I had breakfast with my fellow Philadelphian, Tony Award-winning lighting designer Rick Fisher, in New York today, on a rare occasion we were both in the city at the same time. Rick was in town for meetings about his upcoming show, The Philanthropist, a transfer from the Donmar Warehouse in London (where Fisher is based), which is coming to the Roundabout's American Airlines Theatre this spring. He was going on to Washington, DC, where the production of Peter Grimes he lit for Santa Fe Opera is transferring to the Washington Opera, where it opens later this month. While in New York, Rick also stopped in to check on his hit musical, Billy Elliot, which he reports is looking good.
As chairman of the ALD, Association of Lighting Designers in London, Rick is concerned about an issue for designers who work abroad: the issuing and procuing of work visas, and who should pay for them (apparently these visas can cost in the thousands of dollars). "We should be a global market," he says. "As designers we like to have an open door." If companies, especially in opera, don't want to assume the visa costs for international designers, will this cut down on designers crossing borders where visas are required: ie: London to New York, as just one example. "We are concerned," Fisher adds. "I don't think the designer should pay for the visa out of his or her fee, so we need for this to part of the contract negotiations at an early date, and for the unions to be strong. As more of our productions travel internationally and there are more international co-productions—even on the fringe or off-off Broadway level—this is an important issue." In other words, if the production travels, the original designers need to part of the package.