I recently designed costumes for The Crucible at The University of California, Irvine which opened last weekend. Most of you have heard of it. Its that dated story about a bunch of pilgrims and some witches- nothing to do with our modern life, right? That is what I thought I would be designing this winter as part of my masters program at UCI. But in walked director Beth Lopes with a radical idea to set this play in modern times. This won’t work, I thought. I researched past productions and couldn’t find evidence of a single production with a modern setting. My conclusion- maybe they know something we don’t. The time just can’t be changed.
My first steps in this design process were to analyze the text very carefully, and begin pulling images of modern clothing and fashion inspirations. I hit a wall. I couldn’t see this town in modern dress. The girls didn’t make sense in jeans and t-shirts, and the whole thing seemed way too literal. Where in modern day America are we hanging witches? Our team met, and we met, and we met. We wanted to create a language for our designs that made sense of what is a truly a beautiful text (when you see past all of the Pilgrim garb and read it for what it truly is- a metaphor).
With this new appreciation for the text and characters of the play- I set out to explore this idea of community and create a certain timelessness and metaphorical design, both of which are technical impossibilities. What I eventually designed was modern clothing, with a certain 1950s sensibility, and a dash of Puritanism. For the metaphor- I developed a color palette (that made shopping incredibly difficult- my assistant can attest to that) which stepped from red and orange, to orange and green, to blue and purple, to black and white over the course of the show. This allowed me to create an arc where the audience could see visually the life of this town draining as time went on. I was nervous about how we would accomplish this lofty goal, and leery about how it would all eventually read, on stage.
What I believe we have accomplished is the most beautiful telling of this story I have ever witnessed. It is also, frankly, the most dramatic and profound piece that I have had the honor of being a part of. From the director, to the other designers, to stage management, to the cast, and crew- everyone came together to create a very moving piece of theatre. I am incredibly thankful for the struggle that I experienced in my this process and the opportunity I had to be pushed to reexamine how I design.
Check out samples of my work on my online portfolio.
Just had a quick one to share today. Joe came home from school and was showing the rest of us some of the work he’s been doing in his watercolor class. It was so neat to see the steps he had gone through to practice the technique. I absolutely love watercolor, and I understand it is pretty difficult to master. We have one acrylic painting in our house that Joe did years ago. It is a perfect, simple red flower that we ended up scanning as a screen for one of our Ransom Paid women’s t-shirts. We also once took rough pen sketches Joe had drawn and cut them to fit tiny gilded frames on our mantle. But I would love to have the whole home filled with his art, not these lame Target elephant and giraffe prints from about seven years back – do you know the ones?
Luke, of late, has taken to taping up every pencil drawing, coloring page, or painting of his on the walls and halls throughout our home. We are proud to celebrate his work this way. But when Joe showed Luke and me one of his watercolor exercises from class, and Luke heard me begging Joe to let me frame it, he caught on to the idea that very special works are sometimes kept in frames. He immediately wanted his artwork displayed that way, too. I found an empty frame in the closet that just fit Joe’s work, and we put it up on the mantle this afternoon. It catches my eye every time I come in the room and I can’t help but admire the depth and light in it. (The photo doesn’t catch the detail of richness, unfortunately). By happy coincidence, while Joe returned some things from his show at Target later, I took the boys over to the $1 section where we discovered these kid’s frames designed to look like a baseball, football, soccer ball…oh I forget the fourth one. We picked out two, brought them home, and Joe found a painting Luke had done in December, sitting next to his Grandma Cheryl while she crocheted and we all chatted. A great memory and beautiful work all around. So now we have two new pieces of framed art in our house, and only one day after visiting the art museum. Fancy that!
Tech week on Joe’s show, The Crucible at UC Irvine, officially ends tonight with my attendance at the “invited (final) dress” rehearsal. I can’t wait to see the fruits of all his labor! He’s already gotten some great feedback from friends who have seen the rehearsals.
I’m surprised, as this week ends, at how physically and emotionally drained I am (and know Joe is, too). We miss each other, and the kids miss their Daddy. I worked on posts for this blog every night this week, but somehow at the end of the long day, or with the pressures of tech week, or for some other reason, I didn’t like any of them enough to post them as they are. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the extra time alone with the boys. Luke is becoming quite the photographer and a blossoming social butterfly. He took his camera to Trader Joe’s twice to get snapshots of the elusive Peter the Anteater, whose discovery leads to lolipops for the boys. He also took pictures of his favorite employees, who are always happy to see the Kucharski boys roaming the aisles. I found this snapshot he took inside his mouth recently, and thought it seemed somehow appropriate for tonight’s post. Ha ha!
I’ve learned this; being really, really busy drains the creative juices.
And this; writings on a blog don’t always have to be awfully creative and well-edited. It’s a very special night for us, and I am soooo ready to celebrate the opening of a great show and the close of a tough week. Congrats, Joe! I already know I will be so proud and inspired by your absolutely incredible work. You are a formidable talent, darling!
Livin’ on a prayer. Doesn’t exactly sound like shooting for the stars. But probably many a grad student, freelance or free-time artist shares what we have. Dreams. Big ones. Plan “A” (Amy makes six figures on a screenplay and Joe builds a career as a freelance costume designer) is on the back burner, still kindled by Plan “B” (we both throw all-in, whole hog – even reinventing the hog if not decorating it with some new clothes – and balance hope with a tight budget). No frills. No clock-in jobs, for now. No appliances in grad housing. Just the limits of our creative minds. And prayer.
We’re halfway through grad school, that’s where. And it’s scary. The choice for both of us to throw all-in draws every response from a sympathetic frown to an all-out intervention, even from ourselves. But if the dream of supporting a family on the merits of our respective crafts is ever to be realized, we have to combine our efforts, multiply our use of talents and exponentiate results; and neither of us is a math person.
We’re the Kucharskis. Creative types. We laugh and play and paint and write with our boys, and that on a slow day. We’re halfway through the surreal life of grad school living. Halfway between the real world we left behind and the dream we’ve imagined. And what we’ve realized is that halfway is, for us, past the point of no return.