At the beginning of December I received an email on my contact page from a young lady who was starting to look into colleges and their programs. She had found my paper portfolio blogs (here and here) and had a few more questions for me.
One question I asked if I could share was, "If [I] could go back, would [I] major in something more specific?" A little backstory; I received my Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies at a liberal arts college before choosing to work on my Masters of Fine Arts in Costume Design at a conservatory program. Below is my answer:
"My answer would be no, I wouldn't change what I ended up majoring in. I believe majoring in theatre made me a more well rounded theatre professional and allowed me to understand the demands on my fellow theatre professionals. For instance, as a designer it is important to know how a garment goes together, sewing classes are important. It is also important to understand what an actor's blocking is so the design is able to be moved in appropriately, Taking a movement class or acting class helped with this..."
I then went on to explain why I believed my liberal arts undergraduate experienced ultimately helped me build up a knowledge bank I still draw from when designing. My love of learning that was cultivated during these liberal arts classes along with different research techniques have aided me greatly when working on a theatre piece.
It was nice to chat with someone a little about theatre this pas year. I hope that all the students getting ready to go into programs in the fall can do so with the same optimism I did when attending my undergrad. I look forward to getting back to our stages when it is safe. Until then, support your local theatres and artists.
Up until now I have been one of the lucky ones. My jobs last year afforded me enough unemployment insurance to just squeak by while waiting for film and theatre to open up again. I started a few projects to keep myself busy and to hold impending doom at bay, but now those "for me projects" are now, by necessity, becoming a side hustle.
Unemployment is running out for many film and theatre professionals. Some didn't even have the luxury of a small unemployment insurance to bank on. I wrote recently about professionals having to leave NYC and mentioned Be An Arts Hero and The Costume Industry Coalition. These projects are important and I highly suggest reading up on both and the DAWN Act. But, some professionals need more than these organizations can supply. That is where the side hustle (now potentially the main hustle for the time being) comes in.
I decided to open an Etsy store. I contacted a few other industry friends who have done the same for some insight. (You can read my interview with my dear friend Kim Griffin about her store a few years ago here) With their help I navigated through opening my shop and posting a few of my designed products.
Although I have made very few sales at the time of writing this, I am crossing my fingers this shop will help me make enough to keep my head above water. Hopefully these side hustle businesses can go back to being side hustles soon. But in the meantime, please check out these film and theatre professionals' side hustles. I will leave links below. Happy shopping.
*Note-rachelsclosetrevival was added after original publishing of this article once her site went live.
This winter I was scheduled to costume design The Miracle Worker before the pandemic hit. I, being someone who loves research, had already started doing some even though the production wasn't until the end of the year. While being stuck in my small apartment I had also started playing around with sketching pieces for practice and something to do. After I got the email that my production had been pulled from the season, I put my work on the back burner and wasn't sure if I'd pick it up again.
Recently I have picked up actively searching for design work, yet the pandemic continues, and most theatres and film studios remain closed. I decided to revisit The Miracle Worker and just focus on Annie at the moment. A mini paper project if you will.
The left image is a fully digital drawing/collage I did back a few months ago when the production was still on the schedule. I was just playing around with blending Annie Sullivan's actual face into a few collage pieces and a digitally drawn body. I didn't put too much emphasis on my specific research then as I was focusing more on the digital aspect of my drawing. The image on the right is something I did recently. It is a quick sketch with pencil and paper of a few accessories and some notes about where Annie was in her life when we meet her in The Miracle Worker. She had just finished school and had undergone at least three unsuccessful eye surgeries to help her regain more of her sight. I thought slightly more about how she would compare socially to the Kellers and looked at the many photography portraits of her and Helen to get insight into her sense of style. Although portraits are great resources, they are usually staged and formal sittings so the sitter tends to be wearing their best clothes.
