Lighting designers Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer create a film noir look for Lucky Guy starring Tom Hanks on Broadway. Live Design’s Q&A with Eisenhauer sheds light on the design, which includes sets by David Rockwell and projections by Batwin+Robin:
As the lighting designers, what was your design brief, and what was the director trying to evoke through the lighting and design?
The description we were given was "film noir," and "black and white" where white is a broad range of "seeming white" and black is as black as black can get on a stage.
How did you collaborate with the scenic and projection designers?
All three of us (four of us actually) worked together to integrate the space and the surface treatments to receive light and content, and how light would enter the space. We tried to share the same color palette, making whites work together (not match necessarily, but look good in proximity), and making the blacks as black as possible.
Would you describe the rig as primarily conventional, using ETC Source Fours?
The gear list also has some (Philips Vari-Lite) VL’s, but the rig is primarily conventional, with a small number of automated lights all used interchangeably. Their placement determined, as always, by the usefulness of the maximum pan/tilt rotation, and by the quality of the angle to the space. For example, we had some lights placed so they could work as high side, downlight, and frontlight. We used 1/2 CTO filters in some of the moving lights so they would blend (not match but blend) with the unfiltered conventional fixtures.
Was there any color in the Source Fours?
We have a very light gel-string in a small number of fixtures. We also use a range of color correct blue, from 1/4 CTB to full CTB and everything in between, as well as a range of CTS (straw) and CTO. All of these color corrects are to blend very warm to very cool regardless of the color temperature of the fixture. Both the arc lamps (5800 degrees) and the conventional lamps (<3600 degrees) become one fluid color range. This is the widest range of "white" we could express with these available types of fixtures. The black, as previously stated, is the George C. Wolfe brand of black. As black as you can get, the blacker the better
At times there are several areas lit on stage. Did you light different scenes as vignettes?
The play is a recounting of the story of the life of tabloid reporter Mike McAlary by his colleagues in a bar, almost as if a wake. The bar is always present as a reality, with as many as two other locales active, including the newsrooms, homes, and other parts of NYC.
How did you create—if you did—a period look for the old newsrooms?
While we were not bound to naturalism, the props were chosen to reflect the exact year of each act. We were able to electrify the old-style computer monitors with a nice smooth cool backlight, which looked real and accurate. The desk lamps were fitted mainly to be radio controlled. The style is not far from what we use in our studios, still!
What was the largest challenge on this show?
The show was considered to be a relatively simple, straight-forward play and was structured as such in terms of resources. The director's approach was to use a black space to create images that appear and disappear at a fast pace, cinematically. That called upon technique to move and change light differently than a play with a single, static set.
Attendees to the 2013 Broadway Lighting Master Classs will see Lucky Guy on May 31, with a post-show Q&A as well as a look at the lighting with Fisher and Eisenhauer and a collaboration panel with all of the designers on June 3.