CriticalDance Forum

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Author:  LMCtech [ Sat Sep 22, 2001 10:14 am ]
Post subject:  Venting

I just finished a play that I inherited. The theater fired the last costume designer 10 days before 1st preview. Talk about stress. I think some of these actors had never worked with a costume designer before. They were giving me a little too much feedback on what they thought they should be wearing. I don't tell them how to act. I wish they wouldn't tell me how to design. I'm still not entirely happy with what's onstage, but there were so many limitations, I can't complain too much.<P>Anyone else have the problem of the performers coming to you with "suggestions" over the wishes of the director or choreographer. I haven't really dealt with this before. Is this more of an actor thing? This was my first play in about 4 years, so maybe I'm just out of practice in this particular genre.<P>Any comments?

Author:  salzberg [ Sat Sep 22, 2001 10:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Venting

It's definitely more of an actor thing, although dancers have been known to do it, too.<P>With actors, the subtext is always, "Look at me! Look at me!" With dancers, the subtext is, "Look at what I can do!" This, to me, is a huge difference.<P>If it happens again -- if actors try to tell you how to costume them -- just look at them with wide-eyed innocence and ask something like, "How will that tie in with the color-teaming we're trying to do? Will it reinforce the curvilinear shape of the set?"<BR>

Author:  LMCtech [ Tue Sep 25, 2001 11:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Venting

Excellent. Baffle them with tech-speak. I love it.

Author:  salzberg [ Tue Sep 25, 2001 2:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Venting

Well, it's partly that -- it's <I>mostly</I> that, in truth, but it's also a slightly-more-subtle way of telling them, "Look, there's a lot more that goes into the design process other than the fact that you think you look good in red."

Author:  LMCtech [ Tue Sep 25, 2001 2:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Venting

LOL. They are terribly self-absorbed, aren't they? Ah well, I got thru the situation alright by telling them that's what the director wanted and then telling the director it was what he wanted. Manipulative maybe. But it got them off my back.

Author:  DavidH [ Wed Sep 26, 2001 10:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Venting

Hi all- <BR>As a (former)performer this subject is near and dear to my heart. I was lucky enough to have a mentor early in my career who advised us on (mostly) how not to talk to designers.Lucky me huh? And it's something I've carried with me when I teach occasionally. I've always had great looking, well made and fitted costumes and I've always had light on me!'s true. <P>Anyway, here's one of my favorite quotes from the noted designer, Jose Varona, from a book by Lynn Pecktal called Costume Design, Techniques of Modern Masters (I highly recommend this book for anyone in the performing arts!!) When asked what he liked least about about working in the theatre he said (paraphrased here) ....opininated people who were not involved in the creative part but feel the right to express their opinion,whether they are wifes,boyfriends,parents,sisters,or lovers of performers or directors...<P>He actually gives four reasons total...all interesting..... and for the sake of argument I would include the artists themselves in some cases..... (as in lighting/costume/set design) <P>Cheers,<BR>David<BR><p>[This message has been edited by DavidH (edited September 27, 2001).]

Author:  salzberg [ Thu Sep 27, 2001 2:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Venting

The difficult thing, of course, is knowing when a performer's comments/requests are valid, and not just the result of rampant egotism. As a costumer, you've spent a lot of time analysing all the characters in the script -- <I>all</I> the characters -- whereas each actor only has to study his/her own role. If the actor's smart (and there <I>are</I> some smart actors -- as a matter of fact, I know all 3 of them *), s/he's spent more time thinking about that one character than you possibly could have, and might have some insights (yeah, and the sun might rise in the west tomorrow, too **).<P>I'm fortunate; for the most part, their only concern about light is whether or not they're in it ***. <P>* meow<BR>** meow, meow<BR>*** "No, I really don't think a pink followspot is appropriate for <I>Death of a Salesman</I>, and yes, I know you're playing Willie Loman, but you really should be able to hold focus through the strength of your performance, shouldn't you?"<p>[This message has been edited by salzberg (edited September 27, 2001).]

