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New Faces

I was once asked during a build call if I ever get tired of teaching people the same things over and over, and my immediate answer was no, absolutely not.

One thing I love so much about working in a scene shop is getting to know all the different people I work with. I like to try to learn and understand how they work and how I can adapt myself to work effectively with them. Here I get to meet and work with new people every quarter as part of the freshman production rotation.

Some people in my department see the rotation as a burden because we never have labor with a consistent skill level. But to me its a time to really help people learn. You know I tell everyone I work with that they’re able to learn the same skills as me and do them just as well, if not better than I can. Most times when I say that to a freshman performance core they laugh and tell me there no way that’s true, but it is. I truly believe that as long as someone is willing to learn all the skills they are easily attainable. They don’t take any talent or special requirements. They don’t discriminate against skin tone, gender, or age. Really the only thing you need to do in order to gain the skills is be willing to learn. Usually whenever I say that they just kinda stare (probably thinking I’m crazy) and continue with whatever task we were doing. To prove it to them that I really do think they are capable I slowly try to get them to do a job they don’t think they can do on their own. I’ll show them all the steps run through it with them, make sure they don’t have any questions and then its off on their own.

To me the joy that someone else gets once they’ve completed a job is priceless. It makes teaching the same things to new faces worth it for me. And also to me it is kind of what school is all about. I believe that in our career fields everyone around us has the ability to be both teachers and students simultaneously. With every group that comes through the shop I hope to try and teach one thing to every person, and in the process I hope to learn more about them or how I can become a better teacher for people in the future.

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Somethings to come.

Is anyone else as excited for 4th quarter as I am? Just to be clear I’m like REALLY excited. This week we kicked off build for Labyrinth of Desire and Tiger At The Gates and after seeing completed scenic models for both sets I cannot wait to get to see the shows. Not only do the models look RIDICULOUSLY good but both shows have really cool and unique scenic elements that we don’t get to do here a lot. Labyrinth for example has a giant turning wall, a giant (partially) falling wall, a massive tracking wall that moves SR-SL, hidden doors, trap doors, flying scenery and more…and that’s just one show! Tiger is transforming 210 into a marble palace, with pillars and painted drops both of which we almost never do. It’s almost as though Jimmy and Andrew (the scenic designer for each show) both got together and tried to come up with the two coolest scenic designs possible in those spaces for the last time. And although these two shows are going to be the last two shows we are doing at the BUT there have been a lot of new developments happening at the new building that are getting everyone in the TP department excited for the new space. Really overall there just seems to be a really great energy throughout the entire scene shop this quarter and its just an extra little bonus that the two sets we are working on are equally as cool in their own unique ways.I am excited to see how this quarter plays out but as of right now we are off to a pretty strong start. Hopefully this momentum and positive energy keeps flowing and we finish even stronger than we started this quarter.

 

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Don’t Steal My Soul!!!!!!

Sometimes, in theatre, I’m scared to share my developing ideas with others because of the fear that someone might steal them from me. Not all the time–it’s not like life gripping fear. But it is a thought in the back of my head from time to time when I’m asked to share my ideas (plays) before the idea (play) has been completed. And in grad school, we are asked these questions on the daily. I usually comply. What the heck am I saying, I always comply and share my ideas because that’s what I’m supposed to do. Maybe you fear your ideas being stolen too? Maybe… Or maybe I’m just a paranoid playwright, who thinks wayyyyyy too highly of their own creativity. Or maybe, that fear is just a part of being a four on the enneagram.

What’s an enneagram you ask? It is “a model of the human psyche which is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types.” If you haven’t taken this test. I highly suggest it. It’s amazing and so informative. You can find a free test online here: https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/dotest.php

And below is a simplified graphic of the nine types created by Integrative Enneagram.

Enneagram-1-characteristics.jpg

Fours are traditionally called THE ROMANTIC. And it couldn’t be more true. My playwriting teacher the other day was calling me out for my earnestness, I’m still not sure if it was a diss or a compliment… probably neither, knowing my professor. Fours are also usually self absorbed. But I bet you already caught on to that ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

My husband, who is a graphic designer in the age of Pinterest and Etsy, has had his ideas stolen way more than me. Every time it happens he starts by laughing, then he gets pissed, and then he’s kind of sad, then he laughs some more and moves on. Having my own bouts with this, I honestly, don’t think straight imitation is the greatest form of flattery. I think imitation is the greatest from of laziness. Imitation is probably great as an educational tool, when you are starting out with something. Paula Vogel has quote out there who definitely disagrees with me. So I totally understand if you’d rather believe Mama Vogel than me.  But my point is, in my romanticized fashion, I firmly believe that creativity is a product of the soul at work and that when artists share their work, their creativity, they are sharing a piece of their soul. So when someone takes my husband’s or my own ideas… I feel like they are appropriating my soul. #dramaticplaywright

In the book, “Steal Like an Artist,” by Austin Kleon, you’ll find this handy dandy graphic. It defines, “Good Theft vs. Bad Theft.”

good vs. bad theft.jpg

Maybe I’m being salty… or too earnest, but it really irks me when I see a fellow artist practice, “Bad Theft.” And I vow to check myself on the matter from here on out. Let’s inspire each other, not steal each others souls. That’s just wrong, duuuudeee!

