Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Josh Kelly: How to Be Better

Over the past four weeks I've been able to observe two important management events. The costume staff participated in end of the year performance reviews. The process is simple with a single-page document of questions, filled out by the employee and the costume shop management and discussed in a meeting. In discussion with the staff, I get the impression that it's the time to talk about what's not working and what could be better. In DC we do this twice a year.  It's a process I dread. We have four pages of questions, a grading scale, and personal goals that must be set and accomplished in order to even achieve the possibility of a pay increase. When I described our process at the lunch table, I got responses such as, "That would be great" and "We don't have that sort of merit increase."  On further discussion, I began to appreciate our review process. We are actively initiating a process in which we learn to be industrious.  I may not be here if there weren't an incentive for me to set educational goals and try to realize a goal to become a more complete crafts artisan.

The other event I witnessed was a full costume staff meeting without management, where we broke up into smaller groups, compiled a list of successes and concerns about the season's productions, brought them back to the larger group for discussion, and appointed a few representatives to take those comments to a meeting with upper management and other departments. It was a great thing for me to see where the build process wasn't working and how to get it fixed. I heard from members of wigs and make-up, wardrobe, and the workroom. I especially liked hearing from the people that came forward as natural leaders of the group. In the end though, I had to laugh. My small group concluded that it's the same everywhere. We all wish we had more money and time, that deadlines should be honored, and that communication is key. The group did come up with some great solutions on smaller issues. I suppose each little victory is how we change our world.

Kate Lucibella: DC to Ashland and All of I-80 In Between

OK, so I didn’t exactly drive the entire length of I-80, but I came close.  My name is Kate Lucibella and I traveled from the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC to participate in an A Ha! Artisan Exchange with th Stage Operations department at OSF.  You only get so many opportunities to drive across country and I felt like I couldn’t pass this one up.  It took me four and a half days and I saw everything from Midwest farms, to cattle ranches in Wyoming, to the salt flats in Utah, to the empty desert of Nevada, to the beautiful mountains and forests of California and Oregon.  While, I’m really glad I have my car out here, and it was a beautiful and worthwhile experience, I think next time I’ll just fly.

I’m going to try to resist comparing STC and OSF since it doesn’t seem fair to either company, but here are a few of the key differences: The STC stage ops department consists of six people; at OSF, approximately 43.  STC works out of two spaces doing one show in each space at a time (or once a season doing two shows in rep at one of the spaces); OSF (at least during the time I am here) will  rotate three shows in and out of three spaces daily for a total of nine shows running at a time.  STC shows run for five to nine weeks depending on the space and extensions; OSF shows run for months.  STC  presents eight performances a week per space.  OSF presents a matinee every day in one or both of their indoor theatres and a performance each night, for up to 12 shows per week in each of those two spaces (the third, outdoor theatre does not present matinees.) STC brings in outside and touring productions from all over the world; OSF produces everything they put onstage.  So there’s a bit of a difference. 

I’ve only been out here a little less than a week and I’ve already realized a bit of what it takes to make the rotating repertory process work: a ton of planning and thinking ahead.  This extends all the way down to the stage hands who shift the sets back and forth.  The breakdown and storage of a set is determined by what show is running next and what show runs after that.  They need to think three shows in advance to make their jobs as efficient as possible.  Time is one of the most important factors.  Many of the shows this season are long (some over 3 hours) so turning sets over from a matinee to an evening production can get a bit tight when factoring in fight calls, vocal calls and half hour.  Everything moves quickly, with a purpose, and with a plan for what’s next.

Shifting is a graceful, bulky, delicate, complicated dance.  Scenic wagons break apart and move so other pieces can move, so other pieces can come out of storage, so other pieces can go into storage.  To watch from the house, it looks like amazingly organized chaos where one minute one set is in place, and about a half hour later a new set has taken its place.  A full shift takes about an hour and a half to two hours from the time the first set of boots hits the deck to the time the last set of boots leaves.  During a shift everyone knows how the pieces are put together, how they come apart and the order they have to go in order to make the most of space and time.  It’s really an impressive thing to participate in. 