Author:  Azlan [ Thu Sep 27, 2001 6:17 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Venting

David, I believe you are referring to the people whom I have been dubbing "self-important hangers-on" (SIHO), which also includes board members, donors, presenters, etc. I've been talking about this phenomenon with a few people recently and how harmful they can be.<P>I have a problem with those people who, under the guise of supporting dance, raise their own importance above that of the artists or that of other audience members. For example, more than once I have heard board members say, "This is my company." Please tell me a better way to turn off community support for your company.<P>I have also heard these SIHO types instructing dancers, choreographers, designers, artistic directors, etc. on what's wrong with a performance and how to correct them! "The program was too short." "The technique was all wrong." "The costumes should be trimmed here and here."<P>But then again there are critics who do that... I guess the point I'm making is people should understand the perspective from which they come. Non-artists can support, nurture or even criticize artists, but in humility; they need to realize that most performing artists know a lot more about the art than they do.

Author:  salzberg [ Thu Sep 27, 2001 7:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Venting

. . .And once again, folks, we see that Azlan is more tactful than I; I usually refer to these people in terms that relate to equine anatomy.<P>A company I regularly work with has one such SIHO, who gives me notes on sound levels. Let's get this perfectly straight; here's who should be giving notes to the following people:<P>Dancers: the choreographer, the artistic director, and the stage manager (the SM's notes should only be logistical, not artistic)<P>Stage Mangler: dancers (only about logistical and safety concerns), choreographers, artistic directors<P>Designers: stage managers (about logistical and safety concerns), choreographers, artistic directors<P>Stagehands: the relevant designers and the stage manager (again, the SM's notes should not be artistic)<P>If the choreographer and artistic director have notes about costumes, lighting, or sets, those should be given to the appropriate designers. Notes on cue placement should be given to the designers and stage managers.<P>As to giving notes to dancers, if I speak to a dancer about playing to a specific light, or moving slightly so as to at least be in the same <I>county</I> as the light, it's only after I've OKed it with the choreographer or, in the choreographer's absense, the artistic director.<P><BR>Now, critics present a different situation. In <I>Up the Organization</I>, Robert Townsend says:<P> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Related to this is a function that you might describe as vice-president in charge of anti-bureaucratization. He must have a loud voice, no fear, and a passionate hatred for institutions and their practices. In addition to his regular duties, it's his job to wander around the company looking for new forms, new staff departments, and new reports. Whenever he finds one that smells like institutionalization, he screams "H*rsesh*t !" at the top of his lungs. And keeps shouting until the new whatever-it-is is killed.<P>Billy Graham has a man named Grady Wilson who yells "H*rsesh*t"--however you say that in Baptist--at him whenever he takes himself too seriously. Perhaps that's one of the reasons the Graham organization has been so successful.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>This is the function of a good critic. Of course, what makes the critic "good" is the ability to differentiate that which is simply not to his/her taste from that which is truly. . .h*rsesh*t.<p>[This message has been edited by salzberg (edited September 27, 2001).]

Author:  LMCtech [ Thu Sep 27, 2001 8:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Venting

I wish more people would read the backstage forum. We really are quite amusing here.

Author:  Marie [ Thu Sep 27, 2001 8:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Venting

We do. The erudite are always amusing.

Author:  Maggie [ Thu Sep 27, 2001 10:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Venting

Hmmm. And then there's the artistic director and orchestra conductor relationship.....

Author:  salzberg [ Thu Sep 27, 2001 12:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Venting

As has been said by Artistic Directors since time immemorial, "There's a <I>place</I> for that baton!"

Author:  salzberg [ Thu Sep 27, 2001 5:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Venting

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>I think some of these actors had never worked with a costume designer before<HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P>That might very well have been the case. With no certification process, there are a lot of people out there calling themselves "designers" who have no concept of script analysis and no mastery of technique (and technique is just as important to a designer as it is to a dancer -- or, for that matter, any other artist.<P>So, they may have worked with people who <I>called</I> themselves designers, but not with someone who actually <I>was</I> a designer.<P>------------------<BR>Jeffrey E. Salzberg, Lighting Designer<BR>"Shang-a-lang, feel the <I>sturm und drang</I> in the air!"<BR>Online portfolio: <A HREF="" TARGET=_blank></A> <P><BR>

Author:  Azlan [ Thu Sep 27, 2001 10:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Venting

I have to say I'm not sure if I coined the term "Self Important Hangers-On." I think I came up with the "Hangers-On" part and Francis may have clarified it by adding "Self Important."

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