cocktails and preview of Chance 3  COUTURE | STAGE
Monday, March 31st @ 7pm
Wingspace Theatrical Design | Old American Can Factory 232 3rd St., Brooklyn

31 March 2014 at Wingspace. Fitz Patton at left, and an advance look at the cover of Chance Magazine issue 3, Couture | Stage.
31 March 2014 at Wingspace. Fitz Patton at right leads the discussion. On the table before him, copies of Chance Magazine issue 1. On the wall behind him, a draft of the cover of issue 3, Couture | Stage. Image by Martha Wade Steketee.

Wingspace facilities at the Old American Can Factory Brooklyn provided the stage and Wingspace member Lee Savage welcomed about 40 engaged theatre designers and others on a cool end-of-March evening. The occasion — an informal discussion about and advance slide show of images from the 3rd issue of Chance Magazine. Fitz Patton, publisher and founder of the Magazine, led the conversation, shared fabulous slide show of images from the upcoming Chance that will focus many of its articles and essays and photo shoots on couture in stage design. In attendance were a range of Chance core team members who chimed in from time to time on areas of their involvement in the magazine: I spoke about the development of monograph sections on designers of past generations (Ben Edwards in issue 1, Boris Aronson in issue 2, and the Ming Cho Lee article in development for issue 3); Sean Cunningham outlined some recurrent editorial themes and how we’re constantly working to bring our magazine’s words up to the level of the images; Riley Teahan spoke on text and layout design; Nick Corda discussed his piece on New Brooklyn Theatre‘s site-specific production The Death of Bessie Smith; Jeff Hinchee talked us through his latest graphic design spread. The conversation was full, almost without pause for 90 minutes, and dense with concrete details + challenges + hope.

The community that is crafting Chance is full of enthusiasm and perhaps a bit of messianic zeal. The goal: to build national and international connections among theatre thinkers and designers. We strive to raise the standards of photographing and recording and honoring the theatre designs of the present and the past in order to inform the future. And this evening the conversation began with one of the questions that initiated the efforts that resulted in this publication, articulated this evening by publisher Fitz Patton: “Why is theatre photography so bad?” Fitz then shared his own follow-up question that simply informs the energy of the Chance collective: “Why aren’t we doing it?”

Observations during the evening conversation.

  • Chance is “a calm simple space around the work.” (Fitz Patton)
  • After painting the picture of a working designer in a busy rehearsal hall or a theatre during tech week, Patton envisioned that same designer examining Chance at the end of the day. “You should be able to look at it at 2 am and have it not be about the bullshit you do all day.”
  • Fitz Patton on alternating photography treatments in different spreads. In one: “It just cleaned the noise out.” And in another: “The processing turned it on.”
  • “Theatre is a form of intervention.” (Patton hinting at his theatre-as-politics perspective.)
  • Sometimes, when light levels and other dimensions of a set and design are tweaked for Chance, the efforts could be described as “using theatre to make photographs.” Yet one designer, whose light design had been tweaked for a Chance photo shoot, remarked that the photographs highlighted rather than changed; illuminated rather than transformed. “In some ways, these photographs are archiving what we tried to do in the space. It’s getting to see what another audience is getting from the piece — in this case, the audience is the photographer.”
  • The photography of Chance is about “investing the image with poetic resonance” which “is the whole reason for making theatre.” (Patton)
  • Sometimes the goal behind any image in Chance is “activating theatre as literature.” (Patton)
  • “Theatre is a nose dominated profession that sometimes forgets it’s an art.” (Patton)
  • “In theatre we’re incredibly good at making images. We just need to get better at taking them.” (Patton)

The crowd left with memories of large-scale images from Chance issues as published (issue 1 + issue 2) and as proposed (issue 3 + issue 4). Chance core team members and contributors left enthused by the conversation + the images + the mission + vision. All were reinforced by the recognition in the room that their efforts were worthwhile and also that they continue to seem important to the future of theatre design. And the community continues to grow.

10015041_10152809925703018_173634451_n Chance + Wingspace © Martha Wade Steketee (April 3, 2014)


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