Sunday, April 29, 2012

The world is a little dimmer

Sadness. Grief. Disbelief. Shock. Pain.

A lighting designer, and a friend, passed away last week. She died in her sleep, sometime between Wednesday night and Friday night, when she was found in her bed. She was 36 years young, vibrant, talented beyond measure, genuine, lovely, everything I strive to be. She was known for her distinctive clothing choices (usually climbing ladders in skirts and bare feet, focusing lights, sometimes without underwear), her constantly changing hair color, and her warm smile and friendly words for everybody around her.

I found out early Saturday morning, when I logged on to Facebook, and the first post in my newsfeed was from an actress commenting on Jen's passing. I was in shock, I couldn't fathom what it meant. When I checked Jen's profile page, there were more comments, the news from her brother, and throughout the day, the news unfolded. Cardiac myopathy, weak heart muscles (I think). Two of her uncles had also died from this, one at the age of 25.

My grief turned to a dull pain, from that initial shock. Jen and I worked on so many shows together over the last ten years, I can't even count or name them all. Eventually, I'll put a list together, but for now, I'm just missing her.

I last saw her almost two weeks ago, in St. Cloud, at a tech rehearsal for "Arsenic & Old Lace". This is the one show I've costumed this year for which I didn't create anything - I either pulled the costumes from my stock, or borrowed them from a couple of theaters. It also opened the same night as "I Hate Hamlet", so I could only go to the one tech rehearsal, to drop off the costumes and say "Hey" to the other designers. Originally, I wasn't even supposed to be there that night, but I wasn't needed at the cue-to-cue for "I Hate Hamlet", so I made the trek to St. Cloud on a Monday afternoon/evening, and had one last quick chat with Jen.

I'm so glad I did. I will always remember our shared love of Pink, wearing sundresses and working barefoot. And in tribute to Jen, yesterday I wore a short skirt, no underwear, striped footless tights, and no shoes in the costume shop. I may not have the words to pay tribute, but I have the wardrobe.

Hug your people, people. Enjoy every sandwich.

The Anti-Hoarders brigade

I've gone back through my last few posts, mostly to refresh my mind as to what all I've written about. And discovered I hadn't mentioned one of my major feats - I organized and sorted through the majority of my costume stock!

During the last couple days of spring break, back in mid-March, the weather was warm, sunny, and no chance of rain - just what I needed to haul all the clothes and shoes outside. I laid out a tarp, hauled out piles of clothes that needed to go on hangers or into bins, and got to work.

This was a major deal for me, because part of my goal for this year was to organize my work space, and get my costume stock in order. It was a two-day process; and the kids helped a little bit, putting items onto hangers for me. I got like items sorted into bins (pants, shirts, sweaters, etc.), dresses and suits onto hangers and then on hanging racks, shoes paired up and sorted into a total of SIX (!) bins. Yowza! (I still have a bin of unmated shoes waiting to be paired up - I'll get to them eventually).

In the process, I discovered I have three yellow polo shirts (what?), three pair of tall men's suede boots (I thought I only had two pair!), and a lot of brown loafers. It's been easier to find things lately, which is good, but I also realized - I need a bigger boat...I mean, storage area. I think my costume stock has reached critical mass.

I did throw away a few things as I progressed, and there was still a small pile of clothes and fabric outside when it finally did rain. I had to ditch a few things after that, and wash several coats; there were also several pair of socks that really soaked up the rain - that was fun, wringing them out. Or messy and stinky. Not so fun.

At least I don't feel like an episode of "Hoarders" waiting to happen.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Art is Hard

This is embarrassing.

My theater has been taking so much time and energy (and another 5 lbs.! Yikes!), that I haven't been able to visit here. But I've been creating - shit, yeah, creating art and theater and wondrous things all over the place!

We did some publicity photos for "I Hate Hamlet", wherein I dressed the wonderful director/actor Peter Moore as John Barrymore as Hamlet - more precisely, as the ghost of John Barrymore as Hamlet. Add the skull of Yorick, and a handsome young actor (Brandon Ewald), and we have comedy gold.

The show is fantastic. It opened on April 20th, has been warmly received by audiences; unfortunately, they have been very small audiences. We're trying to get butts in the seats, but there were at least seven other theaters that opened shows on 4/20. Yeah, how stoned were all the theaters that decided on that particular date?? Hopefully, our second weekend will see an increase in ticket sales and word of mouth.
kinda like this

Some of my creations for the show itself: a hand-painted parquet floor on the entire stage (that took waaaaay too long, not the best idea I've had, especially when I'm doing so many other things with the show); a reproduction of Barrymore's Hamlet tunic for the above-mentioned Mr. Moore (who is giving a marvelous, brilliant performance as the slightly-drunk, ever-emoting John Barrymore); a phone intercom thingy that gets answered several times throughout the play, as people show up at the apartment; and a rigged archway curtain that "magically opens" when Barrymore first appears. I also made a stained glass window for a special lighting effect, where the profile of Barrymore (our own Mr. Moore, to be exact) appears in silhoutte.

Barrymore! Barrymore!

For my St. Kate's show, I finally have the dresses done (or almost, I will tomorrow) that I patterned earlier this month. Right now, I'm in the process of converting/creating a collar/lapel for a woman's jacket, to give it a little oomph and that great 1940's look. I'll also be adding some soutache trim and a decorative buckle.

At home, I gave the dog a much-needed haircut on Easter morning, after he had a little poop problem. And a bath. And I missed Easter lunch with the extended family.....Speaking of Easter, I created a lovely group Easter basket late Saturday night.

