The Next five Years: Lighting Design in the Real World
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I have been doing lighting in some capacity for the last eight years, ever since I started high school. I always knew that I wanted my SIP to involve that part of my life in some way, but even in my sophomore year I wasn't sure exactly how I wanted to accomplish that. In the spring of my junior year, I really started to consider what I wanted to gain from this project. I realized that there were two pressing questions on my mind. The first was what I wanted to do after I graduated. All I knew was that I wanted to keep doing theatre, whether it was my primary career or an "extracurricular" activity that I did simply for the enjoyment of it. It wasn't a question of if theatre would be a part of my life anymore; but rather how to do that. Which brings me to the second pressing question, and probably the more difficult to answer between the two- what was the next step for me? I've spent the past eight years as an electrician- and only four of those were spent with any guidance from someone actually working within the field . So in reality, when I first reached Kalamazoo College, I had some basic skills but a lot to learn as well and the thought of designing had never occurred to me. I would later come to realize that the work I did writing cues with my high school classmates was technically informal design experience, but it was mostly self-taught and we didn't have any real idea of what we were doing. I knew that I had never had any formal instruction so it was my goal to take the Lighting Design course in the winter of my sophomore year. Unfortunately, or fortunately, that did not go as planned as the course was cancelled due to under-enrollment. However, I was able to take the class as an independent study with Lanny Potts and also get my first look into lighting design. I received a crash course in everything lighting that term. In addition to the independent study, I was also working as the Master Electrician for the Festival Playhouse to hang a completely new light plot so my abilities as an electrician were tested~ well. At the end ofthe quarter, I had received a solid introduction into the world of lighting· design, but no matter how good a course is it will never. effectively communicate the reality of designing for a show that will actually be staged. I had been working completely independently to create small projects that only related to my own interests rather than those of a director and design team. So even though I had more tools at my disposal than before, I still had not decided if I wanted to pursue lighting design. As I got closer to my senior year, I had still not answered my own question and it was becoming more and more pressing that I did. I couldn't just be Master Electrician for the rest of my time at school. That also wasn't something I wanted to do. I was comfortable as the Master Electrician, but it felt as if I would grow stagnant if I dido 't push myself to do something new. As a. result, when I turned in my production application for the fall term of my senior year, I applied for the position of Assistant Lighting Designer for Alison Shields and it was an eye-opening experience. I already had a partial understanding of what a lighting designer does during tech week, but this was the first time my input was taken into consideration during that process. Even as I realized this, I also realized that I didn't know much about what came before that. For me, the most mysterious part of lighting design was what happened in the time between the first production meeting and opening night to create the final design.
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