I have become inextricably enmeshed with the Bravo TV program Project Runway. This week is the final episode of the first season, and I realized last week that I will miss it terribly. Part of me wants to rush off to whereever to audition for the second season, if there would be such a thing. It has been a quite entrancing – to be back behind the scenes in essentially what would be compared to a series of charrette design problems – termed design challenges – which were all to be executed in ridiculously compressed time frames. My position has always been that almost anyone can design a great project – as long as they have a lot of time. It does make sense to weed out designers of less capability by making them work under severe time constraints. The brilliance of the producers, also the ones associated with Project Greenlight, was to affiliate with Parsons School of Design – Tim Gunn in particular. I am sure his collaboration on the devising of all of the design challenges are what made the process so fascinating. The caliber of the challenges was very high – no silly manufactured exercises. All of the challenges had practical and aesthetic criteria that are in the real world of the fashion business.
On the Bravo TV web site affiliate with the program, one of the most enlightening aspects is “Tim’s Take” – Tim Gunn’s analysis of the process and results of each challenge. I have really enjoyed reading his perspective and comparing it with my own. You can read
Tim’s Take atProject Runway
There was an eBloggy disaster and my entire Fall term Creative Pulse journal went up into the netherworld of the internet …..
Every other eBloggy user was in same dire state. I am awaiting the news from their administrator if, and when they can restore our former blogs. In meantime, I am taking their advice and starting a new one to, as they said …
I wish I could say this is the worst trauma facing me. This is one that there is hope of reconciliation and recovery. My father is facing the loss of part of one of his legs due to advancing effects of diabetes. It is likely that tonight is the last night we will have before that possibility is decided for sure.
The advice I was given was to “come with many possibilities”. However, I think I didn’t have enough mental space to remember that I should also have come ready for anything.
The major unexpected element was that there was no one else in costume except my husband and all the mannequins. What was even more remarkable, and instructive on the Wilmington state of mind, was that each person got a goody bag with a mask in it. Only one person wore it, until much later in the evening and the drinks had been flowing copiously. I didn’t even realize that folks had a mask until later that evening when I had a chance to peruse the contents of my bag. Ergo there was none of the true element of Mardi Gras. The mood was much more of an office holiday party, where everyone is on their best behavior because the president of the company is there.
The major victory I think, was that I didn’t let all of the obstacles crowding at me deter me from actually taking this first step. It was a very small baby step, since just as I was leaving to go to the event, I received a phone call from my father. My brother was with him and believed urgently that he needed to go to the hospital right away. It defied logic, but for some reason my father didn’t want to commit to going to the hospital, until I came to his house. The Mardi Gras event was just a few city blocks from the hospital. ay caramba!
Instead of going to the Mardi Gras as my primary destination, essentially I popped in at the Mardi Gras on the way to the hospital. So Columbine only had the hour or so that it would take for my brother to drive my father into the city. If that knowledge wasn’t distraction enough, the cell phone rang every 20 minutes. Make a note: one should not travel with a cell phone when doing improv street theater. It took many more phone calls to penetrate my father’s denial of the seriousness of his condition.
It was rather strange overall in the extreme – it didn’t take much to totally overwhelm me, and eventually I plopped on a bench and tried to become just another one of the stuffed MardiGras mannequins.
This is what I have been taught all my life. When I came home from Missoula, I realized I had never challenged this attitude that surrounded me. I had surreptitiously given myself permission enough to squeeze in this and that, here and there, but that was all I had allowed myself. I have been saved from taking myself and my work too seriously by never having realized how much I really discount my own ability myself. Dr. Bolton talked a lot about “being given permission” at some point in one’s young life to follow an artistic way. I had the fortune to meet mentors outside my family that validated my inner life. My parents were happy to bask in whatever kudos my talent brought to them, but it was not something to be invested in. Unless it was music lessons – they were heavily invested themselves in my being a classical musician, but I had no passionate desire to be one. Fortunately for myself, by the time I was in music school my first term in college at least I figured it out. Although I love playing music, being a musician is not something to learn to do just to have a job. I remember vividly the afternoon about midterm, I played hooky from all my scheduled performing groups and went and found a place where no one would find me with some pastels and a pad of paper.
I have been playing hooky all my life to sneak off and do what I want. I am just realizing that maybe that Rollo May fellow isn’t totally off base about letting one’s artistic talent go unfathomed. I had a huge period of depression after I went the First Friday art shows locally in November. I have been going to these shows for decades knowing that the best of what I can do is as good or even better. At one show, I saw a hundred paintings and drawings of local historical buildings that were inferior to my drawings. As a matter of fact, a lot of my students learn to do better work. And all of these people had been invited to a charity show to benefit the local Ronald McDonald House – and were billed as the Best of the Brandywine Valley. I went right after that to the Artists In Residence Show at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art. The caliber of the work certainly improved, but I realized that so much of the work there was retreaded recycled ideas. I knew I had thousands of ideas that were more novel and contemporary than I saw there. So what Was I doing anyway? Why wasn’t I renting a studio at DCCA? What was the real problem here? Why had I never considered it as worthy of my time? It wasn’t my voice speaking ….. why had I listened for so long?