 I gave the kids The Hunger Games trilogy, in hardcover, as their big group present, and wrapped it up in almost an Easter Egg shape with tissue paper and wrapping paper and ribbon, then placed it in a big basket on the dining room table. 

I'll get pictures and better descriptions of these things, I just needed to make a list to remind myself of all I've been doing these last few weeks.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

On the Air

I've made two patterns this week, for my current show at St. Kate's, On The Air! A Return to Radio.

The setting is spring 1942, and I found some lovely vintage dress patterns, but the sizes aren't quite right for the actresses. And I had to modify the neckline on one of the dresses, for the floozy. One of the actresses has decided her "radio actress persona" is a flirty, saucy young woman named....Bunny.
She's going to be adorable!

The second pattern is for the smallest of the actresses, who can consistenly play a teenager because of her petite stature, so her persona is the new girl to the business. Her look is more innocent, with a peter pan collar to add to the youthfulness. And the pattern I found has a wrap tie belt that creates some gathering and fullness to the front of the dress, which will make the dress adjustable for other actresses in the future.

Photos to follow, once the dresses are built and fitted to the actresses!

Wrapped in Love

My apron project!

Granny Heaney's apron, full of love

Dancing at Lughnasa apron, patterned from the original

the newest addition to the apron drawer...

...and put to work!

This style of apron has a small back to it as well; it goes over the head, the arms go through the side openings, and it ties at the back waist. It's simple, and feels like a hug from my Granny.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

March Madness!

We had crazy warm weather in March. No snow, in Minnesota, in March. That's your March Madness, right there! The ice was off the lakes by the third week; plants were budding, too quickly in some cases - there was no sap run in the maple trees, so no maple syrup.

Then it changed, as the weather is wont to do. The wind picked up, the clouds blew in, and we were back to normal (somewhat). And on a cool, windy day -March 26th, to be exact-, I decided to make turkey chili.

I don't follow a standard recipe when I make chili; I use what's on hand, and let it all simmer on the stovetop. On this day, I had ground turkey in the refrigerator, so that was the meat base. I also had canned kidney beans, black beans and chili beans in the pantry, along with a large can of whole peeled tomatoes and a small can of diced tomatoes with garlic (fire roasted!, in fact). I also started to pull seasonings out of the cabinet - and realized I was out of cumin. Horrors! How can I make chili without cumin??? Ohhh, wait a second - I do have whole cumin seeds, just ready to be toasted and added to the mix!

Turkey Chili (inspired by a mild spring zephyr)

1 lb. ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can chili beans, undrained
1 can black beans, drained
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
1 can diced tomatoes with garlic
1/2 of a 12 oz. package of frozen corn kernels, partially thawed

Seasonings, what I had on hand: smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder, taco mix, curry powder, whole cumin seeds, garlic powder, salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce

and finally, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. That's right, cocoa powder.

1. brown the turkey in one tablespoon olive oil, over medium flame, until no longer pink; add chopped onion and cook for several minutes, over medium-high flame, until onion is soft and translucent.

2. add canned goods, mix, then simmer over medium-low flame to desired consistency. The longer the chili simmers, the thicker it gets.

3. add seasonings to taste: anywhere from 1/8 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon, heavy on the smoked paprika, cumin (if I had ground cumin!), lighter on the curry powder and cayenne pepper (because my kids complain if it's too "hot" or "spicy"). Since I was using whole cumin seed, I added a teaspoon of the seeds first, in the middle of the pot, to toast the seeds lightly before mixing them in with the turkey; then I added the rest of the seasonings. After it had cooked a while, I tasted it and added salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce to taste.

Then I added the cocoa powder. It gives the chili a lovely dark color, and the cocoa and hot spices complement each other, creating a complexity of flavor that can't be readily described. Add the corn, heat through, and serve with sour cream, shredded cheese and corn bread.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Let's see, where was I?

Okay, I made that new apron.  And I've been wearing it almost every day since.

I'm back at St. Kate's, post-spring break; I'm designing for the spring touring show, "On Air! A Return to Radio"; they're using two old radio scripts, and the students are developing "actor personas" who will be performing these scripts in a radio studio set.  I've done this before, with a David Mamet script. It's fun to work with 1930s and 1940s clothing and hairstyles.

Since this is a touring show, we need garment bags for transporting the costumes - so that's our big spring project in the sewing room.  I made a pattern for the garment bags that the students will be building over the next few weeks.

I'm also designing the set, and costumes, and set dressing/props for "I Hate Hamlet". It's been occupying so much of my brain space lately. We start rehearsals tomorrow, and I can't wait! The cast is also getting quite excited. So there will be several creations involved with this show.

I've also been working on some recipes - I made spiced pumpkin cupcakes with a crumb topping; turkey chili; and flatbread pizzas.

And - finally! - the garden. Oh, the weather has been glorious the last couple of weeks. The ice was out on Bald Eagle Lake on March 17th, the ground has been pretty much frost-free all along (I don't think it ever really froze this winter!), and plants are sprouting. The magnolias and azaleas have already been blooming!

I started digging out an old stump and some other roots, and created a hole in the ground. A few days later, my stepmom gave me a large rhubarb plant (that was actually several plants) and I now have a rhubarb patch! Can't wait!! She also gave me some chives plants, and I put them in my vegetable bed.

I've also had to re-visit "American Family" a couple of times; I've had to make some costume adjustments. One of the actresses was having some issues with the temperature in the theater, so I added a t-shirt layer under her tunic top. One of the actors also wanted a shirt change (there was a slight fit issue that came up after opening night...) But it is going well, overall.

And now, back to I Hate Hamlet, and prepping for a publicity photo. That's tomorrow's creation.