When You’re Not Into Acting, But You’re Still Into Theatre: Part 2

Written by Ashleigh Gardner

November 21, 2016

Welcome to Part 2 in our short series where we interview theatre production professionals. This week, we interview two lighting designers and a sound designer.

Are you a theatre student who loves acting, but have found an interest in lighting, electrical work, set design, direction, or playwriting? You might be a student who isn’t even enticed by performance, but by creating a world for the stage with your eyes, ears, and hands. Looking for some advice on how to pursue your newfound love for directing, design, or stage management? In this short series on theatre production, we’ve interviewed professionals from the industry who tell us where they started, where they are now, and what inspired them to pursue what they do best.

Lighting Design and Electric Work – Betsy S. (Indianapolis, IN)

What was the first play you ever worked on and what did you do for it?
My first show was How the West was Won, or Left High and Dry in Low Humidity Chasm in sixth grade. I was the spot light operator.

What inspired you to pursue lighting design?
Two things: one, the blending of linear and nonlinear thinking, using reason and logic to produce art, and two, the power to sculpt a moment, whether the look or emotion.

What are you working on now?
Currently I am working on producing the 2016/17 season at Indiana Repertory Theatre as the Assistant Master Electrician.

What do you have planned for the future?
Working on certifications (ETCP [Entertainment Technician Certification Program], ETC, moving light repair and programming, etc.). Knowledge is power — especially if it’s about power. All of this is for working toward being the Lighting Supervisor for a prominent company.

What advice would you give young people interested in lighting design?
Observe the world around you (that really awesome sunset, the perfect isolation of the beam of a street lamp, the glow from your refrigerator, the façade of a building at night). 2. Experiment. You can learn a lot from flash lights and twinkle lights. 3. Ask questions and learn what you can.

Sound Design – Anthony S. (Orlando, FL)

What was the first play you ever worked on and what did you do for it?
In my youth, I was in a play called Reckless at The Orlando Civic Theatre (now the REP). The first play I ever sound designed was Murder at the Prom in 2005, a student produced show at Florida State University.

What inspired you to pursue sound design?
While in college to be a performer I saw a production of Hamlet that was fully underscored like a film would be using entirely Radiohead music. It chilled me to the bones. Changed my life. I signed up for a sound design course the following semester.

What are you working on now?
I am currently an audio technician and occasional sound designer at Universal Orlando Resort. I also work on occasional shows and projects around town, including a film Imaginary Day, which won Best Film for the Orlando division of the 2016 48-Hour Film Festival. We head to the international festival in March 2017.

What do you have planned for the future?
Who knows!? I’m always on the lookout for something special to sink my teeth into.

What advice would you give young people interested in sound design?
Two things: LISTEN. Listen to everything, all sorts of music and any noise you usually ignore in films, television, and life. Secondly: take chances. Don’t always think literally. Don’t think “the actor on a stage is firing a .22 caliber rifle, so that is the exact sound I will use.” That works if you are doing something historic, but think more about how that gun shot should make the audience feel. I know that seems odd, but that is the mindset you have to get in.

Lighting Design – Andre S. (Orlando, FL / International)

What was the first play you ever worked on and what did you do for it?
My first play was way back in middle school. I was in the Boys & Girls Club in Orlando. Over the summer we did a few scenes from several plays. I remember the first show I was in was Cyrano de Bergerac. I played one of the sidekicks. It was the first time I had done a full production. We had props, lights, and costumes — everything. This was also the first time, in fact, that I would do lights for a show! I remember working out which slider turned on what light and writing my own cues. (It was great because a few weeks offer we did our production, the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre was doing Cyrano de Bergerac, and our teacher took us to see it.)

What inspired you to pursue lighting design?
I think had the idea to try tech during my first production in high school. It was a summer show before my freshman year. We were doing The Wiz. Toward the end of rehearsals, when we finally moved into the theatre, I realized that other students were doing all the technical aspects. I at least wanted to try it, so during the next production I did. And in my senior year of high school, when I saw Spring Awakening in New York, it was set in stone that lighting design is what I wanted to do.

What are you working on now?
Currently, I am employed with Feld Entertainment’s Disney on Ice. I have been working with Feld Entertainment for just over 3 years, and I’ve travelled literally all over the world with them. On the side, when I come home, I try to design some of the local shows in Orlando.

What do you have planned for the future?
My plans, as of now, are to save enough money to buy a house. I then want to design full-time.

What advice would you give young people interested in lighting design?
To our newest generation of lighting designers, keep all your bridges strong. Make connections with other people in the industry and network. It’s the fastest way you will get ahead. Also, listen and watch. Listen to advice and criticism and take it as a learning experience. And watch as much theatre as you can! It’s the best way to learn and gain experience.

Need some advice? We’ve got you covered.

Ashleigh Gardner received her AA in Theatre/Drama/Dramatic Arts from Valencia College and her Bachelors Degree in English Literature and Masters Degree in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies from the University of Central Florida. She is a playwright, an actor, and PerformerStuff.com’s Editor.