My first week at OSF has been a great experience.  I’ve gotten the opportunity to shift scenery, sit in on production meetings, watch flying tests, see a lot of beautiful landscapes, and meet a lot of really great people.  I’m excited for what else is to come.  And just to prove how amazingly beautiful it is, here is a picture from the porch of my apartment:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Josh Kelly: Shows, Shows, Shows!

 In my time here, I will have seen 10 of the 11 shows being produced at OSF this season. I started with the Elizabethan Stage shows. Having done two of the shows in the recent past, I was very familiar with them. I honestly preferred The Shakespeare Theatre productions, however my work was involved to say the least so I had a lot invested.  I saw an evening performance of The Unfortunates in the Thomas Theatre.  I then moved on to the Bowmer Theatre shows. I saw Streetcar, My Fair Lady, and Shrew. The Tenth Muse opens after I leave. I saw another performance of The Unfortunates Sunday, and will see Lear, Two Trains Running, Midsummer again, and the dress rehearsal of The Liquid Plain on my last evening here. That's 12 performances in 5 weeks.

The Unfortunates was an amazing production. It was one of those shows where the breadth of ideas was mind blowing in a rather simple concept. The look of the show was worn, flashy, a little frightening, a spectacle. The "timeless but old fashioned" kind of thing many directors and designers aim for, but all too often fall short. Jon Beavers was incredible and gave a performance that stayed with me. Ken Robinson played the Preacher in The Unfortunates and as Freddy in My Fair Lady. He has a voice as smooth and natural as his acting style. I hope I get to see his performances more in the future.

I'm fortunate enough to see theatre at many different theaters in Washington, DC. Each company has a specific style one expects.  Here, so many styles and genres exist for the visitors and residents of Ashland. As a matter of fact, I sat next to residents of the area at all the shows I saw. The loyalty to this company and excitement for live theatre is present in its neighbors.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Josh Kelly: Getting Fresh Ideas

I'm spending the majority of my time here in the dye/paint area. When I first arrived, I was the fourth person in the space. The range of experience is broad, with a combined total of more than 60 years of textile modification. I started by going around the room and saying things like, "What's this used for? Where do you buy that?  Which do you prefer?  How on earth did you do that?"  My questions are never ending and I'm sure some days my coworkers are ready to kick me out of the room. On those days, I head downstairs and talk to the drapers, craftspeople, or design assistants. I'm feeling that I'm getting good information from everyone in the shop.

Aside from the basic facility differences, I've been able to acquire a lot in the way of shortcuts and tricks to making nicer quality and longer lasting costumes. I'm looking into the various forms of color matching sheets being used here. The Spoonflower color chart is most promising. They have done some quick stencils and printing using a stencil cutter from props which is so fast to create and change. I've been introduced to no weed transfer paper, a whole different set of Jones Tones paints, and Bo Nash Fuse-It Powder. I'm using Iwata airbrushes over my Badger and Paasche brand airbrushes. I've been turned on to Golden Clear Tar Gel for a shiny transparent blood effect with lots of texture that doesn't dull with cleaning. From the business office assistant, I'm finding new vendors for supplies that places like Greenberg & Hammer carried. From the craft room, I picked up a new technique for making a strong, curved topper, a better way to prep felts for pulling, and some brilliant applications for making unfortunate leather garments appear less shiny and more subtle. The design assistants gave me tips from individual designer's working styles to where I might find easily dyeable knee pads. I'm including some photos of coworkers and a couple of process shots.

After all of that information, the one area the costume shop excels in, like most costume shops, is food. Nearly everyday there are treats.  From baked goods to fresh fruit to cheese and crackers, these people love to share some delicious culinary delights. They are often willing to share some recipes as well.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Josh Kelly: Living in Oregon

Being a Midwesterner living on the East coast for 13 years, SW Oregon is a whole new ballgame. I've come at the changeover from spring to summer. The spring rains and leftover snow in the mountains made for beautiful cool and sometimes cold evenings and mornings. As we've transitioned to summer weather, the dry heat can take your breath away. And the sun!  There hasn't been a cloud in the sky for nearly two weeks. If you visit, bring your sunscreen. Back home, there has been tornadoes, oppressive heat and humidity, and flash floods. I'm not sure if Ashlanders know how lucky they are.