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Truth or Beauty?

In The Method Gun, the performers of the Rude Mechs pose this question to the audience:

“Truth or Beauty?”

It seems rather easy to answer. Yet when sitting in a theatre, a space predicated on finding truth through artifice and meticulously crafting beauty through forced perspective, the question becomes infinitely more complex. The truth is not objective, the beauty is not natural or spontaneous. And truth and beauty aren’t opposites to be pitted against one another. Who’s to say truth and beauty cannot be experience in the same moment?

Who’s to say what is truth?
Who’s to say what is beauty?

At this point, do I even know what I’m talking about?
It’s probably safe to assume I don’t. It’s probably safe to assume that I never know what I’m talking about.
Unfortunately for you, this is my show. So you have to listen. I won’t lie to you, probably, but I also definitely won’t be probably truthful, probably.

Probably.

I, for one, am for beauty. At the very least I know what that is. I think. After all, it’s human nature to curate a keen sense of willful ignorance to get through the day. I think. I do think that. That seems true to me, about your life.

Beauty is great because it includes mountains. I love those. Here are some mountains:

I think these are really beautiful. They remind me of home and the leaves change colors every fall. Before they die. Every fall is a constant reminder of mortality. The problem is some people don’t think these are mountains. That upsets me. Some people think these are hills. For some people, these are mountains:

I guess these are nice. Although I think elk are more interesting. Their antler are really furry. I think that’s pretty silly. Although those elk probably don’t think that’s silly. But anyway, these mountains are okay I guess, although they’re not like the other mountains. They don’t have trees that remind you you’re in a constant state of decay. The other mountains, my mountains, are harmonious. Harmony is a defining characteristic for mountains. Without harmony, a mountain is just the Earth fighting with they sky.

But for you these might be mountains. My mountains might just be a series of hills. Who’s to say. They’re both beautiful in their own way. I mean my mountains are definitely more beautiful.
But it’s probably not a competition.

The thing that’s great about beauty is that you always get to decide for yourself.

Truth is a narrative

Back to the theatre!

Who can be trusted? Is part of the theatrical contract that we must implicitly trust the theatre maker? What if they’re not trustworthy? What if they lie? What if they do it on purpose? What if the entire event is built on a succession of lies?

What if we accept them as truth? Are they still lies? Do they become truth in our collective historization of the theatrical event? Is historization even a real word? Does it even matter since we’re all, as the mountains remind us in the Autumn, slowly hurtling towards mortality?

Probably.
Probably not.
Probably.

 

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Julie’s Greenroom

I spent my afternoon with Julie Andrews today.

After a couple weeks of going back and forth about whether it would be worth a half hour of my time to watch the new preschool-targeted Netflix show created by and starring Julie Andrews, today I decided to snuggle up with my lunch and watch it.

Now, while I’m not expecting to convince any of my peers reading this to go and spend their lunch watching Julie’s Greenroom like I did, do give it a shot the next time you’re babysitting or spending time with your niece or in five or ten or twenty years if you have children of your own.

The show is about a theatre program run for a diverse group of Muppet children by Miss Julie with the help of her trusty stage manager. In each episode they learn about a different aspect of the theatre featuring a guest star — this pilot featured Idina Menzel who sent the children on a field trip to go see Wicked and learn about musical theatre. I especially appreciated the breadth of theatre-related elements there were touched upon in just one episode — the children learn about theatre architecture and technical elements as well as music and performance, each of them beginning to find their niche. One of the children doesn’t want to perform and is instead interested in helping the stage manager with tech; another child who uses a wheelchair dreams of playing in a theatre pit — how awesome is that? What a wonderful vision of what the theatre is and what the next generation of theatre artists will be.

Sure, it’s naive or too optimistic, maybe, but this is a show for children exposing them to theatre and celebrating the arts. Maybe, hopefully, it may get some grown-ups on board in the process.

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High School Musical 4: Vacation to the Border Wall

The following is a general response to the idea that arts education is a non-essential part of the federal budget.
It is a response the notion that the only thing we should be spending our money on is big guns and not care of the people who fire them.
It is a response to the fabricated reality that firing real guns is a more worthwhile job than firing fake ones.
It is an opinion piece about the fact that the current administration more concerned with the global stage than the ones in our smaller communities.

