Block 656: May 10, 2015


Happy Mother’s Day to all the people who’ve mothered their children, or someone else’s child.

Date: May 10, 2015

Crane: 656

Days Spent on Project: 810

Location: NW Portland, OR

Person I would have sent it to: Michael L.

Yesterday, I started talking about the production I worked on in the early months of 2013. A friend of mine was production designing the entire thing (sets, props, costumes), and needed some help making a few of the specialty costume pieces. This had to have been late February and early March in 2013, because I remember sitting on the stage with a sewing machine trying to turn a hula hoop into a Catherine Wheel for an Elizabethan dress. I was building a pale pink (polyester) brocade Elizabethan dress (bodice, skirt, petticoat, Catherine Wheel, etc.) for someone quickly and on the cheap.

That actress who wore the costume was Laura V. from yesterday. Michael was the director, co-writer, co-producer, co-conceiver of the play along with Laura. The company they founded and steered was their own creation, and had a small following in the younger, way-off-Broadway crowd. I was interested in working with them because the scale of what they were trying to do was interesting.

I didn’t get to spend much time hanging out with the company, due the sewing work I was doing and also because I self-imposed time limits on the work I was doing… since I wasn’t being paid much.

(Looking back, through my rose colored glasses that I now wear in Portland, I wish I hadn’t let the size of my payment determine how much I was going to contribute to a project. Yes, it’s the smart thing to do from a freelance business perspective, but I wish I had taken advantage of all the energy and passion that were intrinsic in those small, by-the-seat-of-your-pants productions.)

Anyway, why do I think it’s important to thank Laura (from yesterday) and Michael? Because of their passion and dedication to the work. They were creating irreverent work, which was building a small following. They weren’t afraid of being weird, or making theatrical sense in a routine way. They were telling stories, harpooning conventions and traditions, and having fun with it. After that production opened and closed in 2013, they announced they were beginning to workshop their next one, which would be equally as skewered and skewering.

And they did it. They raised the money. They did the workshops. They made it happen.

And, it was chosen as a NY Times Critic’s Pick.

Which is awesome. I wish them luck and hope they keep going.

Music I listened to while sewing: I’m letting Spotify shuffle through music I liked in 2013. Apparently, I was really into dance remixes of Adele’s music.

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: I went to Powell’s last night against my better judgement (because, at this point, do I really need to collect MORE books?). I was looking for a used copy of Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. The book itself has been discussed a few times in conversations I’ve been apart of, and I realized it was time that I read it.

Stayed up until midnight last night, tearing through half of it. It’s great.

I wish I had read it five years ago, when I was working on a production with her. (How amazing would that have been, in the brief instances I had her attention, to talk to her about some of this writing?)

I’m especially in love with the sections on knowing yourself, finding your rituals, facing fear and distraction, taking the leap and just starting the work.

It’s making me think about college, and the possibilities that seemed everywhere in a liberal arts environment. Want to read and learn about acting? Sure! Want to take art classes? Go for it! Want to understand design? Why not. It’s making me remember a phone conversation I had with a working costume designer, who laid it out for me specifically: “At one point, you have to choose in order to be good at one thing. No one is a master of everything.”

I was presented an opportunity- a job- in my last semester of college and I took it. Gone were the dreams of trying to act or dance, things that really excited me. In the first year at Actors Theatre, my then boyfriend Dave telling me that to be good, I had to go to grad school and get to New York. I did all that. I did that because I thought that was the path that was opening up for me.

I never even questioned it; even though opportunities were appearing before me, were they the ones I should be taking?

I’m not sure I believe or don’t believe in fate. I hope that each of my life experiences is taking me down a path that is Meant For Me, but I also hope that I could make something else happen if I need to. The more I think about Portland, and my job here (which is still heavily about costume design but not designing), I realize that my employer won’t ever be a creative home for me. And that hurts. It feels like I’m settling. Like I’m ignoring the 15 years of design work I did before I got here just for a paycheck and insurance (no small things, right?).

But, simultaneously, with this work and the freedom from financial terror and the constant “What’s Next?,” I’ve been thinking about all the other things I could be doing. That I want to do. And, yes, I’d love to design costumes. I’d love that chance. But I don’t want to do it for theater that doesn’t pay, that doesn’t have resources, that doesn’t have help. I’m here and I’m sadly feeling over that kind of theater.

But I can sew for fun now. I can write for fun. I can try and create this immersive work I keep fantasizing about. Because I’m not always terrified of finding money and work, I’m finding my creative juices and desires opening up again.

And they’re not necessarily opening up with images of characters in clothes right now.

So, there’s that honest admission.

I’d hope the last 15 years of my life weren’t wasted on faulty pipe dreams and illusions, but I keep telling myself:

Something has directed me to be HERE right now. And now that I’m HERE, I can choose the what that will get me THERE.

I’m 36, so I’m neither young nor old. But it  feels again- for the first time in years- that I’m seeing things more clearly and more optimistically.

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