First Day of Classes Tomorrow

The evening after my last post, I decided to knock off for the evening and watch a movie. I don’t have cable or subscribe to any of services such as Netflix so, I buy DVD’s (usually used) so I always have something to watch. As a rule, I don’t buy just anything but, look for films or television productions that have some meaning for me. I have a list of all the films that have been nominated or won the Academy Award for costume design. When I am out browsing, if I find one then I get it. So, I have a number of films on DVD which I still need to watch and plan to do that during retirement if not before. Anyway, the other day I was out browsing and ran across a copy of The Turning Point with Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft. It was nominated for 11 awards and won none. It was not, however, nominated for the costume design award. It probably should have been acknowledged in this category. Unfortunately, the academy doesn’t consider contemporary films as having costumes. It is one of my pet peeves about those awards and I don’t understand the seeming bigotry but, that is another story.

Anyway, so last Saturday evening since, the film is one of those movies that hold a good deal of nostalgia for me, I popped it in and settled back. It is, in a word, lovely. The story, the performances (I love Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine) and the design of that film is really quite wonderful.

Tonight (Tuesday) I had dinner with a dinner group. We meet once a month on the last Tuesday. Tonight, was a large turnout, seemed to be about 20. This is a very interesting group of people and I enjoy when I am able to attend. Tonight I was sitting with a colleague that teaches at Centre College and he is on the faculty of the theatre program and, ironically I ran into him in London. He is originally from London so; we talked about our individual trips. He was with his wife who is also very charming and I enjoyed an evening of great conversation and camaraderie. It is nice when we have that large a group. The last time I went there were only three of us. You never know how many will be there even though we communicate through e mail and see everyone’s responses. Each month we go to a different restaurant and I have been to a great many restaurants in Lexington. Tonight, was extra special I think. Most everyone inquired about the business I am trying to get started. They remember everything you say and that feels very special.

The last twenty-four hours have been incredibly productive. Yesterday, I spent most of the day at the costume studio. A couple of students came in and worked. I managed to get some things pulled from stock for Much Ado About Nothing which allowed me to get the last of the renderings painted (see below for a sampling of the final designs). I have both my classes posted on Blackboard and the first assignments up. The syllabi are posted and my beginning design class, I have half the semester’s assignments posted. I feel ready to start tomorrow.


Beatrice and Hero

Beatrice and Hero

Benedick and Claudio

Benedick and Claudio

Don John, Conrade and Borachio

Don John, Conrade and Borachio

Margaret and Ursula

Margaret and Ursula

Don Pedro and Balthasar

Don Pedro and Balthasar


Quote from the book I am currently reading.  This struck me (I mean it really jumped out at me when I read it) and I could relate to it on a very personal level.

He lived, at times, he felt, as if his life belonged to someone else, a story that had not yet been written, a character who had not been fully imagined.

from The Master by Colm Toibin (111)


Enjoying a few quiet (albeit busy) days

It’s has been a busy and quiet few days as I continue to prepare for the school year. I’ve been working on my class preps which include updating syllabi and combing through lecture notes and making improvements to presentations. Somewhere in there I managed to complete some yard work. Have to do it again though. I picked up my new glasses to replace the ones I left in London. I caught with Christina for lunch at the café at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. It was nice to hear about her trip to Paris after we parted in London. We also did some prep for one of the classes we are team teaching this fall. I saw a movie with my friends Rhoda and Sandy (see below) on Thursday. I had dinner with Terry on Wednesday. Somewhere in there, I did a fitting on a wedding dress, I agreed to alter for a friend.


Sheba is waiting for something but I'm not sure what.

Sheba is waiting for something but I’m not sure what.

I’ve also continued working on costume sketches for Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare. Yesterday, I met with the director and got the go ahead. He expressed pleasure with what he saw. We clarified a few items and now I am painting those renderings after a discussion about color. This has been very helpful as I can get a head start on finishing those designs before classes begin. This production is set in the early 19th century – Regency period. I must confess, my trip to London has been somewhat freeing for me in terms of my design work. In the past, I have always been such a slave to realism. In recent years, I have begun to let go of some of that but the productions I saw in London have perhaps, helped me take the next step. Much of the design work I saw was very loose in relation to period and realism. I guess it gave me permission to do the same.


Verges - Dogberry's helper

Verges – Dogberry’s helper

Ursala - one of Hero's attendants

Ursala – one of Hero’s attendants

Leonato - the governor of Messina, Hero's father and Beatrice uncle

Leonato – the governor of Messina, Hero’s father and Beatrice uncle

Hero - she is in love with Claudio and the object of a plot by Don John

Hero – she is in love with Claudio and the object of a plot by Don John

Don Pedro - Prince of Aragon

Don Pedro – Prince of Aragon

Don John - Pedro's bastard brother

Don John – Pedro’s bastard brother

Claudio - a young lord of Florence and one of two sets of lovers, he loves Hero

Claudio – a young lord of Florence and one of two sets of lovers, he loves Hero

Benedick - a young lord of Padua and in love with Beatrice (eventually)

Benedick – a young lord of Padua and in love with Beatrice (eventually)

Beatrice - niece to Don Pedro

Beatrice – niece to Don Pedro

In between all this, I managed to take in a movie. I went Thursday evening to see Boyhood. This film has received a good deal of press because of its being filmed over an 11 or 12 year period depending on the press venue you read. I was somewhat concerned about the almost 3 hour run time. However, there was no need. The film is (as Vikki would say) brilliant. It captures a sense of reality in a way that no film I have ever seen can. You care literally watching the two children of the family grow up before your eyes and the director creates an intimacy (voyeuristic) within the film that is unlike anything I have ever seen. At the same time, it is epic in scope because you are party to twelve years in the life of this family. I think what gives it its true intimacy is that the director never creates road signs to the time passage. You just observe and it is incredible that there are never any real histrionics – no car crashes, no digital imagery, only implied violence. The characters grow and change before your eyes and you become part of that journey. So glad I was able to experience this film and the run time – not a problem.

