I had a wonderful and well traveled road to lighting design. My father was a doctor of theatre history and criticism as well as the head of the dept. of theatre at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington. I grew up around the theatre, my babysitters were actors, my playground was inside theatres and campus life. But I didn't gravitate to theatre until my 20's. I started as an actor because I felt draw to the story telling but after one year in undergrad my dad asked me "how was it like, being an actor?" when I replied "hard!" he then told me I should look at technical theatre! I jumped into stage management, scenic design and directing. We only worked in a small black box with a 12 foot grid, but wow did we do some amazing theatre. All the time I was SMing, I kept wanting to "fix" the lights. I definitely had opinions about lighting early on, but didn't think I could just do lights...until I started working as a technician at the local roadhouse, Thalian Hall. It was built in 1858 as an opera house and is the jewel box of the south. Once I was full time, I became the go-to lighting person. I lit all the touring shows that needed "design", I started designing lights for the community productions. To this day I still miss designing/creating lighting cues by sitting in the dark theatre with Judy Greenhut, a choreographer/director ( who had been a hoofer on broadway, back in the day).We would spend all day chatting about the show, talking about each musical number and then I would bring up lights and work out the timing with her talking in my ear the whole time. Such a luxury now! So after several years of concentrating on lighting, I decided grad school was the place for me to experiment with my voice as a lighting designer, learn new technology and make some connections. After grad school, I moved to NYC and started working with new plays. having access to the playwrights is very important to me and where I find my best inspiration. I love telling their stories with light, supporting the director's vision, being able to craft the world with the scenic and sound designers. NYC theatre has been the most corroborative artistic place for me. I love my career and am so happy I took that winding path, I have many miles behind me that brought me here.
Talk to me about the challenges of designing lights for indie theatre? What is your worst nightmare? -
Every show has challenges, no matter the budget, in indie theatre the biggest challenge may be our own passions about the project. We want the show to succeed so much that we refuse to see the limitations and push ourselves and our bank accounts past what is realistic. But having limitations can drive for a more intimate experience too, so I am learning to embrace each challenge and ask myself how can I still tell the story well. I guess my biggest nightmare in indie theatre is when the equipment fails...all the production's hard work, everything just right, and then the audience is asked to watch under worklights...I break out in a cold sweat! I love that my lighting does create part of the world, the fiber of emotion, the undercurrent of the story and when that is taken away, it is exposed, unstable, my work has been tampered with, mishandled.
What is your greatest dream? -
Of course, my greatest dream would be MORE TECH TIME! What? Not a bazillion dollar budget, the best lighting grid, theatre space with catwalks at every lighting position? No, really, having more time to really craft the lighting cues would be heaven. I like to say "the director gets the actors for 3 - 4 weeks, but I get then for maybe 16/20 hours...How can I found the right breath with each cue? Each scene may need multiple cues within it, and I have to work so fast at programming, anticipating, and imagining how scenes will play out, and then throw it all together and fix things without the actors or not in real time...it just sucks!
How can a company/team approach a production with a venue with limited instruments, power, a limited budget and limited labor, and succeed? -
It all has to start with a great story! Then everyone has to work together, ask the tough questions and make smart decisions about keeping on track with "telling the story". It's easy to get derailed with "I have this cool idea, or prop, or scenic/costume/lighting/sound gimmick...but, if it doesn't support the play or live in the world that the director has defined, well, that's where indie theatre can really be in trouble. At it's core, indie theatre works best when it gravitates to bare essence, tell the story with joy and honesty, so if you can support it with some technical magic, it just makes it more enjoyable!
Sh.I.T list is amazing! How did this idea come about? -
I work with many different indie theatre companies and we have reached out to borrow things from each other, but not been as successful because we didn't know what everyone had. When Flux Theatre Ensemble was asked to join, we were excited to help make this happen. It will motivate people to catalog what they have. As a theatre person I applaud the resourcefulness of this list, and as a consumer it means not having to throw away everything at strike. Many theatre companies will benefit from this!