of notes in the shop. Work is being done. Progress is being made.

Anyway, more thoughts… As I watch the three other costume designers working here, I see we have the spectrum covered. One designer comes in once a week to check on the shop, but leaves for her other part time job. Another designer is pushing back against the shop, insisting that they do better work, which I admire because it’s necessary. Another designer and myself are just trying to get our shows up and running without breaking everyone’s will to live; we have the largest shows, and are therefore asking the shop to do the most work.

There are some good people here. My assistant, a 24 year old woman who worked in her university’s costume shop, has turned out to be a secret weapon. She may seem young, but she knows what she’s doing and she wants to do the work. I’m lucky that she was asked to work for me. I’m thankful for that.

I look around, and I wonder where the balance is. Should I be pushing back, like the other designer, and expecting better? I do know some of these employees can do great work- a few of them have surprised with their attention to detail and their awareness. But I see that pushing back only increases the tension and frustration.

On the other hand, dropping by once or twice a week to check in, seems too far in the other direction. It keeps your mental and emotional state more relaxed, sure, but why bother then?

If I continue this… I need to figure out a way to work with people who always do good work, who push themselves, who don’t check out, who get excited for it, who want to be here. Isn’t that what WE ALL struggle with? Where is my place? Where is a group that I want to belong to? Where will I feel at home and connected and a part of instead of apart from?

Lynn B. (Crane 194) always said, “You get to be here.”

I get to be here, but where is my here?

2 thoughts on “Block 452: June 2, 2014

  1. For today, your “here” is in-the-shop-helping-to-get-your-show-ready… but one day tomorrow is going to be a grand california adventure… i would say cali is expensive… but after nyc, you might not think so! good luck to you getting through the details between now and then…

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