I used to make a living designing graphics and websites back in the 90s. As a playwright who often needed to create her own promo materials, it was a very handy skill. I totally enjoyed doing it, and I still leap at the chance to dust off the ol’ vector program excuse oh OK I am I need to OK sorry I’m in 20C 20 we’re in 21C OK needs an I’ll aisle seat it’s a who ha situation it’s like Tetris[i was proofreading this while boarding a plane when a row of folks realized they were in the wrong seats, one of which was mine… I accidentally hit the microphone button and now I can’t bring myself to delete our convo]
Anyway. These days I leap at the chance to design stuff. Even when no one asks me to. The last thing I designed was an ID logo for my son’s Irish dancing gear (I was on deadline and fighting it as usual). I made stickers, labels, iron-ons, vinyl patches…
… and I also designed T-shirts with cheeky phrases only Irish dancers would find funny.
Last Wednesday my 10-year-old reported that after four years of lessons twice a week and multiple competitions per year, he was done. I was crushed. Partially because I spent all that time on his design– which, by the way, is not something any other dancers have and is frankly kind of weird– but also, I loved being a dance mom. I loved traveling to hotels the night before, ordering room service at 6am, suiting my kid up in his sharp purple tie and crunchy precise hair, then heading down to the lobby and getting sucked into a swarm of glittered lip-sticked curly-wigged pre-teens smacking their heavy heels together to the music in their earbuds.
And while the multiple conference rooms stuffed with underslept parents fretting over their tense tanned children can get a little JESUS CHRIST, THIS IS FUN FOR LITERALLY NO ONE, WHAT ARE WE DOING, all that pre-performance thrill/terror/fuss is exactly what got me addicted to theatre years ago. At the time I didn’t understand that even a successful career in theatre involves long stretches where none of this is readily accessible. No performances. No opening nights. No pre-show jitters. Just dogged determination and heavy emotional labor that often has very little payoff. But even if I had known, I believe I woulda gotten myself sucked into the swarm. An addict is an addict.
My son also seemed to enjoy all the lobby chaos, and he loved the performance aspect. But he hated the oppressive grueling nature of competitive dancing– especially in a genre where technique is favored over expression. So he pulled the plug, and I almost did that old-school parent thing where you demand your child stick with something in order to build character. “You can’t keep quitting things just because you don’t like doing them.” Except actually, yeah, that’s exactly when you should quit: when the thing you used to love starts digging holes in you that it will never re-fill.
I don’t feel that way about theatre. Not yet, anyway.
In the meantime, what do I do with all the branded materials?
(answer: take pictures)