Summer Job and a Successful Irish Stout

I am looking forward to the summer. Why? I am looking forward to the summer because I have a way to occupy it that is within my field and financially responsible. Indeed, dear reader, I got a job as a scenic artist at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival. Ultimately, the job description is very similar to the one that I do the rest of the year, but summer stock has a way of amping up the intensity on even the most mundane of tasks. Usually, one is building and painting full scale productions in a very short time period (a week is a luxury) and those shows are put into rotation (usually called Rep) over the course of a few weeks. Imagine doing what you normally do over a single week and then take that and accomplish the same amount in less than half the time. Yeah, the hours can get pretty wild. Luckily, this place sounds like they actually care about a person’s time and health. So, while I fully expect plenty of long days (and nights) filled with intensely creative cyclones, I also anticipate having a massive amount of fun being in a new environment. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I seriously love my job, but I am almost glad that I have three months away. Sure, it would be nice to not have to go on the hunt for a job in the summer. However, that means that I have to keep my portfolio up to date, I get to work in different places as well as with different people, and I don’t get bored during my hiatus from the Stage. Plus, I get a sweet little cushion between my summer job starting and Stage season ending so I get an actual break before all the madness. I have many a scheme for that month that make me rather giddy indeed.

Also, on a totally unrelated note, I have discovered a new craft. Well, craft brewing to be exact. Ladies and Gentlemen, this blogger has officially brewed her first batch of beer! Handsome got into brewing last year and when we moved here I made it clear that I would love to learn. Thus, a few months back, we got our kit and equipment and we now have our first beer fully carbonated and delicious while our second has just been bottled. First beer is an Irish Stout that came out rather fantastic. I know to some it probably tastes something like petroleum, but as someone who loves a good stout, I am deeply in love with ours. I practically glow with pleasure when I taste the thing that I and my gorgeous partner put together…and it doesn’t scream “DISGUSTING” or “AMATEUR”! I won’t go into too much detail because I realize brewing is one of those things that is far more rewarding to drink than to wax poetic about, but I will say that I thoroughly enjoy the process. Even if it means we now have way more beer than we ever thought of drinking comfortably.

Tired but Exhilarated (oh, and go see a show)

I am bushed.

I spent most of my break from my “regular” job running about Baltimore attempting to make a design a reality. I did the scenic design for a show called Where the Whangdoodle Sings and it is being presented by a local (to Baltimore) theatre company called Generous Company. A number of my good friends are in the company and having heard the script at a reading, I was extremely excited to be invited into the process. The script is new to the scene and I was profoundly affected by the piece when I first heard it read two years ago. The piece has definitely shifted since I first heard it, but the core energy of the work is preserved with an honesty that I often find lacking in modern pieces. As a designer, the script gave me plenty of tasty puzzles that mapped a landscape of strength and simplicity. My aesthetic is well suited to such a landscape.

The elements of lights, set, costumes, and props are things that the audience doesn’t often consider. The production team is meeting and collaborating long before the actors set foot in rehearsal. The director presents the vision and then we fly.  As the great Eleanor Fuchs says, each play is a tiny planet with its own rules, climate, passage of time etc.  That planet is born anew with every new production. The design is where our understanding of the planet begins to breathe. As a set designer, I offer the actors a world to play within and I offer an audience an invitation to come join them. The other designers sculpt their own invitations and together we create a collaborative effort that looks effortless once the actors give our elements life.

Whangdoodle was not easy to realize. There were definite limitations that characterized our work and ,ultimately, made it our own by blood and fire. Perhaps I sound melodramatic, but over the course of the eight days I was in Baltimore, I saw and experienced every possible emotion such a process can inspire. What overwhelms me most is my feeling of bone deep  gratitude. So deep is my gratitude that, if you would humor me, I would like to raise a figurative glass and give some toasts:

To the Alchemist and  the BrightLady!  (for housing myself and Handsome for the week, hauling my butt around on so many shopping trips and trips to the theatre, and glorious conversation)

To Herculine! (for stepping up and putting my dreams together into physical structures)

To Strong-Woman! (for helping me complete effects that would never have been finished without her assistance)

To Handsome! (for joining me for New Years and then offering copious love and support in the brief moments we could spend together)

To Wonder Woman! (who ran such a tight ship in the midst of stormy waters)

To Jesus Christ! (for keeping me together and keeping my focus outside of myself)

This show is good. The team that put this together is a fine group of people who are all dedicated to telling this story with honesty and love. If you are in the Baltimore area in the next two weeks, take an evening and go see Where the Whangdoodle Sings at the Baltimore Theatre Project (dates and times can be found by clicking the link preceding these parentheses). Tis a piece worth experiencing.

