Block 771: September 3, 2015

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It’s time for WINE so I can WHINE.

Date: September 3, 2015

Crane: 771

Days Spent on Project: 926

Location: NW Portland, OR

Person I would have sent it to: TBD

Music I listened to while: I’ve got my old, tried and true Fort Fairfield playlist on this evening. I wanted to listen to Carly Rae Jepsen’s new album again since I’m stuck in a rut easily, but this is what I should be listening to right now.

Thoughts/Feelings behind the block: Well, after yesterday’s brief entry, let’s see how long I can make today’s!

First off, I poured myself a large glass of wine. I’ve allowed myself to take a few large sips of it already. I’m sitting on my porch, with its overhead light set dimly lit, and the sky is a cloudy grey blue. My dog has decided it’s too chilly to be here, I guess, because today feels like autumn. Summer’s done.

Second of all, I was responsible last night and put myself to bed at 9:30pm with all the lights off and all the electronic devices pointed away from me, so their ambient, electronic light wouldn’t influence my sleep. Didn’t help; last night/this morning, I repeatedly woke up, confused about where I was and what was going on and what time it was and what I was doing. It wasn’t restful. I let myself sleep in until 6:15 before my dog started hopping up and down to get me up.

Thirdly, my mind was blown by 9:30am at work.

Do you ever get into a conversation and, with one casual or off-hand or unimportant comment, find your perception of your situation just CHANGED?

I designed a production of Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike at this regional theater last December. We opened in January. I wasn’t originally intended to design costumes for it, but the original designer dropped out for “unknown” reasons. I had fun with the show. The “costume party” costumes got a lot of attention and a lot of press. The theater made a three minute video of the clothes and of me discussing the design intentions behind it; that video was seen almost 7,000 times- which may not seem that large of a number- but it was the most popular video they had ever done at the time. (It was beat a few months later with, guess what, another video of me talking about building the prosthetic nose for our production of Cyrano… over 8,000 views.) Anyway, as far as I was concerned, I enjoyed the product and I relished the unexpected chance to design in my first year at the theater and I was happy that the audiences audibly and vocally were excited by the work I– and MY SHOP– created.

But working with the director? It was difficult. It was confusing. It wasn’t easy. I’ve worked with difficult personalities and I’ve been in trying situations with “important people,” but THIS? This process was… just… weird.

I did everything like I usually did. I had scores of visual research and photographs of what I wanted to do. I made myself available to discuss them during several meetings that were quickly cancelled or “forgotten.” I did sketches of the show. No response. I did NEW sketches of the show. No reponse. I did MORE SKETCHES for the show. No response. I brought in fabric samples to give the director ideas of what the materials and color palette would be. NO RESPONSE. I gave up. I stopped trying to talk about the clothes. I assumed she didn’t care.

Turns out she did. But only at the last minute, when things had been bought and altered and made and fitted and constructed and money had been spent. Huh. I wasn’t happy with her. I knew she wasn’t happy with me. I didn’t know where I went wrong. This has always been my process, I thought: what happened? what was lacking? what did I do wrong? why was this bad in her opinion? what went wrong?

Today, fast forward 8 months from that production, a coworker in marketing came up to me with The September Issue of Vogue and wanted to look through it together. In the course of the conversation, we somehow got on the topic of the poster art and marketing campaign for the season. It had been delayed. No posters have been displayed yet- and we go into previews in 9 days! Turns out The Director I worked with last January wouldn’t sign off on the poster and the images used, which meant nothing got published for the season.

Why? To summarize, after discussing the process the marketing person described, the director wouldn’t react or respond or converse or approve anything if it looked in any way drawn or illustrated or graphic.

DING DING DING.

She only approved an image that was LITERALLY a clean, photographic representation of an object. There could be no artistic bent to the image. It had to be 100% real or represented.

DING DING DING DING DING.

I thought about all her other poster art/marketing imagery used and approved since I’ve been here. It’s always simple, very bare in terms of color (very white and blue or white and grey), always “clean,” and very specific and real.

She has no way to look at something and interpret.

That’s it.

I’m simplifying the conversation I had with Marketing (and several people in Marketing at that point), but she can’t look at something representation and SEE what it could be. It has to be THE THING. It has to be THE REAL THING. There can be no uncertainty or room for air or ambiguity.

I draw very well. I take pride in that. I will say that I can’t draw, that sometimes my work sucks, that sometimes it’s not good enough, but in the end I know that my drawings are effective because they communicate information and also mood. I KNOW THAT. You can’t argue with me on that. I can sketch effectively. I’ve been trained to do so… and even if I can’t, I’ve been taught to be able to talk about what might not be clear. I KNOW THAT.

So, when this director wouldn’t look at my sketches, when she refused to have an opinion until the 11th hour, when she was hurtful in her critiques of what the clothes were, when she refused to talk to this new designer that we’re working with, when she only responded to photographs of specific imagery, when this director throws a tantrum about needing the real costume pieces and only the real costume pieces in rehearsal (who gets that? who demands that?), it wasn’t about being malicious or mean or bitchy or playing with power.

It’s because she’s one of those rare beings that exist- but usually not in theater.

She’s one of those people who can’t see visually. She can’t imagine. She can’t think ahead. She can’t see the big picture.

DING.

My revelation at 9:30am this morning repeatedly blew my mind.

  1. How is she in a position of artistic leadership in this theater?
  2. How is she someone who works in this theater?
  3. How is she someone who works in theater?
  4. If she can’t work visually, if she can’t work with visual people, how is she working?
  5. If she can’t work visually, if she can’t work with visual people, how did she get this job?
  6. If she can’t work visually, if she can’t work with visual people, how is she in theater?
  7. If she can’t work visually, if she can’t work with visual people, why is she LEADING?
  8. Why does she have a position of authority that controls major artistic decisions within a company that wants to be nationally recognized and contribute to the theater world?
  9. HOW DID I LET HER INABILITY TO DO THE WORK CONVINCE ME THAT I WAS SOMEHOW UNABLE TO DO THE WORK? I always do loads of research. I do tons of sketches. I spend a lot of time thinking. I think of visual implications of place and movement and objective and palette and silhouette and usage when I commit to a design. I’m pretty easy to talk with. I like collaborating. I like the process. I like to work hard. I work hard. I like working hard with other people. Because this one director found fault with my process and product… that has worked everywhere else…
  10. Why does that destroy my confidence?
  11. Why would I give her the power to end my design career?
  12. Why would I want to stay here and work again?

And so on.

I’ll wind this up, because it’s now 8:30pm and this is getting long (too late), but how can a leader of an artistic institution be so unartistic?

This person’s INability to work with others DOES NOT REFLECT ON ME. It’s her onus to carry. It’s her inability to think that is the issue. I want to work. I want to think. I want to talk. I want to be on a team. I want to collaborate.

If you don’t want to keep questioning or growing or examining or understanding, WHY ARE YOU IN THEATER? This is an art form that demands teamwork and discussion and awareness and curiosity and passion and insecurity and confidence and humility and pride and humanity.

If I can’t understand you, or understand a way to understand you, or find a way to empathize with experience outside my own worldview, or figure out a way to expand my worldview, WHY WOULD I WORK IN THEATER?

If this is the person steering the ship… um… uh…

WHAT THE… ?

More later, but it’s late.

I hope I sleep better tonight, everyone.

Get some rest.

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