- What advice would you have for students who want to continue studies in the performing arts? How does one become a lighting designer?
I’m a big fan of the general liberal arts education coupled with real world experience. Don’t specialize too early; college is your opportunity to expand your horizons. Read, read, read! Really look at your surroundings all the time, there’s useful visual information everywhere you are. It’s pretty rare to jump directly into design, so be prepared to get your hands dirty! Use every work opportunity as a chance to make connections, the people you meet now may be the people hiring you in the future!
- As a lighting designer, what other insights can you provide on how Belasco is revered in the industry? Is he just as significant 100 years later?
Certainly Belasco is historically important and was a genius of his time. We are all building upon his foundation. So many of his innovations are still conventions we use to this day – follow spots, colored lighting. So is he still significant? Yes. But not surprisingly, tastes and theatrical expectations have changed so much over the decades. Theatre has become less and less naturalistic in its storytelling and visual language, lighting has followed suit.
- Are there other lighting innovators just as significant that we should be aware of?
In addition to being an incredible designer, Robert Edmonds Jones wrote one of the classic books on design, The Dramatic Imagination. It is a must read.
- Can you take us through the process of designing the lighting for a show?
Usually, initial ideas are developed between learning and researching the source material and then meeting and brainstorming with the director and rest of the design team. I would then take the technical details of the theatre and figure out the details of where the lights go, what kind of lights to use, what color they are. I create the paperwork to communicate those ideas to the technicians who then put all the lights where I’ve asked for them. Then we would point all the lights to the appropriate locations and spend many hours deciding which lights to turn on, how bright, how quickly. And hopefully we would have a beautifully lit show by opening night!
- Can you give us any insights into what to look for in Kentucky Opera’s production of MADAME BUTTERLFY?
Lighting is always important for the humming chorus into the dawn, so look for that!
- How closely do you work with the director on the design? How much flexibility/creativity do you have in the process? How many concepts are changed from the original inception of the work to when you are actually in the theatre seeing the lighting during tech rehearsals?
Ideally, I would work very closely with the director to develop the ideas. We would usually have a couple of meetings before I would need to submit my paperwork. Most directors might have a few specific ideas about lighting, but generally it would be my responsibility to meld those creative ideas with practical reality. And since ultimately the lighting has to be done onstage, we do continue to change/develop/adapt our ideas until opening.
- Do you have favorite shows/productions you’ve worked on?
At Kentucky Opera, I had the good fortune of designing two brand new productions which we designed and built specifically for the company (DON GIOVANNI and SIMON BOCCANEGRA), and at Seattle Opera, I designed for a world premiere of a one act opera about the Japanese-American internment during WWII. Any time I get a chance to work on a new piece where I get to be an equal voice in its creation is a wonderful opportunity.