Saturday, September 11, 2004
Autumn is my favorite season, partly because it brings relief from summer, but also because I'm in the academic world where everything starts up in the fall and new projects begin. I was asked in July to be an evaluator for a colleague at a top level local college who was standing for tenure. She's a scenic designer like me and there are many parallels in our careers. We have both straddled the academic and professional theater scenes, have both been responsible for rebuilding and re-energizing sluggish design operations at various colleges and universities, both have had highly varied careers where we found ourselves doing things with seemingly no connection to our "official" jobs that enriched our art and lives in valuable if totally unexpected ways. The tenure review part was a pleasure--she's a first-rate designer, has a great reputation among her peers and her recommendations and student evaluations are right up there. I also loved her teaching philosophy and technique, not least because we are esentially working off the same page.
Part of the deal was that they wanted me to include my own current curriculum vitae along with her package of materials when I returned it with my written evaluation of her work. I have to admit to some lazyness here, because when I settled into MIT and the job kept expanding, it was obvious that as long as I didn't disgrace myself with some hunky undergraduate (and there HAVE been temptations, all manfully resisted) I wasn't going to have to look for work for the foreseeable future. So, I spent the last days of August and right up to the middle of last week updating and gathering information from various scattered files, scrapbooks of programs and reviews, etc. and the new document is finished.
My first reaction when I read it over was "Holy s--t! When did I have the time to DO all this while raising two children solo?" I'm blessed with an excellent memory and could recall maybe 85 percent of everything, but there were some real surprises:
I apparently designed a whole arts festival for the city of Boston in 1972, getting a exhibition of my own work as part of the compensation package. I have a program for one of the theater productions and a letter from the Mayor's Office for Cultural Affairs thanking me for a highly successful event and complimenting my efforts to help keep Boston's smaller theaters alive. I have absolutely no recollection of what this event looked like. I had forgotten I designed it. No, it WASN'T 1970s drugs. I didn't even try pot for the first time until eight years later.
I had vague memories of doing art and design for some rock tours but had forgotten the particulars:
A painted backdrop of the Rocky Mountains for Dan Fogelberg; an enormous rose in full bloom painted onto the flooring material of Natalie Cole's stage--she sang several numbers standing right inthe middle of it; a logo, graphics and publicity art for The Joe Perry Project during a period in Aerosmith's history when Joe was testing out going solo. Interestingly, you can google Joe Perry and see pictures of this band. Then it all started coming back--design meetings in Joe's huge suburban Boston home with his wife, dressed in boutique chic all white mini-fashion with her all white mini-poodle, rushing around the place. The poodle would throw itself all over everybody looking for attention, Joe would ask her to "speak with the dog" about not doing that and she replied, standing very theatrically with her hands on her hips saying, "Just WHAT would you like me to SAY to her, JOSEPH???"
A travelling Theraputic Brain Scan Exhibit for Winchester Hospital. Don't ask, I have no idea. But it was two years after the pot, so . . .
There's more, like the fact that I arranged locations for--and actually appeared in--a TV dramatization of Lee Harvey Oswald's years in Russia. Going on last minute for an actor who didn't show up, I am seen only from the back, a Soviet bureaucrat endlessly shuffling papers and stamping forms in one of the offices Oswald cooled his heels in for months searching for work before returning disillusioned to the U.S. and his eventual destiny as John Kennedy's assassin. As I symbolized all the waste, inefficiency and dysfunction of the Soviet system that drove Oswald back to the U.S., I consider my silent, faceless role in the movie to have been absolutely pivotal.