Archive for August, 2007




i have been espousing the wonders of amargosa and marta becket for years… but for those of you who have yet to hear my diatribe- all i can say is… it is an opera house in the middle of death valley junction, population- less than 20 , and home to marta beckett- 82 year old artist, dancer, and actress… she still performs, and you can visit (during the cooler months)… marta painted an audience on the walls of the theatre- there is so much poetry in her story that it is hard to sum up here, but you can purchase her book– or visit her website.

also. for a whole other type of inspiration, or maybe it is the same type… if you visit death valley junction, make sure to wander off and snoop through some of the abandoned trailers and homes. really. there is theatre all around…


image of abandoned space. death valley. flickr image.




i do love this site— bldg blog… yesterday they had an interview with photographer michael cook. go read it. he did a whole survey on the drains of canada. drains. how is that for a metaphor? for more photos… go to flickr.





yes. i am color fanatic. a good day for me is one spent sitting in the aisles of a paint store amidst paint chips… my favorite paint is dutch boy. they really have a mass market appeal— they make paint seem oh so easy. of course… paint can really be a pain. right now, i am trying to understand the idea of gray— again another play, and another type of problem. what is gray anyway? and why am i using it? it is easy for me to come up with bright color combinations, but not so easy to be muted. having to think of color with lighting is a whole new type of problem- and one that i kind of enjoy- but gray with light is sort of a weird thing. gray certainly has a mood already. the mood i am looking for is “sterile”, but is gray really sterile? sometimes, gray can become muddy- and i am trying for crisp… so – to sum up- i am searching for the perfect cool tone crisp gray… looks like it might be a day amidst paint chips for me. oh. the images above are from ebay. someone is selling old paint chip books. pretty neato.


random inspirations…


i don’t know how it is that i find myself obsessed with certain imagery, but i do. the internet is perfect for such things… so today i will post two of my latest interests…

above is an image by jindrich styrsky– whom i had heard of, but i had never really taken the time to investigate. he was a czech surrealist photographer, collagist, and he even dabbled in the theatre. his images are highly theatrical, and they are reprinting one of his books— i can’t wait to get it!

below is an image by artist, chris larson, i had never heard of him until i stumbled upon this site. it is a pretty interesting site— full of equally random inspiration.



old photos…


alright. i am a real sucker for old photographs. i have a pretty vast collection of crazy images of people i don’t know. i carried around negatives of someone else’s vacation for many years, until i had my friend finally develop them for me. old photographs tell amazing stories- they are little scenes for plays that were written a long time ago. i think the photo above is about one little girls christmas- she really wanted a bike, but instead she only got a whole bunch of little items that were wrapped up real nice, but they still weren’t that bike… and then below… we have hank. his story is too long to tell… but i think it has something to do with a lost love named mabel… for more cool images go to this site… projectb… its pretty great.





one of the best things about being a scenic designer is the research phase. by research i don’t really mean historical surveys of the time that the play was written, but “imagery” research. usually i start my design process with a pretty distinct feeling that the play leaves me with, i do a quick drawing of that feeling- just to get the idea out of my brain, and then i take a step back and look in my library of books… i have a lot of books. for the show i am working on now, i was looking at images that convey a sense of distance between audience and performers— i stumbled upon the image above. it is by rachel khedoori. although, i have been aware of her work for a long time, it never really communicated to me… until now. all the sudden… i am really enthralled by her work. nice how that happens.

good books to invest in: (click on book for more info)





one small project…


in a totally different vein from my last post, this is a website devoted to chronicling “leftover people–typically called squatters, self-builders, slum dwellers, informal settlers, or displaced persons (it’s a big category)– who claim leftover spaces in cities and live in unauthorized dwellings made of scavenged, leftover materials.” it is a very interesting website- and worth navigating through. thanks to shing for the link. image by wes janz.




i saw two plays in the last few days- ooh rhyme. last night i saw the much talked about paradise lost: wings and shadows– and i fear that by me talking about it, i am only going to become part of the collective problem… i really wanted to like it. i thought just maybe you could mix anime, techno, and opera and it might come out, as most of the reviewers said, like a good mixture… but for my money- it was crazy bad. there i said it. i feel better.

now- because this is a blog about design i will try to focus on that… first- i have biases- i hate a certain style of scenic painting – it is a hang up- and one that usually makes me so crazy that i have a hard time focusing on the rest of the set- but if one were to look at the set without the paint, it was actually a very playable space. i could see that the set designer, tom buderwitz, really thought through a lot of the action. there wasn’t a lot of metaphor or hidden meaning in the set, but it was thorough. there was a certain aesthetic to this piece that some people probably really like- again- not my thing. yesterday, i posted about the difficulties of finding a genuine level of reality- and the production design seemed to lack a sense of honesty. if you are going to use something that looks like corrugated steel on the set- don’t opt for the plastic kind if it is supposed to be a place of gloom and doom- this might seem nitpicky, but it is a huge trapping in theatre- the steel would have obviously made noise and been more difficult to handle, but guess what- so is the end of the world. the costumes were very creative and detailed, but once again, they were fashionable, and in no way expressed the despair that these characters should be going through. they did have wings that moved. this was exciting. the lighting fit the tone- it was very bright. and then it was very shadowy. and then it had color.

the production value was huge in this play- i could not look past the money- working in theatre one gets accustomed to budgeting every detail. i spent last night calculating expenses. this whole “production value” thing kind of gets to me— i mean really what does that mean? does that mean that just because i can see that a lot of money was spent that i should then be tricked into believing it is a good show? you cannot save a show with money. you just can’t. some people might be fooled into this logic that money and cirque de soleil effects means “good”, but that is just so wrong in so many ways. as was this production… so wrong in so many ways.

for a totally opposite experience- go see quartet at city garage. besides the towering crucifix in the center of the stage, this production has honesty and guts.


christoph buchel…


traveling in switzerland a few years ago, i ended up in a crazy installation… oh the places we end up… anyway, it was a piece by christoph buchel. i reference his work quite often when i am trying to hit on the difference between “real” sensation versus “theatrical” sensation. when you are within one of buchel’s installations you actually feel the filth and the discomfort. often in theatre, i am confronted with how to translate a false reality… i mean, we know that we are in a theatre, and it is fairly safe, but it is my job to create the environment in such a way that the audience is uncertain regarding the levels of this reality. i could continue on this thread… needless to say buchel manages to tap into all of these things in his work. theatre is a conflicting art form, but the more genuine we are with our own sensations, the more genuine the experiences that we create can be.



a little birdy told me…


come september, the moma in san francisco will be showcasing two pretty incredible artists… olafur eliasson and jeff wall. eliasson is well-known for his light sculptures, and if you haven’t had the experience of being within one of his sculptures, i truly recommend a viewing.

jeff wall is a photographer, his large backlit images often depict dramatic scenarios… and then…come october, there will be a joseph cornell retrospective. yes. good stuff. each of these artists uses vastly different media (light, photography, and found materials), yet- they are all very theatrical in their execution. i think i will be making the drive…