Thursday, February 7, 2013

Artisan Exchanges: Update from Kira Nehmer

First impressions and Self-examinations: February 2, 2013
            I made it through my first week at OSF!  Already I’ve learned a lot, shared a lot and had many really interesting conversations with the other artisans here at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  It’s hard to know where to start, so I will start at the beginning. 
            Monday, January 28th:  My first day was a touch-up call on stage at the Bowmner Theatre for Two Trains Running.  (A “touch-up call” is when the set is installed on the stage and we start to see where things don’t match up, or we need to add paint treatments.  The most typical notes are to darken areas of the set, or age areas.  Sometimes entire scenic elements are added and we have to match those elements to what already exists.)  The notes on Two Trains were to darken areas, age areas, and seal the floor- pretty typical.  Now, in my experience as a freelancer, I was constantly walking into theaters to do touch-ups on sets that I didn’t paint, with people that I didn’t know, in spaces that I didn’t know.  It’s part of what I do as a scenic artist, so I wasn’t out of my element getting lost backstage, or having to ask people’s names, or not knowing where scenic elements were onstage.  I discovered a long time ago that I can be a scenic artist anywhere.  BUT there is a huge difference between being able to perform the required tasks of your position, and being able to “replace” an individual.  I found that, while I was able to do every task asked of me, I mostly felt in the way that day.  Between not knowing the set, not knowing the processes, not knowing the other scenics, it was hard for them to simply tell me to do a note.  They also use some products that I’ve never used before (more on that to come!).  I’m starting to discover that when a group of people work together day in and day out for 9+ months (or in the case here, years and years), you develop shorthand for communicating. Not knowing the shorthand makes it very difficult to switch in and out.  One of the credos of freelancing was: you are replaceable.  I’m discovering that in regional theatre, you are NOT replaceable.  A theatre becomes your home, the people you work with like family and you cannot simply switch them in and out.  I was discussing this idea with some folks last night and they pointed out that by the end of my six weeks here, I will have mostly likely found my place here. There will be things that I bring to the company that will be irreplaceable.  We will have to wait and see on that, but I sure hope so!  
            The rest of my first week was a lot of back and forth between touch-ups on stage for Two Trains and for The Taming of the Shrew, and painting props in the shop.  Yesterday, Friday, I painted a sign for Shrew from start to finish. It felt really nice to complete a project on my own.  I had a lot of setbacks, mostly because I would have to stop and hunt for tools, but I am learning where things are, slowly but surely.  I used an electro-pounce for the first time, and I loved using it.  It was much easier than using a pounce wheel, so I’m glad to have gained that knowledge. 
            I’ve had wonderful conversations with the other scenics that I’m working with; they’re all inspiring me for future blog postings… so look for those soon!  I’d like to end with a thought that one of my coworkers shared with me yesterday:  she told me that she’s already learning so much from me (and likewise, I’m learning so much from her!), but she’s also learning about OSF.  We spend a lot of time throughout the day chit-chatting about differences between the Rep and OSF, and with every question I ask her, she’s had to step back and really think about how the organization runs and her position in it. She’s discovering things about OSF that she didn’t realize before.  She’s discovering just how happy she is here, discovering that she’s become a part of this family.  I’m happy to be able to hear all of her observations and for however I contributed to that.  Self-examination is hard work and here we all are, doing it on a company-wide, national scale.  It’s already exciting to me to see what we’re discovering!

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