Block 715: July 9, 2015

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Back from the Oregon Coast this afternoon and within an hour of dropping my bags in the apartment, I got a text about some BIG work news that shouldn’t have been such emotional news but, for very specific reasons, got me to run the mile to work on the rest of my (last) vacation day and jump around screaming with some of my co-workers.

And, you know what? It may have been in bad form, but no one cared. People were diplomatically smiling while secretly giving “thumbs up” signs all over the place.

Pop the champagne, ladies and gentlemen.

Date: July 9, 2015

Crane: 715

Days Spent on Project: 870

Location: NW Portland, OR

Person I would have sent it to: Brittany S.

When I arrived in Conway, Arkansas- late at night due to a delayed flight and some bad thunderstorms on the drive out from Little Rock- I was told the costume shop had been set up in their space for the summer and they’d be ready to greet me and get started on my production of Pippin. The next morning, when I woke up in the college apartment that would be my home for the next month, I knew I needed to make an appearance and get started… but I didn’t know where to go or who to contact.

Yep, I was dropped off in the middle of a very generic apartment complex in “suburban” Arkansas, with no information about where I needed to go or how to really get there.

So, I left the apartment, walked to a gas station a half mile away for a coffee, and started walking in the direction that I was pointed in…

Some time later, I found the costume shop. It was a converted university classroom, and the people hired by the shop manager were busy getting “prepared for the season.” I spoke to the shop manager, the one draper, and some of the stitchers there. I was also introduced to Brittany S.

That festival in Arkansas was young, just under 10 seasons, and relied heavily on “interns” to do a majority of the work. There were four or five interns, I think, in the costume shop that summer. Part of the compensation they were given was the promise to work as assistants to “working professional costume designers” that summer season.

I was lucky. Out of all the interns there, Brittany was the powerhouse who understood the enormity of the work, was focused when she was in the shop, and helped in ALL aspects of mounting the show… as she and I figured out places to rent clothes from for cheap, places to buy clothes from that would offer us discounts, take notes during fittings, do notes from fittings, and then also make sure that other people did the work in the costume shop.

I was INCREDIBLY lucky, and I’m really aware of that. The other assistants that summer, I’ll be blunt, did NOT really go the distance for their designers. One did her best with a very small show and independent designer, and the other two- who were assisting my friends Rachel and Lauren- had no interest in theater or costumes… they just took the work because, as they admitted publicly, they wanted to hang out together and have an easy summer.

Brittany was great. She was a recent college graduate, I think, and wanted to get experience in theater. On the many car trips she and I would take, she talked about her marriage, her hunt for a job, her husband’s work, and life in Arkansas around us.

When the show opened and opened well, because of her work and commitment, I made a point to give her one of the show’s sketches with swatches attached, a card, and then a book I used for research. It was the very least I could do to show her how thankful I was to get the good assistant in a very trying summer.

We’re Facebook friends now. I rarely see posts from her, but it seems like she’s doing well. I hope she is.

Music I listened to while sewing: I’ve got some really great celebratory music on right now! Which seems to be “Peanut Butter Jelly” by Galantis and various remixes of “Women Beat Their Men” by Simioli (I think).

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: Many thoughts and feelings today.

I’m writing this at approximately 6pm, Portland time, on July 9th after spending a great almost-48 hours on the Oregon Coast with my friend Vinnie and his family. My dog has been napping and inhaling his dinner and chewing on bones and running around the apartment. I’m still reeling from the very great news that happened at work today.

Regarding work, I’m happy this event happened because it tells me GOOD CHANGE IS POSSIBLE and all my frustration with the way “things and people were” weren’t isolated in my experience but affected (effected?) MANY PEOPLE AND DEPARTMENTS. I know it’s just one way to change for the better in the grand scheme of work, but what a way to change. It makes me think that there is a desire to make the product, the environment, the relationships, the collaborations, the experience better… not only on stage but off. It feels great. Euphoric-great.

Regarding Portland, yeah, it’s not amazing and isn’t really what I expected when I moved here from New York, but I’m starting to realize the compromise I made (so long freelance costume design career) might actually have some benefits if I’m able to find a balance and act on an outside work life. I just rented a car and drove two hours away and spent 48 hours with friends and their 5 month old baby and it was no big deal. Yes, the work during the season is intense, but it is possible to find a balance. I just have to take advantage of it when I can.

Regarding The California Project, I learned in the past 48 hours that Vinnie is still interested and there will be another version or iteration of it in the future, but I made a big discovery. If this is something I’m leading, I need to lead and figure out a way to make this happen. I need to keep working. I need to bring a team on board. I need to be true to the vision I have. I need to “workshop” it again, but more specifically. I need to document it. I need to build interest. I need to find an audience.

I learned it is interesting work. People are interested. There is an audience. It is worthwhile. I just need to step out MORE and take ownership and direct this along the path that it needs to go down. It’ll be hard. Maybe it won’t be successful. I don’t expect it to make me rich (but that wasn’t ever a goal of mine). It will take time. But I want to do it and I feel that I have contacts and ideas and people who could support me.

I just need to get specific and invite people along with me.

And get a Kickstarter or Indiegogo account.

In the meantime, the past 48 hours were great and awesome and I can’t wait to get to work tomorrow and start fresh in a very new work environment.

I hope this idealism lasts for a while.

Hope YOU’RE well in life. Thanks for following along with me.

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