Archivist Craig Fees writes:
During "Therapeutic Living With Other People's Children" the members of the project team contributed regularly to a confidential team-only blog. These were personal reflections; an attempt to keep communication and creativity flowing in a challenging, complex and temporally highly-condensed project.
Many if not most of these posts were lost when our original digital storage system self-destructed, but some survive from the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011. Cutting out strictly confidential things, these are excerpts from a couple of mine. What we were thinking five years ago this month.
14 January 2011 [The moral of this post was obviously: "It's never smooth sailing where the Internet is concerned"]
Wednesday was a very difficult day. The website is a key/core part of the project; the more and better it is used the better. Hence a refresher/renewal guide to the site, to the gubbins, and to the role we each need to play in it, particularly in the forums. The journey I set out on was a pretty straightforward birch-bark canoe journey across a placid lake, reflecting blue sky; but the water became rough and choppy, and finally overturned the canoe. Mountain lakes being what they are, it was a cold bath which I would be disinclined to take again; and I went home wet. Oh for my Colorado childhood back again.
Thursday. Couldn't sleep. Got up and went for a run at 5.45, and to my surprise, went straight after breakfast to the self-storage place and assembled shelving in the Henderson Room; part of a longer and ongoing process relating to storage and management. Then work, good conversation with Rich, and generally positive day. Sent my dates to Chris - breakthrough. Great conversation with a former Mulberry Bush/Caldecott man: Must be interviewed.
20 January 2011 [A post in which I was obviously ruminating on individuality vs. team work, by way of college]
...But I was also taken back to Los Angeles, where several of my set designs were presented to large audiences, but of course as a consequence of team work, and 'invisible' in the sense of being part of the heightening of complex meaning which the audience ought to experience as a flowing whole, with guiding effects which do not point to themselves (unless that is the style of the play - a Brechtian Brecht, for example), and so are experienced but not 'seen'.
But I was taken in particular to a set I had to design and create for a production of Stravinksy's "Les Noces", in which the Director wanted to involve live dance, with the live music, with multi-slide projections onto a massive full-stage screen behind a tall riser on which dancers would in fact be dancing - which therefore had to be both exceptionally strong, stable and quiet; but could not be fixed to the stage itself, because the theater was used for other things. To buy a screen of the right size was out of the question; nobody outside the film industry has that kind of money. Fortunately, being in L.A., there are massive film and theater-related resources, and people used to being asked absurd questions by techies wanting the impossible.
I finally located a company out towards the desert which made massive, un-seamed plastic sheeting of the right gauge, the kind of thing you get on polytunnels, only bigger and slightly denser. We humored each other, and unrolled one of these into their car park, where they cut me off a length. There was then all of the palaver of building a wooden frame big enough, but also light enough to be handled by student stage hands, but also sturdy and robust. Which is no easy combination. Given the stresses which would be on it during the run, how to affix the sheeting to the frame at the tensions needed to not ripple (dancers passing secretly behind, and dancing vigorously in front), and to take the projections, and yet to not tear. Given all of the handling, and the nature of the plastic, how then to give it a white reflective surface, given that conventional paints would not adhere, the wrong kind of paint could melt it, and whatever was used had to be flexible. No one to ask, because it had not been done before, and certainly no one related to the department had worked with this set of materials. But we did it and it worked.
After "Les Noces" I was asked to prepare a screen for a one-night production in the college chapel. We had a new professor in the theater department - well, "Theater Arts and Rhetoric" as it was then - who had just come to us from Kent State Ohio. Think the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song, "Four Dead in Ohio". My entire high school had come out on strike on the same National Moratorium Day event in which the kids were shot dead at Kent State by National Guardsmen - the news filtered to us during the day, engendering a sense of fundamental crisis; we nearly brought the school down (as if); and this professor had a whole set of unreleased photographs, from which he and a group of students had put together a production. If you've seen the published pictures of the children dying, imagine those, and imagine worse. Having taken weeks and weeks to explore, and fail, and run out of time, and finally succeed in building the screen for "Les Noces", it was a relative doddle to put together a slightly smaller one for the chapel, which could be built in the Drama Department, and carried (not much wind in Los Angeles that day) by students across the campus, through the large chapel doors, and installed in the center of the circular nave, on the marble floors. It's no wonder, by a mysterious process which on principle was never explained, I was awarded the annual "Golden Screw" award by my fellow theater technicians, which is now on my desk. I would have said "prestigious", except that in the theater world as I knew it in Los Angeles, the 'prestitigous' awards rightly went to actors, with directors, writers and designers following behind. Quite rightly invisible, except mainly to themselves, were the front of house people and the technicians, who ensured there was an audience, and ensured that the show went on. Rightly or wrongly that's how I think of us. And maybe in that 'team' is wrong, and we're really talking 'crew'.