MCA Interview for Light Show

Earlier this month I did an interview with MCA for their Light Perspectives in the lead up to their Light Show.

Here it is:

Can you recall a memorable experience you had with light?

When I was about 10 years old my mother took me to see a Netherland Dans Theater Performance, at the Arts Centre. The work involved these large dresses and the performers were underneath them and lit in a way that made the dancers look grotesque. I found the experience terrifying and exciting. This is probably one of my first memories of lighting design in performance and I still think about it often.

As a lighting designer, do you feel more in tune with the impact that light has on us every day?
Once I became interested in light I started noticing it everywhere. How different buildings and streets were lit at night, or different light in my home. I also become very aware of how exposed we are to large amounts of light in urban environments. My fascination with darkness in my installation work is in response to this.

What makes light important for performers and musicians?
Lighting has a huge effect on how we experience performance. Lighting design has the capacity to enhance and frame a performance by helping to pick out subtleties in the music or dramatic text. It also works to create a visual story for the performance work.

What is your process when you are designing lighting for theatre?
I spend a lot of time researching and gathering information about a new production, including collecting a large amount of visual stimulus. I use Pinterest a lot to do this; I create a new board for each project I am working on. I tend to watch quite a few films as part of the research for a new design and if there is music in the show, I also make a musical playlist.

Collaboration is a huge part of a lighting design and I normally meet with the director and and the designer a number of times throughout the process. I like to spend as much time as possible in the rehearsal room also.

Generally two weeks out from going in the the theatre I put together a lighting plan and this is where I start to think about what different looks we might want to create with light, what is the lighting arch and how we might support the story through lighting.

As a theatre lighting designer, most of my practical work (working with light) happens quite late in the process. Generally you have two or three days to hang the lights in theatre, focus them and then program all the different lighting states and work with the actors to put all the elements together.

Lighting can have a big impact on mood, whether sunlight, moonlight or room lighting. What do you think about the impact of artificial vs natural light?
I am very conscious of the psychological impact lighting can have, particularly artificial lighting. I’m interested in how different coloured lights and light sources can affect our concentration levels, our sense of comfort and our sleeping habits. In particular I’m interested in the colour rendering properties of different types of light globes.

How do you see the relationship between light and (physical) space?
Light can shape a space in many different ways. It can affect how we appreciate the size of a space and the different colours within it depending on the colour rendering. Light makes a space feel open and inviting or claustrophobic.

Do you see light in and of itself as a form or art? Or simply as an accompaniment?
I think it’s both. Many artists use light as their primary source but light is also really important in other forms of art such as painting or photography even if it isn’t the physical medium. As a lighting designer for theatre, I see lighting as the design element that works to bring other design elements of set, costume and sound together with the performers on stage.

November Happenings

I have been very busy in November, with two shows opening. Maybe We’re Never Together for Big West Festival and Collect, choreographed by Shelley Lasica which I co-designed with Rose Connors Dance.

A devised work by Kate Hunter and Emilie Collyer, Maybe We’re Never Together, was a chance to continue my exploration of creating simple clear design that can help shape this work that oscialted between the real life and the surreal.

Collect was the first dance work, I have designed since graduating from VCA and I really enjoyed working on it. Working with the space full of natural light, the subtle lighting design was an improvisation that responded to the spaces and the dancers and was operated from 6 different points around the space. Creating an improvised design that can directly respond to the each performance is something that I have been exploring in my La Mama Explorations earlier this year and it was interesting to add a physical element to the operation of the lights.

Through this mode of the operation I was able to create a heightened awareness of the role of lighting as element in the space; both for my self as the operator and for the audience. At times I was very self conscious about being seen and moving around behind the audience, this in turn affected the design during each performance. I think for the audience however, rather then being an annoyance, this form of operation has the potential to included the making of lighting within the dance. It adds a human element to the making of a design that can respond to the work in a way a programed design can’t. I’m not sure I fully got over my shyness of being so exposed but I did have quite lot of fun doing it and it is something I am looking forward to exploring further in 2012.