Grave Issues

During one tour at Graveyard Swing last year—on day three, I think, before I started painting my face blue and acting as one of the ghosts—somebody stopped me, mid-spiel, to ask if she could ask a question. (That was a question, but sure.) She asked, if we were in a graveyard, where were all the graves?

My immediate reaction was that this was a silly question. I said, “They’re all around you!” I gestured to the two sitting in front of us, and…the three painted on the backdrop, and…hm. I forgot to build a cemetery. This story is hilarious to me now, but I was so distraught at the time. How did I manage to spend all this time building this thing and not build, like, the main things?

I’ve adopted a new wrinkle in my creative process. If I get hung up on a task, for any reason—a problem, boredom, distraction—I drop it and pick up something else. No introspection or even perserverance; if there’s a real problem, I’ll inevitably mull it over and come up with a solution later. If it’s just something I don’t want to do right now, that’s fine, there are lots of other things to do.

This week, I was getting bored of making skeleton bones, so I made 13 grave markers.

Cardboard and papier-mâché grave markers in progress

Okay, I only made 10 grave markers—three of these are from the last show. (There were two in scene 1 and the same two, 100 years later, in scene 2, but I seem to have lost one of them.) Predictably, they’re all cardboard and papier-mâché and not finished. I’m starting by covering all the corners and carefully impregnating the flat bits with wheatpaste, so as to firm them up but not let them get too soggy so they lose their flatness. Another couple days working on these things and they should be ready for one coat of mud. Then there’ll be another coat, this one mixed with paint and sand for a stony look and texture.

The pillar on the left will have a big decorative urn on the top, which will be in a truck on its way to me soon. Inside that urn might be a surprise. You’ll have to wait and see.

Traditionally, Halloween tombstones are made from rigid insulation foam. That stuff is nice to work with, but it’s also expensive. These stone monuments are all at least 100 years old, so I’m okay with smooth, uneven edges and faces. I’m still planning to attempt engraved inscriptions by carefully routing into sheets of cardboard, but we’ll see how that ends up looking. I might add foam sheets just for the faces.

In other news, I’ve specced out all the pipe and fabric I’ll need to build the chambers of this show. I’ll be ordering that stuff in the next few weeks. Thanks, as always, to the friendly and brilliant little group that hangs out in the Variable Stage Slack channel for advice and pointers on this. (If you’re friendly and brilliant and would like an invite, let me know.)

I’m also plodding along with the theater reservation. I’ve applied for general liability insurance for my company and am looking into my Fire Guard certification. In the past I’ve found myself stressing about fire safety more than anyone else—including, it seems, my previous host venues—so it seems right to make that official.

More grave details and some friends to frolic in the cemetery next week! See ya!