Explosive Activity and Heartspaces

October kind of exploded a whole bunch of happening in my face. First of all, people visited. I mean, I covered the first wave, but then Wonder Woman came to town. She was here for almost an entire week, but most of our adventures occurred over that weekend. On the morning of October 19th, Handsome, Wonder Woman, and I headed to a tiny train station in New Jersey to catch the train to NYC. After grabbing the train by the mere skin of our teeth, we were on our way to the City. Why go to the Big Apple? Well, when one has another fine friend to meet up with (who also happens to have a free place to crash) and one has an incredibly eye-opening piece of theatre to see…one may find oneself in the midst of Penn Station in a drag-queen-silver jacket looking about hopelessly for Emrys in the midst of the throng. We eventually found him and we spent the day traipsing about the city. From Emrys’s cozy apartment, to a nifty little market, I was reminded why I enjoy visiting the city with people who actually know how to navigate the labyrinth of subways and streets. The first highlight of the visit occurred that night.

Wonder Woman, when planning her excursion to our humble dwelling, recommended that we go to the City in order to see the piece Sleep No More. I had heard ridiculously good things about this piece and I found myself overjoyed to be in a financial situation where such an excursion could be possible. For those who don’t know, Sleep No More is an interactive/site specific theatre experience that is loosely based on Macbeth, but utilizes elements of other dark tales in order to fashion an experience that is unlike anything you are likely to have experienced prior to witnessing this work.  When you enter the space, you are told that the evening is meant to be your experience. There is no right or wrong way to go about exploring the world that has been created. There is no speaking. Even the actors do not use speech, but rather physical theatre techniques and intense body imagery to tell their part of the story. I personally chose not to follow a particular actor. I found the herds of spectators chasing after the various performers overwhelming, thus I chose to just explore every nook and cranny of the space, happening on scenes by chance rather than by design. You can open drawers, pick up bottles of various liquids, page through accounts and letters….tis a dark playground for the curious child who just happens to be a little taller than she was some years ago. There were limits to the space and where one could go, but ultimately I was occupied for the three hours that I wandered. I was exhausted and ached in every portion of my legs and hips, but I was most satisfied. I would not recommend this experience to everyone, but if you are willing to traipse through a dark maze dripping with the dregs of human misery and notorious intent, then Sleep No More is completely worth the ticket price.

The second highlight of the trip is a little more subtle and perhaps very specific to me. For the first time in a very long time, I got to spend a full day and a half with Emrys. Emrys and I have been friends for almost 11 years, but the college years did not allow for a great deal of contact. Due to physical distance and both of us having extremely busy lives, I rarely got to see my friend. In truth, he is more family to me, but in the sense that he is the brother of my heart. We have experienced much together and I did not even realize how much I sorely missed spending time with him until we had more than a quick dinner after a year of barely speaking. Such time is precious and there is a chance that we might be at a place in our lives where we can see each other more often. I don’t demand that such a time continue infinitely, but I am inspired to make the most of it, not only with Emrys, but also with all those who are my heart-family that I have scattered along this coast. I would challenge all of us to actively remain in contact with those who share our heartspace, because it’s important. Such people are a gift. Show gratitude by giving to them a hundred-fold.

Busy, busy, busy

I wondered if being settled into an area would make life boring, but the exact opposite is proving true. This month is insanely packed with socializing and adventures. Last weekend, Handsome and I were hosts to my friend Herculine and her boyfriend (who also happens to be one of my college friends) Smiler. Though only a brief time, we made the most of its every second. We brought them to market and then we went on a hike at Buttermilk Falls, which is a most glorious climb. Handsome and the Smiler went ahead while Herculine and I made our way slowly, encountering faeries and many a deep energy in the water-rushing canyon. Sitting on the edge of the water at one point, I was again struck with awe at the depth of nature’s power and how that power is deep song that the Lord sings into my veins with abandon. I felt simultaneously still and running with all my strength so that I might fly. I was with a friend who I muchly love, in the midst of gorgeous rock-water wood, and I could Hear the Song so close to my ribs I could ache. We wound our way through, enjoying all that was around us, discussing faeries in hushed tones and touching all that we could get our hands; be it rock, water, tree or mud, we felt and drifted.  Walking down, we had to stretch our legs out long and stiffly like fancy gentleman, and holding a single hand aloft as though we were carrying parasols of fancier ladies. Twas the only way one could go down the steep stairs with any measure of grace don’t ya know 😉 That evening, we all made cookies and drank until we were pleasantly giggling into our cookie ice-cream sundaes.