Dancing at Lughnasa

I finished the last of the renderings for Dancing at Lughnasa last Wednesday. I am now working on preliminary sketches for Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. That production opens in November.

Rendering Collage

Thursday, I took a break and went to see the new James Brown bio pic, Get On Up. This is one of the best films of this type I have ever seen. The film making reflects the complexity of this man’s life. I knew a little about James Brown from listening to his music but, I never understood what a complex and interesting person that generated that music. The film is layered and textured with over lays and flashbacks (but not in the traditional sense of that term). He speaks to the film audience as a commentary. The film depicts a man who was brilliant despite a lack of education and opportunity. He intelligently makes his own opportunity and crafts a life of wealth and power. This is not to say he did not have problems and issues that we today might not find acceptable. The film is uplifting and the performances are first rate as are the design elements.


After that, I went down town to meet Terry and some friends for Thursday Night Live. The square was packed and the evening was perfect. The weather lately has been incredibly mild and comfortable.


Thursday Night Live

Thursday Night Live

It won’t be long now until I will be back at UK. Still have to finish prepping my classes for the fall. I am teaching Fundamentals of Design & Production and Senior Capstone this semester. We also we be hosting the Kentucky Thespian Festival in October. Shaping up to be a very busy semester.

Back to my Day Job

Upon my returning from London (thanks to my friend Danny for picking mu up at the airport), I was greeted by Sheba who had missed me a great deal. I could tell.


Back home and Sheba is glad to see me.

Back home and Sheba is glad to see me.

She is not like most cats that will punish you after an absence by ignoring your return. She has been a constant presence since my return. With the cool days and nights we have had since my return, I have allowed her an open window now and then and, of course, that is more interesting than me.


Since being home, I must confess, I have taken some down time to recover; it took the better part of a week to come back to EST. I kept waking up at 3 or 4 am. I have begun in earnest working on my business (which is another subject and not for this platform). I’ve been to see a couple of movies (which is another passion of mine). I saw first A Most Wanted Man with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and, most recently, Ida. Both films were remarkable and incredibly engaging for very different reasons.


A Most Wanted Man is based on a John LeCarre novel and my first thought was I wouldn’t be interested in that but, my friend, Terry suggested it since it was Hoffman’s last film. Well, first, the acting talent is amazing and all the performances were first rate. However, it was not your usual spy thriller. It was not an action film but, a well-crafted, thought-provoking mystery. I found the performance of Grigoriy Dobrygin, playing Issa to be the most compelling as well as Robin Wright. Hoffman was his usual good self but, I found the character to be typical of the roles he plays: very introverted, hard-drinking, smoking rumpled – maybe a little self-absorbed. There was nothing new here for me. What he did though, he did spectacularly.


Ida, on the other hand, was a total departure. A Polish film, it tells the story of a young novice in early 1960’s Poland going in search of her roots prior to taking her vows. At the insistence of the Mother Superior, she goes to meet an aunt, her only living relative. I won’t give away the plot but the story is mesmerizing and the filming (in gray tones) is visually stunning. The story is harsh to say the least, but the beauty of the cinematography perfectly counter-points the hard story. Every frame is a study in the beauty of black and white photography. Well, not black and white so much as gray. Every image is perfectly crafted and the film does not become static as a result.


In addition, I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time by Mark Haddon. This is the book the play I saw in London was based upon. I must say, the theatre company that created the work did an excellent job of adapting this novel. The book, told from Christopher’s point of view was as riveting as the live stage performance. It was a fairly quick read and it helped get me back into the routine of reading in the morning. I have now gone back to the novel I began at the beginning of summer and put down because I could see it wasn’t a great summer read. The Master by Colm Toibin is very dense reading but quite satisfying. I’ve read one other book by him: Blackwater Lightship which I also found to be excellent. More on that later.


However, this week it was time to stop and begin the transition back to work for the university. I teach theatre costume design at the University of Kentucky where I am an associate professor. This week I am completing designs for our first production, Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel. This is the second time I have designed this play. The first time was at my previous teaching position at East Carolina Playhouse in Greenville, NC. The play was cast last spring and we had two or three design meeting before leaving for the summer. I am presently completing the final sketches for the costumes and painting them. The play concerns the lives of five sisters in the mid-1930’s Ireland. It is really more a character study than telling a story. At least the story is not the strong point of the play. It is a memory play told from the perspective of the child of the youngest sister. It is also somewhat tragic.


Below is a collage of the final sketches. I’m still working on painting the final renderings.

Final Sketches for Dancing at Lughnasa

Final Sketches for Dancing at Lughnasa

My dining table has become a painting table.

My dining table has become a painting table.


Last Day

Today is my last day. Tomorrow morning it is back the way I came. This has been an unbelievably enriching experience. Enriching in ways I didn’t expect.

Today, I went to the Museum of London. I took some pictures but they are on my other camera so sorry, no pictures save one.

Waiting in the underground for the tube.

Waiting in the underground for the tube.

This afternoon, the class met for the last time and had tea at a beautiful restaurant.  This evening, I am attending my last theatre performance,  Matilda which is a musical based on the Roald Dahl children’s  novel.

I have to be up early to catch the train to Heathrow. Thanks for reading and following along. Thanks for the wonderfully positive comments on this effort. I feel very blessed and am grateful.


See you soon Sheba.

See you soon Sheba.