Costume shop!

I’m costuming a local fake-shakespeare production for an Evening of Coarse Acting.

(The Coarse Acting plays were written by Michael Green in the 1970s and 80s. They are short plays representing typical community theatre fare: murder mysteries, tense wartime dramas, Shakespearean nonsense tales of girls disguised as boys etc. The point is that all of these plays go wrong. Set pieces fall, actors get stuck in endless loops of dialogue, the costumes are hot-glued together and all tights are saggy at the crotch and baggy at the knees… if you’ve ever sat through a bad play, you will get the jokes!)

‘Costuming’ may be a strong word for what I’m doing! I’m turning sweatpants and tablecloths into knee-britches. I’m building lasagne-pan armour and fake swinging boobs.

I’m going back to my roots.

My first costuming gig ever was a community theatre production of The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr Abridged.
I had never costumed a play before, and was soon way over my head converting old Halloween costumes and cheap-ass broadcloth into quick-change costumes for a cast of three playing about forty roles. I ended up making a lot of dresses for my husband-to-be.

Little did she know…

Did I mention I didn’t own a sewing machine a the time? And didn’t know how to operate one. And was afraid of sewing machines.

After a few weeks of floundering and hand-stitching, a neighbour loaned me an ancient Kenmore and I learned to machine- sew on the fly.
Don’t ask me how, but I pulled it off, and all the actors fell in love with me because I laundered their disgusting tights and shirts every night and even febreezed the wigs.

My greatest compliment came from an experienced film costumer who caught the show and said I had a good eye for design.

Flash forward a few years, and I was paying for my BFA pressing shirts and making petticoats for the university theatre company. I spent the summer before my wedding living in a trailer, patching up old rep company wigs and washing sweaty dance thongs for a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

This current project is KILLING me, coming in on top of Mother’s Day at the shop. Another case of saying ‘yes’ before really looking at what the task would entail.

It’s funny though, I can feel the old me coming back, the one who would bite off more than she could chew and just muscle through all the work that needed to be done, improvising and learning along the way. This morning over breakfast I whipped together a costume out of an old towel and a length of leftover cotton jersey…and still made it to work on time. I think I’m getting back something I lost along the way.

Yes, my floors are dirty and I haven’t been to yoga class in ages, but you know.. it feels good to jump in to a bit of chaos again and force that creativity to the top.

Have a lovely weekend, all. It’s a three-day holiday for us Canadiennes, eh? Happy Birthday Queen Victoria, and thank you for this Monday off.


Sometimes when I am not writing

I am a junior designer at a local flower shop.
Sunday is Mother’s Day.
No. Sleep. Til Monday.


The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

We were on the plane home from vacation. It was a four-screaming-baby flight, and I was enjoying my best purchase of the trip: a two euro set of foam earplugs. My husband reached over, popped out one of my earplugs and and said,
‘It’s a history book, but he ends each chapter with a CLIFFHANGER!’
‘Let me see!’

He was reading The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.

I tried to read over his shoulder, but he would have none of it. I kept a beady eye on him and stole it the second he fell asleep. When he woke up I would not give it back. He had to wait for me to pass out and pry it out of my hands.

Now we’re home, and there’s currently a three-deep line of friends who want to read it as soon as the previous person is done.

In Chicago in 1893, a team of world-class architects plans and executes the Chicago World’s Fair to impossible standards under an impossible deadline. They plan some of the largest buildings in the world, and search for an attraction to out-Eiffel the Eiffel Tower. There is a special guest appearance by my man Frederick Law Olmstead!

Across town at the new L-train stop on the main route to the fair, a con artist builds a two-storey hotel, complete with kill rooms and disposal chutes. While the world’s greatest exhibition takes place a few stops away, the con man grooms and murders single female visitors to the Fair.

Did you read Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell? Did you get creepy goosebumps, particularly at the sequence where Gull brings on the 20th century? Same feel. Real story.

I was late to work three times because of this book. Five stars!
Random House has a great site for the book including an interview with the author-

Every day I do not write the book.

I have been shopping and hemming and pressing, trying to finish costume designs for a local production of Proof before heading off to the UK. For a low-key production and four person cast, there is a metric FUCKTON of costumes in this show!  Poor choice on my part, setting a deadline like this before a big trip. 
My house is a disaster. 
I haven’t packed.
I don’t own most of the things a person is probably supposed to pack.
I keep myself awake worrying we will be horribly killed and someone will find out about the disgusting cupboard under the sink, the dustballs under the bed. I worry they’ll need to search my luggage and everyone will see just how ragged everything I own seems to be.

Still- other than the odd episode of complete stupid stress, I am just flying. Thrilled. I can’t wait to get away from my everyday life for a couple of weeks. Going to see some much-missed family and friends.  Going to various bits of England, going to take my husband to Paris for a few days. It’s a trade- he’s terrified of flying, I’m terrified of tunnels and chunnels- so we’re each taking a hit for the team.  

My brain appears to have gone on ahead without me- I’m hoping to take a breath, get a change of perspective.  I usually write notebooks-full when I travel. Gonna eat my body weight in fine cheese and jelly babies, and take in the view from the Tour Eiffel. And the Clapham tube stop, haha.   Fingers crossed.

Finished something!

It’s a two-minute screenplay I co-wrote with the husband. I guess this is a very uninteresting thing to announce without titles and details and photos, but I want to wait.   We’re going to film it in July- got a few friendly friends with expensive cameras and a location all scouted out.  Stay tuned for a youtube near you, haha.  I promise you stupid, and I will give you stupid.  But it’s FINISHED. 

How many stupid two minute scripts equal one not too shitty novel?

Suite Francaise

by Irene Nemirovsky

interlocking/intervweaving stories of families, couples, individuals young, old, rich and not-so, mostly French and a few German soldiers for good measure, in France in WW2.  If I’m remembering the old liner notes correctly, Nemirovsky had intended her book to be like a music suite, different pieces of music played together although not necessarily all one big blob of story. I liked how she brought out the stupid, petty, human everyday troubles against the larger, harder to swallow background of a war.  Think my entire reading was coloured by knowing that they found Nemirovsky’s drafts in her personal papers after she died at Auschwitz- the section after the story where they print her notes on actually writing the piece while living through the war herself made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Cinematic and character driven, with microscopic detail and broad brushstrokes. Makes you want to go to Provence… Worth a read.

Mischief and big fails.

I’ve been dicking around instead of restarting my story.  I have decided it would be better to have a shitty, finished story than no story at all.  And on that note, to my notebook!  I’m taking a page out of my husband’s book for 2012:  “if you’re gonna fail, fail BIG”.   Need to get risky, or I’ll be dead and nothing will be done first. Happy Saturday!