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Sunday - Meeting with Matt for set designs. 18 days until the performance

I go downtown to visit Matt, who has just returned from being on tour in Berlin. Matt and I have worked together in some capacity since I started doing the concerts in 1993, and he started doing sets in 1996. I walk in and Matt is listening to the new Ginger Spice CD, choreographing a Fosse homage for Girlina to do at Wigstock, the drag festival the coming weekend. I hand him the tape I made of the ballets once he stops shimmying. I discover much to my annoyance that my Handycam, now close to a decade old, has probably collected too much dust and cat hair and there is no sound and three permanent tracking lines across the screen.

Fortunately, I have brought an audio tape, which Matt refuses to let me dicker with to synch to the video, so like a Japanese monster film, he watches steps that occur four seconds before the corresponding music. It hurts my eyes too much to look at it, so I knit a few rounds on a sock instead.

Armature contains few surprises for him. We’ve had a discussion about it earlier in the day, where I tell him that I’ve really, truly made an armature. I need a grid, a skeleton, an armature, something with air and empty space in it. Matt first talks about plastic netting, then a sculpture of PVC tubing. We keep throwing up various possibilities, until he lands upon the idea of thick rope swags. Perfect. Easy, cheap and appropriate. His viewing of the video confirms that the ballet will take several possible decors, and this one is a very good choice.

Scherzo Fantastique is another matter. One of the reasons I work with Matt is that unlike David and I, who tend to think in accord, Matt and I rarely agree artistically, but the friction produces very good results. I’ve learned to trust his ideas. Matt takes one look at Scherzo and starts shaking his head. “You told me Tennessee Williams!” When I say Tennessee Williams, I mean faded roses and yellowed satin in tissue paper. Matt thinks hanging moss and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. “I can’t give you a southern veranda. This needs a ballroom in Vienna. But David’s doing ‘40’s dresses. I can’t do Vienna.” “It’s not Vienna, Matt, it’s Hollywood.” Matt’s hearing Vienna, I’m hearing Erich Korngold and Bernard Hermann, the post-romantic composers who left central Europe before the Holocaust and went to Hollywood. Suk is earlier than Korngold or Hermann, but one can hear common influences and that same cinematic quality in the music.

Matt racks his brains trying to figure out what to give me that works with what I’m doing and we can do on a budget. After several ideas are brought up and discarded as impractical (mounds of decaying flowers, a set made out of old gowns and my favorite, which is to have four old ladies in wheelchairs and walkers placed in the back.) we start free associating.

“Lace.” Matt says.

“It’s not lace. Satin. Old satin, with brown stains from water damage. Ribbons?” I attempt.

“But ribbons don’t read from stage.”

“Bows? Huge bows?”




We continue rattling off things associated with a ball and a ballroom, dance cards, feathers, etc. until I say, “Picture frames?”

“That’s it!” Matt says. “Picture frames and mirrors. Huge, but distressed and sprayed so they don’t reflect.”

So it’s decided. Before I leave, I offer to act as factotum for Shasta and Girlina at Wigstock, and happily tote and carry what can’t be fit into their dainty purses. Matt also asks me to come to a rehearsal and ballet master on Saturday. Laughing, I agree. I’ll need the comic relief.