I had planned a concept for a costume early in December. I had done some shopping for it, had design ideas etc etc etc. However, January was scheduled for the costume and the mask sucked January up nearly in its entirety. So I was getting very stressed about the costume. So much so, that I actually at one point made a pact with myself that I didn’t have to do Columbine at the Mardi Gras if I didn’t feel ready.
Interestingly, the more I tried to write as Columbine, in character, the more the lack of costume seemed to be a non-issue. I was stressing out as the artistic designer – whose vision couldn’t be fulfilled. I realized that I had to step out of the workshop and into rehearsal as a performer. The actor can act in the merest shred of a costume if need be. It is the designer who bemoans the lack of budget and time; the actor makes it work. In fact, to Columbine, the thought of missing a party just because she has nothing new to wear is a pretty silly idea. I had been able to “let go” of the costume issue by a few weeks before the event, and had a sort of plan. I basted up to shorten a long ballet petticoat I scavenged, gathered up some sparkly organza to fake a skirt, and had a plum colored bodice. It was something to wear. I was going to drape the original perfect “Columbine in Mardi Gras Colors” fabric I had found in some interesting way to create a look.
As of Friday the day before I had no shoes and wasn’t concerned. Popped into the only department store that closes later on the way home after all those extra hours of interior decorating and in the space of 15 minutes I found – harlequin diamond stockings, gold shoes, and purple and fuschia glitter encrusted flowers to match the fabric at home -on sale to boot. It was a sign. I was begining to feel in rhythm with the universe again.
The outfit I wore was literally put together in 90 minutes on Saturday afternoon. I took a Halloween mask and sprayglued mask lame scraps and leftovers to make a miniature facscimle of the big mask to put on my face. Complete with Plan B feathers. The workmanship is crude – but to Columbine – it was perfectly fine. I scissored off two strips of the flowered chiffon and tacked them to the top of the bodice. I put on the clothes, after the trauma of discovering that I no longer fit into a size Medium pantygirdle. Then I literally draped the remaning chiffon around myself and literally sewed myself in.
The initial planned schedule was that the big mask was to be complete, one way or another, on Wednesday. In spite of other obstacle (see previous posts) it was. It was scheduled to be hung yesterday, Friday, and that was all I was supposed to do in terms of “decorating” . The mask took as long as I thought it would to hang – several hours. Work moves slowly when a cherry-picker is part of the process. The plan was I would hang the mask and then go home. Done. The decorating committe was to do the rest. But instead of being able to go and regroup, and prep in all ways for performance, I ended up having to supervise the crew paper-hanging all the rest of stuff in lobby area.
It turns out that the volunteers on decorating committee were sincere and dedicated, but not one had a clue of how to hang paper. I had not anticipated working 10+ hours yesterday and then 5 more on today interior decorating. Standing on concrete to boot. Climbing up and down ladders. I was glad I had abandoned the idea of high heeled boots in my Columbine costume – as it was I was so tired I could hardly stand up when I went.
There is a reason one rarely is an actor and on the stage crew for same production. Actor & director maybe. One can work into the wee hours to solve last minute glitches as long as one can nap from curtain to curtain.
How to spell that term “jeush” – the sparkle – the glam. However one may spell it, I certainly don’t have it.
The plan was to have the big mask done by mid-January. That was the Plan. It could have happened except I have discovered that I am getting too old to work long hours under less than ideal circumstances. Where the mask was stashed after the holiday break was not a place where I could stand up and work. I could only work 90 minutes at a time bending over so badly, before I had to take a several hour break to let the back pain subside. The work went much more slowly than planned.
In addition, the “jeush” (fancy stuff) that had been planned for the mask was very hard to come by. The initial plan was to go to NYC for it. It snowed on the only day in early January I could go. I ended up ordering it from Hong Kong – and by the time I even found the stuff online, it was touch and go. Another packet of sequins and swarovski that was ordered for me hadn’t shown up by last week, one week before Mardi Gras. After spending a period of time in a sleepless state late last Thursday night trying to figure out what to do on finishing the mask – it finally occurred to me. It was time to Plan B it. Make up a strategy for finishing up the mask based on a final trip to Philadelphia. The finished mask is a lot more plain than originally conceived. However, it proves that if the underlying form is interesting enough, plain can stand alone well enough.
The sequins and sparkles will have to be next year’s “surprise”.
This discussion is really at the heart of the field project. Suffice it to say – I wasn’t going to let the fact of the non-costume stop me, but trying on this role did not come easily. I had gone so far as going down to local Drama League and looking into workshops. The profound visceral negative reaction I had was difficult to fathom. Maybe it was the Stanislavski METHOD – or how seriously those there seemed to take IT and themselves. This environment was definitely NOT me, and someplace that wasn’t going to be more than just spinning my wheels in adherence to someone else’s agenda. Performance is connected to my art – just how I am trying to figure out. However Acting – with the capital “A” is not. I had been getting more out of hanging out with all those who frequent the local .alt artist cafe. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I did know that if I didn’t “open” at Mardi Gras I would miss an opportunity to study myself, if nothing else.