The next day dawned absolutely gorgeous. I chose to go to church while Handsome took our guests to Green Lake Park. I am glad that I went because I am enamored of the sermons and the energy of the place. Though it is a tiny little church with narry another person my age, I find a deep peace when I am there. Plus, as I said, the sermons are instructive, simply delivered, and beautifully crafted. In my faith, I find that I am drawn to places that are more concerned with the intricacies of the God that we serve rather than evangelistic tactics. As far as I am concerned, if I am taking time to go to church, then I don’t want to spend that time listening to why I need to keep taking that time out. I have already made that decision, thus I would rather learn more about how to deepen my relationship with God. Unsolicited tangent, but tis just my personal feeling on the matter. I arrived home before the rest of my party and I took the time to enjoy the sun and the glorious weather. Later that day, Herculine, Smiler, and I went to see a show at the Stage. This is the first show of the season and Herculine’s cousin is in the cast. I was familiar with the script and I was curious to see the show (plus, it is the first show in which I had direct painterly involvement here). Although the piece was three hours long, I was delighted to discover that the actors are brilliant. They did not miss a beat and they managed to keep the energy of the dialogue constant. The set and technical effects were wonderful, and the costumes were absolutely drool-worthy. It is rare to see a production so cohesive and I feel humbled that I had a hand in realizing that cohesion.

As for what is to come, right now I am in the midst of visiting my dear sibling. She has possession of the rest of my artwork, and I had to deliver her an original work from my own hand. Thus, here I am, alone for the moment while she works. The view out her window is dappled with autumn, sun, and tree branches. I must admit, it’s nice to have a day fully to myself. Next week, Handsome’s mother comes to visit, then the next week brings WonderWoman and a trip into the City to see Sleep No More. Busy? Just how I like it :).

Outakes (More Fun Show Pictures!)

These pictures are from the high school repertory production of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents. Pretty much sounds exactly like what it is; a play comprised of miniature plays for all 44 presidents. These pictures were taken in the first act of the show and I should also mention that the presidential seal on the floor is 12 feet in diameter (also my favorite paint project of the summer).

My pride and joy of this summer. Took forever, but totally worth it.

My pride and joy of this summer. Took forever, but totally worth it.

Pre-show countdown

Pre-show countdown

Monroe attempting to keep the peace

Monroe attempting to keep the peace

Ahh, Andrew Jackson

Ahh, Andrew Jackson

This scene was quite powerful. He went around popping balloons while the story- tellers spoke of his ruthless slaughter of Native Americans.

This scene was quite powerful. He went around popping balloons while the story- tellers spoke of his ruthless slaughter of Native Americans.

"It's our destiny"

“It’s our destiny”

If I had to choose one scene that struck me the hardest, it would be this one. Shadow puppets are truly a beautiful dramatic tool.

If I had to choose one scene that struck me the hardest, it would be this one. Shadow puppets are truly a beautiful dramatic tool.

Amazing prop cleverly fabricated  by my friend the Thinker. The "Direct Quote" would light up and down with the hit of a big red button (which also chimed :)))

Amazing prop cleverly fabricated by my friend the Thinker. The “Direct Quote” would light up and down with the hit of a big red button (which also chimed :)))

Excellent scene

Excellent scene

Light in the darkness

Light in the darkness

The aftermath of a "Veto Party" (cause a Veto party don't stop...)

The aftermath of a “Veto Party” (cause a Veto party don’t stop…)

Outakes (Finally, some fun show pictures)

The following are a collection of shots from the show Hamlet, which was presented at the Interlochen Arts Festival 2013.  I did all the paint work for the show, which amounted to the marble floor and the three portraits. I also put in a sneak-preview of the other show I have finished painting, but you will just have to wait a little longer to see the full product.

A lovely shot with most of the company onstage

A lovely shot with most of the company onstage

Horatio is always the character I feel gets the most pitiable lot in this script.

Horatio is always the character I feel gets the most pitiable lot in this script.

"Get thee to a nunnery.."

“Get thee to a nunnery..”

Closeup on some marble for your viewing fun

Closeup on some marble for your viewing fun

Portrait of the old King Hamlet

Portrait of the old King Hamlet

King Claudius

King Claudius

A sneak preview of the other super-awesome paint thing I did for one of the high school shows.

A sneak preview of the other super-awesome paint thing I did for one of the high school shows.