Outdoors is where everyone lives. Every day on my half block walk to the costume shop, I pass nearly 20 people out running with their dogs, walking with their strollers, or ambling on their relatively short commute to work. In DC, I commute 80 minutes on two forms of public transit to get 12 miles.  On breaks, many people go for a walk or spend time on the outdoor deck of the shop. This week I will be joining my coworkers for a CrossFit session during lunch.

The organic selection at the regular grocery store equals that of  the conventional produce.  Plus, there are two grocery stores committed to organic produce exclusively. For those of us that have lived in urban food deserts, this is how the other half lives.  

When not working, the outdoor options for this place are too numerous to name. As a fisherman, there are streams and lakes to explore, one more beautiful than the last. It is the primary reason I've already decided to come back and visit. On my first weekend, I was driven by my fellow craftspeople, Betsy and Chris, up to Crater Lake.  It was awe inspiring. We had lunch at the lodge and pie on the way back, as is the custom. If I had a car here, I would be able to explore more, however I might not come back in to work.



A five week stay away from home is more difficult than I could have imagined. Although the people here couldn't be more generous, I'm still missing all my friends and family. This is the first time in nearly 15 years that I've spent more than a month away from my partner. Waking up without two cats to feed feels empty. I've missed my god daughter's junior production of "Aladdin". I've missed the first beach weekend of the year. Worst of all, I'm away when 4 of my theatre friends had their positions eliminated. Hearing news about such significant changes at home is scary. I'm not surprised. I understand what responsible companies have to do to remain within budget. I have survived similar cuts at arts institutions where I have worked 4 times over the past 13 years. It just stinks not being around for my friends. Chris's visit to DC next year will be a little shorter. More people might find it a little more reasonable length of time for an exchange.  My next post will be all about the great techniques and suppliers I've been learning about.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A-ha Artisan Exchange: Josh Kelly Comes to Ashland

Hello from Oregon! My name is Josh Kelley and I am the lead crafts artisan at The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington DC. As The Shakespeare Theatre's costume painter/dyer, I hold a year round position to create all costume props or crafts for all of our 7 original productions. My A-ha Artisan Exchange has brought me to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival costume shop, which has somewhere around 10 costume crafters and dyers who work a 6-8 month season depending on contracts. Each show at OSF is assigned anywhere from 2-4 craft artisans. My exchange cohort is Chris Carpenter, OSF’s head dyer/painter. We have arranged a non-concurrent exchange so we can work directly with each other at our home theaters and share the experience. Chris will be visiting DC early next year to work on The Shakespeare Theatre's production of Henry IV.

I couldn't have come to OSF at a better time. A completed co-production back home has allowed me time to come here, leaving The Shakespeare Theatre without a craftsperson for 5 weeks. Upon arrival in Ashland, I found myself in the midst of dress rehearsal for 3 shows. I have the opportunity to see the final weeks of a build, and the chance to see the three designers in rehearsal and at the shop. This designer and artisan relationship is an imperative ingredient to a successful and smooth process. Luckily, two of those three designers are opening the season back at my home theatre. The occasion to begin a relationship with them here has been fortuitous. In the next three weeks I shall be assisting on the two productions that complete OSF's 11 show season.

The most fascinating parts of this adventure so far is to see the thoughtful design of many of OSF's facilities, the fierce devotion of the company members to their company, and the inspiring quality of life. The costume shop, though small for the number of people here, is nicely laid out. The integration of the ventilation systems and storage is exciting to see. The shop staff are inviting and open about sharing their work processes, but are able to leave at the end of the day and experience a vital personal life. It must be the reason so many people come here to work, and stay till they can work no longer. I say this, having sent my resumé 4 years in a row, only to find no positions available every year.  This exchange has been my first opportunity to experience the greatness of this company, and the overwhelming beauty of Ashland, Oregon. I look forward to the next three weeks.