Block 565: December 30, 2014


Two days left in 2014.

Date: December 30, 2014

Crane: 565

Days Spent on Project: 680

Location: NW Portland, OR

Person I would have sent it to: After the second Yale Dramat show fell out as it did, or should I say before it, I was hired to assist one of my grad school professors on a new musical that was rumored to be heading to Broadway. Before the show would be seen in New York, it would of course have its out of town tryout… in New Jersey.

I never saw the movie Newsies when I was a teenager, but I remember several of my (girl) friends talking about it during junior high. I knew of the movie, but didn’t have any real connection to it. That Jess G. emailed me and asked me to work with him on it was pretty awesome.

I was to be one of two assistants on the show. We would spend the entire summer working on it. I feel like it was a solid three month contract.

Anyway, when I showed up for my first day of work in July, I found the Paper Mill Costume Shop just west of the garment district. It was grossly humid. For some reason, I had decided to wear a new pair of chinos to work. I regretted it the minute I stepped off the subway. I was still living on the Upper East Side at the time. My dog had just turned two.

So, let’s start talking about all the people that I should acknowledge during my time on Newsies- at Paper Mill and then on Broadway.

First, China L.

China was the other assistant hired to work on the show’s costumes. She had worked with Jess on several other productions, on Broadway, off, regionally. They had a long standing working relationship, and they worked well together. She was also a graduate from Yale, too, so we all had that in common.

China is a great assistant, and a great associate. She has a very driven attitude for getting work done, finding out what answers are needed, she made things happen. I’m glad to have worked with someone of her caliber. I really am.

And, honestly, I wish we had gotten along better. We did, yes, but I got incredibly cranky one day and made some very mean comments in my arrogance. And I wish I hadn’t done that. I don’t know why I did that. I regret that. I really do because I know I was ultimately being the a$$hole in the situation, and I just spoke before I thought.

There are times when I think I’m a horrid person, and then there are times when I realize I have the potential to be really horrid and act on it. This was one of those times.

I tried apologizing to China, but I don’t think she rightfully accepted them. In all honesty, I was in pain and at one of those moments in my life when I wasn’t treating myself well. I could use that as an excuse, but it’s really just an excuse.

Music I listened to while sewing: My dog is snoring in his bed that’s under my desk. So there’s that.

There’s also Into The Woods today. Yay!

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: You know what? Something that has started to help the over obsessiveness with my costume sketches was the reminder that a costume drawing is actually the first step in a process, the beginning of a journey, rather than an exact destination that you have to arrive at. Once an idea leaves your head, is worked out onto paper, then shown to a director, and then hopefully maybe scrutinized by a draper or a stitcher or an assistant and then finally an actor, that original idea has the possibility of evolving into something else that is much more than what I initially dreamed. (Yes, as the costume designer, I would still hope to hold the guide-map, certainly, to keep us all on course…Someone’s got to keep the team focused and looking ahead, not getting distracted by the roadside attractions.)

As much as I like drawing. And some of my obsessiveness with drawing costume sketches is that act itself is enjoyable for me. (When I’m on, it’s heaven. As much as I worry that I don’t draw well enough, it’s because I like it.)

But still! The journey!

I think that’s the fun of “Costume Design.” Yes, I like looking at clothes. Yes, I like fashion. Yes, fabric is fun to play with. Yes, I want to be creative. I want to invent. I want to imagine. BUT, I’m not working to be a fashion designer. I don’t call myself an artist. I call myself a Costume Designer. I think of myself as someone who helps other people tell stories. But instead of speaking, instead of writing, my language is clothing.

[And anyone who is unaware of the silent but very communicative language of clothing (not fashion, but clothing) is unaware of a lot of life around them. (Skinny jeans are different than oversized relaxed fit is different than a clean indigo washed jean is different than a heavily whiskered jean is different than a jean with exaggerated stitching…)]

Not having the concrete answers, losing the “the costume is exactly this” stubbornness, but allowing that growth to happen with other people… that’s part of the fun. I consider myself a designer. I want to work with drapers who can see a sketch and say, “I see this, but what I can do is this… or this… or make it like this… or that…” I want to work with directors who’ll say, “It’s not that, think about this person needing this or coming from there or not having slept or…” I want to work with assistants who can say “Have you thought about these fabrics or these shoes or I found this bits and baubles will these work?” I want to work with an actor who can say, “I can do this with this garment or this makes me think or this isn’t far enough yet or this won’t help me do this and so on.”

If I insisted that an idea of mine was fully born, completely fleshed out by the time it erupted from my head, when I put marker and pencil to paper, why bother working with other artists along the way? Why bother with collaborating? Why bother with storytelling?

It’s something I’m trying to deal with in life, and with these 1000 cranes: reminding myself that while I did draw a guide for my life, none of those lines were etched into stone, and these lines can be erased and redrawn as many times as I need to until some sort of “finished” product comes into focus. Yes, years ago, when I was so much younger, I intended this to happen, and I’ve taken these steps to get myself there, but- BUT- here I am now. In Portland.

If 2014 has taught me anything, it’s that Life can alter itself drastically incredibly fast and before you have much time to weigh your options. Sometimes you have to act. Sometimes you have to leap at an opportunity and see what it is. And where it will take you.

So, who knows where I’ll be then. Then. Later.

By the way, I’m not sure when you find that “finished product;” I always see a notes on Opening Night, you know?

Thank god for erasers. Thank god that relatively few things in life are as permanent as they seem to be. Loosen up. Know how to keep it all in proportion. Have a clear perspective. Start over. I’m not done yet. I’m not stuck here.

3 thoughts on “Block 565: December 30, 2014

  1. I am on the verge of trying something for the third time… a move to a specific area in the Pacific Northwest. The first two times I was beholden to different people. This time it would be on my own, and with my life’s experience. My point? You will move from Portland; you may move on to bigger, smaller, more wonderful, less wonderful things and times. You have answered a call, and will do so again. For me, it has never stopped, nor, I imagine, will it ever for you. No regrets in all of my now countless moves from country to country, city to city… all with a timely purpose. Your writing gets more and more interesting, as do your cranes!

    • I really hope more change is in store! I’m really grateful for this challenge and experience and opportunity, but I’m (re)learning (maybe remembering) what I wanted to do with my life and what I once thought I was capable of before (freelancing in) New York got me down. I know this is all a long journey, and I’m curious to see what happens next!

      Thanks for the words and I hope your travels and adventures go well for you, too!

      • Apologies for sometimes making the noises of an old sage, but I do feel that way sometimes! Thanks for the good wishes. I await your change with nearly as much anxiety and trepidations as I do my own.

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