Wednesday, April 04, 2007

 
I'm spending an hour a day or so beginning to clean out my office at MIT. OK, "muck out" might be a bit more accurate. We've been in our current building for eleven years and in that time I've created innumerable stage models, painted more sketches and color elevations than I care to remember and, being a frugal sort (OK, cheap) I saved the scrap for reuse it in other projects.

Except there was always more scrap than projects. You know how it goes--after a while the place looks like a junk shop (I refer to it as creative flux) because you come across, or make, certain unique items and artifacts that you just might need somewhere down the line.

I've been throwing out a lot of stuff, dividing what I want to keep of my library and other possessions from what I want to sell in a yard sale, give to charity, or leave behind for my colleagues to use in the future.

There's a lot of the latter, particularly play scripts annotated with prop and furniture lists, scene change notes and questions for the director and the other designers. Of my art and design reference books, I'm going to be fairly hard on myself. There's only one theatrical design job I intend to take into my post-MIT career, working with Intermezzo, the chamber opera company. It's virtually an all-gay organization; I believe in the work, and in the company's work ethic, down to the ground. I've had a lifetime of sitting in dark theaters at all hours watching light cues change interminably until everything’s perfect. It was wonderful and I have no regrets, but I've done that and now I have other things to do.

I've been looking at the decorative arts pretty closely. As a theatrical designer (with a lot of free-lance work in graphics and print layout) I've been closely allied with the decorative arts throughout my career. To begin, there are several projects I have in mind for art in various media based on elements from my scenic designs that I would like to develop further. One series would be called "Goddesses of 'The Tempest'", based on my designs for animated projections used in a production of Shakespeare's play. There were four goddesses; Sycorax, Earth Mother of the island on which the cast is marooned; Iris, a rainbow goddess; Ceres, goddess of grain and plenty; and Fortuna who rules the arbitrary fate of all humans. Each would be produced in a different medium on one of four identical arched wooden panels.

I want to go back and restudy some projects, particularly my production of Stephen Sondhaim’s "Pacific Overtures"; and I want to design some material that I always wanted to do but never got my hands on. I might do those more as paintings than standard theatrical set sketches. I'm halfway through writing a book on the history of theatrical lighting before electricity--a fascinating subject--and I want to get it finished. I'm also very interested in combining furniture with graphics and text. I’m not certain yet exactly where all this might lead, and for a man who always had a long range schedules and well-defined goals, I'm surprisingly comfortable with that. A little reinvention is a good thing at life's various crossroads.

Cleaning out the office is becoming symbolic for me. There's no doubt that I'm going to miss colleagues with whom I've worked closely for so long, but I’m not going out of existence and neither are they. I'll be in Boston with Fritz and on my own with some frequency for theater, opera, museums, etc. (I also have every intention of becoming established with arts groups in New Hampshire as well). In the meanwhile, the transition time will be filled with the construction and finishing details of the house that Fritz and I will work on together.

The new house will save me, I think, from the one area where I’m going to be very emotionally vulnerable—leaving my current house. I’m a nest builder and a nurturer by nature. I raised my daughters here from infancy to the time that they walked out in the world to establish their own lives and careers (we’re seen here in a Christmas card picture from when they were something like five and seven). I found the house close to a wreck (advertised as “a handyman special”) and have renovated and rebuilt it into a great and very special place. Walking out of here could be a big problem, but the fact that I’m walking into something that I originated, that Fritz and I are working on it together (physically in many, many areas) and that it will be a home meant specifically for US, will let me walk out of here with a sense of new directions and purposes.

*******

Following up on the story of Governor Patrick restoring the same-sex marriages that Governor Romney had invalidated, a movement is now developing in the state legislature finally to repeal the infamous 1913 law that was used to deny marriage in Massachusetts to out-of-state gay couples. That the law remains on the books is in itself a disgrace--it was passed almost a century ago to prevent couples of mixed race from coming into Massachusetts to get married, specifically black/white couples. Not surprisingly, right-wing Churches and anti-gay groups immediately got in bed together to support and preserve this discriminatory law.

Gay advocacy groups have, interestingly, not responded with much interest, one leader saying that she and her organization were focused on preserving same-sex marriage from the threat posed by the ballot question in 2008, and that repealing an old law didn't engage her interest.

Well, maybe. But I think that law is a serious blemish on this state's long and honorable history of liberalism and inclusiveness. Some people point out that it isn't enforced any more for its original purpose so the "race" aspect has been eliminated. But it WAS enforced when it could be against inter-racial marriage, and again recently against gay men and lesbians; it should, in my opinion, be expunged legally once and for all from the books.

Comments:
Oh yea, the cleaning out of the basement/MIT office sounds familiar. Just the other day, hubby was asking me why we have this and that and this and that in our basement. "Just in case."
And, apparently, I've not been reading as closely as I should have been....my apologies.....but are you retiring from MIT?
 
Yes, Lewis, my duties will be fully discharged by the end of May or early June. My house in Boston is on the market and the new house in New Hampshire will probably break ground the second week in May.

I'm doing this for love and doing it gladly--on May 23rd Fritz and I will have been together ten years but never able to actually live together. It's time!
 
Snap! - Jim & I have been sorting thru things as a result of the defenistration/refenistration* project, and darned if we didn't find the very same picture of you and the daughters today!

Cheers - Joan

*(note to other readers-we had replacement windows installed)
 
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