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.


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