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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2015

Offbook: Watch on the Liar in Love Carol or,
Why Voluntelling is Wrong and the People Who Love Them

By Sarah Wade

I’m baaaaaack! You might wonder where the heck I’ve been, since I’ve been a pretty lousy blogger. I show up for one, and then disappear for a while. Maybe it’s because I’m not quite sure what I want to get at. Part of me wants to talk about what it feels like to feel in over your head and how frustrating it subsequently is to not feel competent at something. Another part wants to talk about theatre burn-out, where you’re almost so tired you (shudder) don’t enjoy it anymore. Then there’s a whole other part that wants to be positive and write about asking for help when you need it. So I’ve settled on a combination of all three. Let me be clear, I had the greatest time this season. I had the privilege of being in The Liar (#RubyGriffithWhatup), getting back into sound with Watch on the Rhine, and working with my dad, which was extra special, in Ernest in Love.  And then….

Sigh.

Here’s the thing you guys. I’ve always wanted to costume. I thought it would be something I’d be good at—but I had a certain type of show in mind for my first crack at it.  Something with a smallish cast, where I could take advantage of the costume closet and hopefully have few construction challenges. Not something where there had to be five of the exact same dress in different colors. I can’t sew. That’s a pretty significant handicap for a costume designer. So when Wes approached me during an after party and told me I would be costuming Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them, I told him “nuh-uh” and went back to my meatballs (the ones Shirley Panek makes. So good!). He said “Okay, great, I’ll add you to the list.” I would have objected more strenuously, but my mouth was full and Wes had run off—taking one of my meatballs with him.

Cut to a month or two later. I’m at a Torture rehearsal at the annex, holding up a sweater, and director Kris Kauff is giving me a look that quite clearly says, “Meh.” I smile and turn back for the costume closet, resolved to hide under the 1776 rack until the closing night party. I felt pretty lost, and pretty hopeless. I didn’t think I was ever going to find something that felt right. I didn’t feel as though I was getting these characters. I also had to reconcile the few visions I did have with certain staging challenges, which wasn’t going well for me. I wasn’t feeling confident, and I definitely wasn’t feeling artistic. After the high I felt during Ernest, this felt pretty low. I was also exhausted, coming off of four shows in a row (A Christmas Carol, The Liar (#winners), Watch on the Rhine, Ernest in Love) and this would be my fifth. I wanted to hide someplace where Wes would never find me and never wrangle me into anything ever again.

Luckily—though part of me was too proud to admit I was in over my head—I had the good sense to ask for help. It would be plain silly, after all, to just sit and flounder when I had great experience, talent and resources at my fingertips. Thank goodness for Beth Terranova, Kaelynn Miller, and Jean Berard. I don’t even want to know what would have happened if they hadn’t been so helpful and so patient with me. Jean made all of her own dresses. You read that right: she made her own dresses. I don’t know how she did this while also managing to be fantastic as Luella, but she did, and I am forever indebted to her. Beth, who knows her way around the costume closet better than anyone, had such a better idea than I did about what we had and where to find it. I couldn’t have done it without her. She also taught me how to take out seams, while Kaelynn taught me the art of sewing buttons, and also gave me wonderful ideas for patterns. Truly, I’d have been sunk without these three ladies.

There were times I seriously wanted to quit, to cut my losses and resolve to never do this again. But I stuck it out. The next time I do it—and I hope there is a next time—I’ll feel better prepared, and hopefully happier with my efforts.

So, dear readers, what is the take-away from all this? Don’t shy away from challenges? Don’t be afraid to ask for help? That might be too simplistic. I’m going with this: Don’t let pride stop you from doing good work. It doesn’t mean you’re any less of a designer or an actor. If you’re struggling, you’re struggling. It happens. And sometimes, another pair of hands or eyes can make all the difference. Or a single word, something you hadn’t thought of at first, can spark your own fire. If I had assumed the entire burden of the costumes, if I hadn’t asked for help, it would have been ugly. Literally ugly. I’m so glad I had someone there to step in and say, ‘Hey, this might not look right under the light,” or “Hmm, that might not work for this gag.” Actors, how many times have you wrestled with the delivery of a particular line? Then the director offers a simple but supremely sensible bit of advice and—poof!—it clicks! Does that mean you are less of an actor? Hell no! We’ve all been there. And if you say you haven’t, then, well . . . liar, liar, pants on fire.

This brings us to the end of my second post. I promise it won’t take another three months for the next one. In the meantime, Eric and I are going to the beach with Wes and Kaelynn (#byeFelicia), and then I’ll turning my life over to the sound design of Side Man—diving head first into the world of jazz. Maybe I’ll learn something...

~Sarah

Webmaster's Note: Wes only voluntells people with whom he loves to work... ;-)