It’s been pretty slow on the blog, and for that I apologize. It’s is a busy couple of weeks as Oregon Straw Hat Players gets “Oklahoma!” ready to go. This week is tech week, where we get all the technical problems worked out. Every night I end up with at least four pages of notes for myself, this light is misfocused, it’s too dark in cue 195, my color choices suck, etc. The next day I go in early to work out all these kinks, starting fresh for that night’s rehearsal.
Theatrical lighting design is a hobby of mine, and I’m the lighting designer for this show. Computers used to be my main hobby, but once I started to be paid to work on them every day I needed a new one. Lighting design, for me, is the perfect combination of technical and creative work. On the technical side there are colors to be mixed, different lighting equipment to be chosen based on intensity, beam angle, and configurability, and the computerized light board and dimmers to be programmed.
I don’t do lighting design because of the technical stuff, though. I do it because it’s just as much a performance art as singing, dancing, acting. Light color, intensity, and focus are all up to me. I use them to make the picture in my head appear in real life, on stage. Then another picture. Then another, all programmed into the light board so the board operator can just press “Go” and have it all happen automatically.
Along the way I get to work with teams of electricians, who take my plans and hang all the equipment in the right places, tweaking shutters, adding color, and making sure the light is getting to where I want it. I work with the director to make sure they like what I am doing. I work with the set designer to determine colors and where things on stage will be. I work with the costume designer to make sure I won’t take the beautiful costumes and make them ugly (unless we want that, of course), or that the costumes won’t defeat my light design, like when a minor character wears white and draws visual focus away from the main character in black. Finally, I work with the stage manager and light board operator to make sure they know when to project each of my scenes on the stage. It takes a lot of coordination, scheduling, organization, teamwork, and planning.
A lot of work, especially as a volunteer. It is all worth it, though. When the lights come up and the applause rolls in I know that even though I am not on stage, some of that is for me. Or at least my light, falling on those actors. :-)