January 29, 2013
Day Three at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival: so far it’s been a whirlwind of meeting new people, getting to know Ashland, getting to know the facilities and working on quite a few different projects. Before I dive into my initial observations, here’s a little background on me: I am currently a staff Scenic Artist at Milwaukee Repertory Theater in Milwaukee, WI. This is my first season with the Rep; I started working there in July of 2012 and have painted 8 ½ shows out of their 13 show season. Before joining the Rep’s staff, I was a freelance scenic artist in New York City for four years. Transitioning from freelance to full-time staff has been interesting; I have found that there are many differences. More on that later, as it applies...
The major differences between the Rep and OSF that I’d like to point out right away are our differences in staffing and in facilities. I’ll stick mostly to the paint shop, as that is my area. At the Rep, we have a Charge Artist, a Lead Scenic Artist, a Scenic Artist (me), and an intern. At OSF, they have a Charge Artist, two Lead Scenic Artists (one of them is Thayne, my exchange partner), two Scenic Artists, and two interns. So OSF has almost twice as many artists in their shop. However, our space at the Rep is probably four times the floor space that is available at OSF. (OSF has a separate space in which they paint that I have yet to see, so I may make amendments to this observation.) However, their performance spaces are larger than ours. Both companies have three theatres, but two of OSF’s spaces are about as large as our one main stage. Long story short: they’re producing more scenery at the end of the day.
The other thing that I wanted to briefly hit on before we get deep into this exchange was how difficult planning was. To be clear, it wasn’t difficult because of OSF or because of the Rep. It was difficult because of the nature of theatre. To do an equal exchange, where two scenics worked on the same number of shows, would be nearly impossible to plan because every theater’s performance schedules are different, which makes their build schedules different. Add in factors such as the number of artists working and floor space available, planning for such an accurate exchange would simply never happen. A concrete example: while at OSF, I will mostly be working on “The Unfortunates”, but I won’t have enough time here to finish the project. Thayne will have a little more success: he’ll be painting two shows start-to-finish at the Rep. This is because both of those shows open by the time he leaves, whereas “The Unfortunates” doesn’t open for another three weeks after my departure. It would be an interesting experiment to swap artists for an entire season, but our paint time is July-March, whereas OSF’s paint time is fall-summer. The schedules simply wouldn’t allow it. Nevertheless, I think this exchange is such an awesome idea and I can’t wait to see what everyone gets out of it. Stay tuned for more thoughts on my first week here!