Four years ago, I never would have placed myself in the position that I am in now. Four years ago, I was still an Elementary Education major, fighting the ongoing war between what I loved to do, and what I was told would guarantee me a job. In a very short amount of time, that all changed.
Up until this point, it has been one wild roller coaster, and a very interesting learning experience. Many outside our craft would have a pre-mid life crisis at the thought of designing a show. It’s perfectly understandable, with all the attention to detail, the many hours and challenges, and frustration, at times it does feel like a head may pop off. However, of all the components of a production, design is by far one of the most rewarding. There is something so fulfilling when, at the end of the day, you take a step back and look at the work done, no matter how much, or how little, and say, “that is mine, and it is wonderful”.
Its getting to that fulfilling moment and the end of everyday that is the hardest. As a student designer, working with students and adults alike, nothing is simple. When someone says you’re right, to another you are wrong. As a senior shop employee and seasoned Stage Manager for Theatre Westminster, I have had plenty of experience asserting authority over students my own age, but that does not make it easier. I have spent four years trying to find that balance between leader, mentor, and friend. When I find one, I’ll call you. Some days are easy, things just seem to click, and the work moves swiftly and smoothly, and other days just drag on and on, and you try to keep your cool with workers, but that two-by-four looks better and better every minute. Remember the head that might pop off? Yeah I didn’t say it had to be your own.
With all the planning, and drafting, and measuring and calculating, sometimes you just find yourself saying, “Uh yeah, that looks good there.” Is there a set formula for designing? The answer is yes. And no. Of course there is the reading, and the analyzing, and the research, and the brainstorming, followed by some more reading, and pre-sketches, and meetings, and drafting, and some more meetings, and re drafting, and so on and so on. At some point, you have to trust what you have done, and roll with the punches. Not everything is going to work. Or everything will work. Or nothing will work. (we hope for the first two.)
As stressful as things may be, I just have to remind myself that the show will open, the set will be finished, and I will sit in the house picking out every little detail. But that’s OK. Its mine to do that to. It’s mine. Take ownership of your work. Be proud of it, no matter how tempted you are to blame the crooked platform on someone else.
For those of you thinking of taking the plunge into the turbulent waters of designing, take my advice. Dive right in. Don’t just get your toes wet. Push your limits, your brain, and your sanity. You will be tired. You will be stressed. You will cry. You will thank yourself. Above all, smile and laugh, because nothing is too complicated that a little thought, and a lot of laughter can’t fix