My first week

As of Sunday, I have officially been here for a week. Thus, today was the beginning of my second week of working at the Camp. Right now I am painting for the Shakespeare Festival, specifically for the play Hamlet. Though I am tempted to post pictures of the progress, I feel honor bound not to post any pictures until the show itself has opened. Suffice it to say that the entirety of my work thus far has been painting a checkerboard marble floor. Tis quite good looking if I do say so myself. The only thing that challenges me at this point is the sheer enormity of the work. For the shows that  happen during the summer camp, I will be blessed with an assistant as well as some students who will be on hand. However, for this production I am completely on my own when it comes to the paintwork. My coworkers have been super awesome about lending a hand when they can, but they have their own tasks and the actual marbling is a treatment that I created; thus, it is important that I do that work so there is consistency throughout the set. The set needs to start going into the space on Wednesday, so I am feeling a little pressed for time, but I am confident that I will accomplish the task at hand (albeit with a little frantic paint slinging). Today the actors arrived and I had a lovely time chatting with them over dinner. I am still loving this place. The work that I am doing is engaging me as well as challenging me to be confident in the talents I have been blessed with cultivating. The people I work with are easy to get along with and they have the added advantage of being great in the workplace. (*Sometimes people can be easy-going until you discover that working with them is less than lovely. My coworkers are thus far not falling into that category). I work six days a week and with my one day off I am determined to explore this fascinating region. I asked my colleagues about what I should do with my time here and I must admit that my hand cramped with writing everything that was suggested. A portion will definitely wait until Handsome arrives, but I am most excited to do other things on the list in my own capacity. Yesterday was my first day off and I used it to go to Interlochen State Park (within walking distance). Although the park was mainly a campground, I did have a lovely time as is evidenced by the Outakes that I am about to create.

Hoorrayyy!!!!

Alright ladies and gentlefigs, this blogger now officially has a most splendid job to occupy her summer. Though it is only eight weeks of work, I cannot begin to express how excited I am to have work that is within my field and at an institution that has an excellent reputation. I am going to be acting as the Scenic Charge Artist for a summer arts camp out in Michigan. Basically, I could not have asked for a better fit. Not only do I get to be in a supervisory/management position that will further my experience within my field, but I also get the chance to work with passionate students who are spending their summer making awesome theatre. What exactly is a charge artist? Well, the title basically encompasses anything that has to do with any/all paintwork within a theatrical production/s.

In a theatrical production, there is usually a scenic designer (*please note that in a great number of situations, the designer can also act as charge artist, but we are going with an ideal template here), and the scenic designer imagines the physical world of the show (i.e. anything not costumes, lighting, or props. Again, people often cross-pollinate in the design world). They take their imaginings and create drawings based on a series of understood specifications so that the people responsible for actually making their ideas a reality (known as the production team) can firmly grasp the ideas of the designer in order to properly execute them onstage. For the charge artist, this means looking at a series of artworks called paint elevations, which are small paintings that are proportionate renderings of what the designer wishes the final paint treatments to look like onstage. From these elevations, along with extensive questioning of the designer, the charge artist must translate that small picture to full scale scenery for the stage. The charge artist must consider everything from ordering supplies, to mixing colors that perfectly match the elevation, to scheduling out when every piece will get painted based on the schedule of the carpenters actually building the scenery, to the actual techniques needed to accomplish the paint treatments. Mainly, a charge artist is an interpreter. An elevation is not just something that one can copy line for line and expect the desired result. One has to really listen to the designer, and determine how best to communicate that designers vision through the paintwork presented on stage.

My previous job was certainly not terrible, but part of the reason I did not return for another season was because my heart truly lies with painting and design for the theatre. Eventually, I want to be a full fledged scenic designer, and starting out working in charge artist positions is certainly an excellent way to begin laying the foundations for that castle. The Park allowed for painting opportunities, but not on a consistent enough basis to truly bring me joy. With this summer job, I get the chance to challenge myself within my work because it will be my first time acting as a titled supervisor within my desired job title. Such a chance is truly a gift, and on top of that the camp sounds like a really excellent atmosphere that encourages actually having fun in the process of making theatre. Not to say that the schedule won’t be rigorous, and the quality expectation is quite high. However, I am ready to meet that schedule and expectation, and I only pray that I can be a valuable asset to this team of wonderful artists. And plus I GET TO GO PLAY IN A GLORIOUSLY PRETTY PART OF MICHIGAN!!!

Slices of Perfection

The last few days have been perfect in a way that I have missed. Perfection in totality is not something I ever expect, but hiding in various places is not too much to ask.

