I am (and Robb used to be) a theatrical artisan. I don't mean the title to sound snobby or elitist or unnecessarily obscure. What I mean is that I make things by hand.
We try to be very efficient in this pursuit, but some projects are just time-consuming.
At the moment, we're working on a new play by the writer and director Mary Zimmerman (winner of both the MacArthur "genius" award and the Tony award). The set for this show, which is designed by Dan Osling, seems very simple and elegant -- just a huge wooden box -- but, oh boy, is it labor-intensive.
I started wondering just how labor-intensive one part of the project was and just why my feet hurt so much at the end of a day. We are custom-staining hundreds of poplar planks, which will become the main surface of the show's set. For each board, we
pick the board off the stack, and lay it on sawhorses
sand the board, walking up and down the board four times
wipe off the dust, walking up and down the board two times
apply stain, walking up and down the board two times
smooth out the stain with a natural bristle brush, walking up and down the board four times
further smooth the stain, walking up and down the board four more times
take the board off the sawhorses, and lay it in the floor to dry.
We do this for two layers of stain and three layers of sealer.
I clipped on a pedometer yesterday and then did some calculations. To complete this project, the scenic artists will have walked a cumulative distance of over sixty-one miles. That's the distance from New York City to Bridgeport Connecticut. Greater than the distance from Washington to Baltimore. Greater than the distance from Oakland to San Jose.
When I told him this statistic, Robb and I marveled over how physical his work used to be before the accident. When I told the other painters on the job this number, it made them all tired.