There is still a lot of work to be done before presenting this to a director or production team, but it was nice to have a quick little exercise to get me back into combining my love of research with the story being told. If I end up designing The Miracle Worker in the future I will most likely decide to go a completely different direction than I was headed here, especially since theatre is a collaborative art, which is something I have missed dearly this year.
After the news broke that Broadway was not opening any theatre's doors until at least Labor Day and the growing number of plays and musicals being streamed on various sites, I started thinking about what that meant for my industry.
Releasing filmed theatre is an idea many have had. For example, 'Hamilton' is going to be streamed on Disney Plus come this July. Although this was already planned and in the works before quarantine many other productions have warmed up to the idea; hosting recordings of their past performances on various sites or rushing to film a current show not yet opened. As a consumer I am excited to have new content to watch, but as a professional in the industry I have a few questions. Are those working behind the scenes, the wardrobe, stage technicians, etc. being paid residuals? Are the actors? Can those filming during quarantine keep safe social distance? Finally, what does this filming mean for theatre once things get "back to normal"?
I have a few friends in the industry and Actor's Equity, so I sent out a quick text to them to see what they thought about streaming theatre. The overall consensus was that we were all happy that streaming agreements were something being discussed by our industry. Streaming is new and there are so many different opinions on what is best for those working in theatre in regards to agreements and working on a filmed theatre show. Another question we were all interested to hear discussed: "when does the filming and streaming of theatre become film"? I am looking forward to hearing more from the different theatre unions and others in the industry about this new frontier in theatre.
-Curtains for Broadway: No Shows Til Labor Day, at Least- NY TIMES
-'Hamilton' movie will stream on Disney Plus on July 3 - NY TIMES
-How the Entertainment Industry is Dealing with Coronavirus -Backstage
-How to Support a Theatre Company and Stream a Show While Social Distancing -Playbill
More and more events and public gatherings have been canceled or postponed indefinitely thanks to Covid-19. The MET Gala 2020 is one of these events that has been postponed. The gala raises funds for the museum and Costume Institute each spring. Although they will be forgoing that revenue in May, I believe it is in the best interest of the public for the gala and many events like it to be postponed. No one has given further details about when the Gala may be rescheduled (as of writing this blog according to CNN), so may I throw a few ideas out there for the organizers to ponder in response to the current situation.
Now, these ideas are not entirely my originals; many others have voiced opinions on how funds to create designs, food, themes should be otherwise allocated. Others have suggested how themes should be created to mirror current world or environmental crisis. I think there is a way to combine many of these different ideas to create a truly celebratory gathering once we all emerge from our social distancing.
Firstly, I put forward for your consideration, a new theme. One that addresses the climate crisis, fosters a creative mindset, and would potentially allow funds that were going to be used to purchase materials, etc to be allocated to charities or those in the industry who are out of work because of Covid-19. I propose that all designers who participate in creating extravagant looks for the MET Gala use off cuts, old findings, re-purposed pieces, etc to create their brand new looks. They could even used recyclable items in their creations. It would be a ReNEWed MET Gala. Some in fashion are trying to champion slow fashion or sustainable fashion; a fashion-centric event such as the MET Gala would be a great way to bring more in the industry on board.
As a by-product of no new materials being sourced or produced, money that might have been used for such items could then be donated to either climate crisis prevention OR those in the fashion and entertainment industry who lost jobs because of our currently needed isolation practices. Many in fashion, film, and theatre are not the big names you see on labels or posters, they are the stage hands, stitchers, and office workers who work behind the scenes to make the end products you see. They can not work from home so they have been jobless through no fault of their own.
As I mentioned earlier, many have expressed similar ideas and wishes for the 2020 gala. Although I understand there are always operating costs, technicalities, and logistics that must be sorted out, I feel these are a good starting point. It is a path we as creatives should strive to take. Fashion and entertainment are used in their best sense to foster understanding, appreciation, and discovery. By recycling, reusing, and renewing past gala pieces and by using funds to help support those in the industry, we can come together on the first Monday of <Insert Month Here> to celebrate all of our contributions in our society.