The first place where I am gifted a slice of perfection is that I am working this week. My sister was kind enough to get me a brief gig as a sound board operator/sound technician for a show which she is the music directing. It’s been so long since I actually have been a part of the actual run of a production, let alone running sound. Last time I did that kind of tech work consistently was in high school. Yet, I had forgotten how much I actually enjoy running a show in this venue. Sound production, at least the very simplistic type that I am capable of operating, is one of things where I feel a full competency and rhythm that even painting doesn’t always afford me. You have your mics, a schedule, and many little knobs before you that can manipulate the voices in such a way that they sound as if the person/people is/are singing in the seat next to you rather than from a faraway stage. As I said, I’ve only operated shows where I only had to worry about a few body mics, some stationary fixtures, and possibly an effect or two. The show here is incredibly simple, but it has offered a chance to enjoy myself and get paid while doing so. Tis and excellent reminder of why I seek to consistently have a job where joy has a place.

 

Second slice of perfection is being with my sister. I will not pretend that we are those 50’s-TV siblings who get along so swimmingly it would inspire a live-audience to an “Awwwww.” However, we are unusually close for being so completely different. I have not spent such a long period of time with her since I went to college, and it is a special brand of lovely to actually stay with her for more than a couple days. Again, we definitely have our points of disagreement, but those points are eclipsed by the fact that we do love and like each other more often than we argue.

 

The third slice is simple. Alone time. While my parents have been awesome about leaving me to my own devices, the fact is that they spend a great deal of time in the house (I know, the nerve of them spending time in their own home!). Anyhow, I pray this does not sound whiny, but going from my own apartment to a shared house where I am never really alone is a difficult adjustment. I am an introvert, and I am used to spending large chunks of time completely by myself. Not a matter of  being anti-social, just a simple matter of needing not to be in anyone else’s energy space for a time. While my rents, as I’ve said, are excellent about leaving me to myself, just the sharing of space is hard for me. While staying with my sister, I have been granted the unexpected treat of being left alone in her place for large chunks of time. Between her various jobs, and the fact that she is an extreme extrovert who abundantly enjoys going out, my sister is not always here. Thus, I have blocks of time where I can just languish in solitude with only her wonderful cats for company. Right now, I stare out the front window of her place (totally awesome window, huge with a view full of trees and sky), just savoring the rain outside. What more luxury could be desired than sitting cuddled in a blanket, cup of tea in hand, as a dreary day melts the world around you into a monochromatic wash that so nicely contrasts your own circle of light?

Kentucky Journey Part 1: General Outline

Ever driven from New Jersey to Kentucky? Kind of a long stretch through a couple big, cow/farm infested, states and then (Insert magical sparkly noise) you’re there. The plan was that Handsome would come in late Tuesday night, we’d leave stupidly early Wednesday morning to arrive in Kentucky (11 hr. and 12 min) by the evening, and then come all the way back on Saturday. Do I even need to tell you that the plan did not go according to itself? Probably not, my readers tend to be smarter than the average bear. Instead, they may wonder what on earth I would be doing in Kentucky for only a three day stint. Well puddleduck, I was at a gynormous theatre conference (the largest one in the country supposedly), interviewing for jobs like it was a profession itself. See, the conference offers a rather excellent job fair where a goodly number of theatres come to interview for their upcoming seasons. For a small fee (and by small, I mean not really), you can get a shiny badge and a booklet with all the theatres, the positions they are looking to fill, and specifics about those positions (pay, duration, etc.). Tis, and excellent opportunity to meet people rather than just a cover letter, and while I don’t know if anything will result from the conference, I really would prefer to speak of the highlights of the trip itself.

Supposedly, the route we intended to drive was supposed to get slammed with snow on the day we hoped to leave. Handsome and I agreed to put the leave-time off until Thursday and I would just accept the cut in time. Well, come Wednesday morning, Handsome was awakened by an adventurous rolly-polly (in case you don’t know what they look like, ta-da!). Although harmless, awakening to a bug crawling on you is quite unpleasant, and therefore he found himself checking the weather conditions rather than falling back asleep. Upon investigation, he came to wake me up, suggesting that we should leave as soon as possible because the weather looked a lot less nasty than supposed. Choosing not to argue (for once), I hurried to get ready, and we soon flew away. The drive was uneventful and we made it safely to Louisville Kentucky.

I will not bore you with the details of the conference. Suffice it to say I interviewed a bunch and Handsome did fun things in my absence. We both really enjoyed Louisville, dubbing it a chill city that we would definitely consider returning to in the future. Rather than drive all the way back Saturday, we split the drive, taking a rest at a simple hotel for the night. We came safely home with nary a scratch, and another state to check off the list of places we have visited. For the more endearing, food/people-related adventures (not to be confused with anything remotely cannibalistic), you should check out the post above 😉