I am not a politician. But I could play one on TV.
Especially now that our politicians came from TV.

I am not a banker or a budget balancer. But I could play one on TV.
Especially now that the man who speaks on behalf of the government’s budget is just looking for a slot on the Monday night shows.

4 billion dollars since 1965 invested in the state of the Arts. 589.5 billion dollars spent in 2015 to keep the military State of the Art.

And you’re telling me we can’t find it somewhere?

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Bill Bramhall, NY Daily News, March 20 2017

If you want to build a wall somewhere, give the money to some small theatre who needs to build some sets. Those walls will be more useful than whatever facacta idea you’ve boiled up.

If you want to see more people with health insurance, give the money to some small theatre so they can afford to pay their employees a living wage with benefits.

If you want to piss money down the drain so your child can attend the school of his choosing, send a little extra to the schools around the country so they can continue providing arts education.

You seem to understand the benefits of outlandish and gaudy, hyper-theatrical spaces (if your home is anythign to go by), so why not send a few bucks the way of the scene shop who needs a little bit more gold paint?

You seem to understand the importance of wigs, so why not send some money to a costume shop that could use a few more wigs (that hopefully look a bit more realistic).

You seem to understand how hard it is to have to work with something that is smaller than what you need to get the job done, so you must understand how frustrating it is to work with a budget that just isn’t big enough. Melania probably feels it too.

What I’m trying to get at here, 45, is that I think you’re dumb. I think you lacked the kind of education that turns people into good people. I think you missed the point in your life where you found the thing in school that really lit your fire and provided you a place to figure out who you really were. I think instead of spending too much time in the wings, you’ve spent too much time in your daddy’s wallet. I think instead of finding friends in the solace of the theatre, you found them in the secrets rooms in Russia. I think instead of the point in your life where kids find the thing that makes them feel alive, you’ve been looking for it your whole life. And bigger hands is not the answer.

The arts have been an integral part of the success of a community since the beginning of human existence. Before that, even, since the stars arranged themselves in some sort of pattern long before we were here.

But this was never really about the arts. It was about making a statement, showing us where your priorities lie. Well, we’re all pretty clear about it now, 45.

And that is the importance of storytelling.

Shame that in this story, you shook out to be the antagonist.

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Why Broadway is probably, secretly still my goal in life.

As a child, my ultimate dream was to be on Broadway. I grew up creating my own plays, dancing, and being fanatically obsessed with Chicago and Moulin Rouge. At the age of 18, I saw In the Heights on Broadway, my first real life broadway show experience. This only reaffirmed my dreams with a renewed fervor, because I witnessed multiple roles on stage that I saw myself going out for….then life happened, and I grew and learned and changed and really lost interest in the notion of Broadway because it has only gotten more and more commercialized since 2010. I had given up on the idea of Broadway as a dream because the Broadway I see right now does not fit the dreams I have set for myself now a days. My dreams involve bringing new works to life, and telling under told stories which is happening more on the off-broadway and off-off broadway realm.

Then, I had another late night conversation with bae about how penetrating the Broadway system is impossible because it has ascended into the world of completely financially inaccessible and commercialized to the point where literally only rich white old people, and international tourists can afford to get a ticket, so therefore the content and aesthetic of these shows MUST cater to these audiences.  I went to bed discouraged because we did not come up with any ideas about how we could change things but rather analyzing out loud how fucked the system is.–this is still valuable I must say, but still.

AND THEN, today I received a text from bae: A New York Times article “Two Female Playwrights Arrive on Broadway. What Took So Long?”. This article is about Lynne Nottage and Paula Vogel, two extremely well known and widely produced playwrights whose plays are about to make their Broadway Debut. The journey was long and hard for these women but finally Broadway producers picked up their work and are putting their stories up in the commercial limelight of theatre. The severe imbalance that exists between the amount of male playwrights being produced on Broadway and the amount of female playwrights being produced is very infuriating to say the least–as well as the types of stories being told. Reading this article made me realize that Broadway needs stories like Nottage’s and Vogel’s and it my hope that this is the beginning of changing the face of what Broadway can look like. So now I am thinking, well. If I work and work and work and try my luck and connections tirelessly, maybe my story can make it to the broadway limelight next to these women following a legacy of female playwrights telling the important stories of the world. It is of course a lofty dream, but I’ve always been a woman who dreams big. The next huge goal on the list is to make these stories financially accessible. I have no idea how to financially restructure the commercial Broadway system but hey, I can keep thinking and learning and having conversations. And maybe as a community, we can come up with something.