I met Nic when he was only around 15 years old, and I was blown away then. He already knew so much about lighting, and he was so bright that I couldn't believe how young he was. What Nic doesn't know, he learns. He is eager and committed, and it's all from the gut. He has no formal training; he has God-given talent. Nic already knows what he wants to be “when he grows up,” and how many people know that at age 20?
— Ken Billington, lighting designer
Position: Lighting and projection designer; technical coordinator
Employer: Freelance; Houston Ballet
Residence: Houston, TXCURRENT PROJECT(S):
Rite of Spring at Washington Ballet, Kennedy Center; Costumes of the Americas Museum at Dean Porter Park Cultural CenterMOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS:
World premiere lighting and projection designs at: Houston Ballet, The Washington Ballet, Ballet Memphis, Suchu Dance, Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre; lighting for the world premiere of Trey McIntyre's The Reassuring Effects of Form and Poetry at the Kennedy Center for The Washington Ballet; 2004-2005 company premieres at Miami City Ballet and Milwaukee Ballet; technical direction of the first Houston Ballet tour to Moscow's Bolshoi TheatreWHEN I STARTED IN THIS INDUSTRY:
I started acting and singing in kindergarten. At 12, I lit my first show — a series of short plays for the American Festival for the Arts.HOW I GOT INTO THIS INDUSTRY:
My parents made every effort to get all available opportunities to me. This is how I came to an internship with The American Festival for the Arts and, later, my acceptance to Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Andy DiRaddo at LD Systems had offered to tour me through their facilities (I must have been 13 at the time). Two years later, I got a summer job with LD that my parents had to drive me to daily! The next year, I met Ken Billington, and a couple of weeks later, he invited me to intern with him in New York for a summer. I got a huge education on the ways of the Broadway designer. I also worked in Paul Gallo's office a bit and actually took a call as an over hire electrician. I returned to Houston and interned at Houston Ballet with Christina Giannelli. The internship morphed into a part-time position, and, upon graduation from high school, the company created a full-time position for me as its technical coordinator.INFLUENCES:
New York designer Josh Bradford was the first lighting designer I ever worked with. He gave me my foundation in lighting design. The entire staff at LD Systems taught me all about the rental/staging industry; I remember specific moments with each person there. Christina Giannelli taught me about lighting as an art, particularly in dance. She really formed my eye with the precision of “perfection” lighting. Ken Billington has been a huge influence and not just in the sense of “how to light a show,” but he has taught me so much about being a lighting designer. He is one of the true legends of this industry and has been an invaluable influence of mine.FAVORITE TECHNICAL TRICK:
Acceleration/deceleration is what I am hooked on now. It really bothers me to go from one place to another with a hard start and a hard stop. I like for things to be more seamless, how I picture it in my mind “floating through the space.”PLANS FOR THE FUTURE:
Working as a lighting and projection designer — designing some shows, assisting others with their shows, and working with manufacturers to develop the tools for our shows. I have a great interest in product development projects, particularly consoles and fixtures.Rachel Lee Oftedahl
Rachel is a bright, promising young talent. She is very multi-dimensional from lighting design to graphic design and animation and everything in between. She is energetic, hard working, and an absolute delight to be around. I think she will definitely go far.
— Marsha Stern, president, Marsha Stern Lighting Design
Position: Graduate student; lighting designer
Residence: Brooklyn, NYCURRENT PROJECT(S):
Currently in graduate school at the Pratt Institute in computer graphics and interactive media.MOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS:
It sounds cheesy, but I feel like one of my biggest achievements was simply moving to New York and not instantly having to work in a bookstore. I was offered two jobs at once by Vari-Lite and Bernhard-Link Theatrical. That was pretty overwhelmingly nice for a 23-year-old fresh from Wisconsin.WHEN I STARTED IN THIS INDUSTRY:
My first professional gig was in 1996 at the Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua, where I was the assistant lighting director for Barry Gawinksi. When I moved to New York in 1998, I took a job with Bernhard-Link Theatrical and got sucked right into the world of fashion show lighting, and the rest…is a very long story.HOW I GOT INTO THIS INDUSTRY:
I just really liked long hours hauling around cable and lights in midtown Manhattan. Actually, it could be blamed on high school. They had a student from the university come in and teach us how to hang and focus lights. I sat there and ran the lights and watched the house lights go down and the stage light up, and it was all over.FAVORITE TECHNICAL TRICK:
At the Utah Shakespearean Festival in 2000, I was assisting Liz Lee, and we wanted to figure out how to do Tinkerbell without using a pink laser. We came up with using an ETC Source Four® 5° on a stick with a static fireworks gobo for the main Tinkerbell and rotating gobos behind it to create a fluttering movement. It was hand-operated, really craftily programmed, and it looked great.PLANS FOR THE FUTURE:
Right now, I am ensconced in the world of 3D animation. I have been bringing my stage lighting training into play heavily, in terms of color, texture, angle of light, quality, and color of textures mapped into the 3D world. As much as I'd love to take the stage lighting into the animation world, I'd like even more to bring some of that world back to the lighting and projection realm.Ben Dickmann
I got to know Ben while he interned at Bandit Lites Nashville in 1999. Within weeks of his arrival, he had made such a positive impression that we agreed to consider his employment as a full time staff member once he had completed college. Ben spent two fantastic years working with us before his move to Martin. I am most honored to call Ben a friend and very proud of his achievements over the last five years. I feel he is a valuable asset to both Martin and our industry as a whole, and I look forward to his acquaintance both professionally and personally for many years to come.
— Mike Golden, vice president, Bandit Lites, Inc.
Position: Marketing coordinator/photographer
Employer: Martin Professional, Inc.
Residence: Sunrise, FLMOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS:
Named to Lighting Dimensions Advisory Board (I am in an unsung position; being recognized isn't something that happens in my line of work that much.)WHEN I STARTED IN THIS INDUSTRY:
I've been involved in technical theatre since high school (1992-1996); in college, (1996-2000) I was a master electrician and lighting designer; I had my college internship in 1999 with Bandit Lites.HOW I GOT INTO THIS INDUSTRY:
I was hired by Michael Golden at Bandit Lites as a sales intern in Nashville. It was an unpaid summer gig working with Jim Smerbeck and Todd Seage in the sales department. I basically cold-called them one day and explained that they “needed” an intern (It was more like I needed an internship to graduate, but they didn't need to know that!). From there, Bandit hired me as a marketing associate after college graduation, and I was marketing director there before I left to join the Martin team in 2002.INFLUENCES:
This is a hard one. Within the industry, I would have to say Mike Golden at Bandit. He was my first exposure to “management types” in the business. I very much admire his very genuine concern for the well being of his employees and how he handles business situations with a calm, even demeanor rather than with explosive, emotional outbursts. Most of all, and the one I try to emulate the most, I admire his unwavering honesty. So many in this business will be less than honest to get what they want or to get ahead. Honesty is an increasingly rare trait.PLANS FOR THE FUTURE:
Hard to say. Currently, I would like to see myself move up in the Martin organization. Who knows, owning my own company or marketing/PR firm in the future would be nice.Jorge Arroyo
Jorge helped me revise the Lightwright 4 manuals last summer, and he had all the things I was looking for: intelligence, humor, organization…. He's a terrific collaborator, definitely not a “yes” man. Directors like him — he's social and intelligent without being ridiculously esoteric, and thanks to a well-rounded background, he has a great perspective on what a designer can contribute to the production. He also makes for a great house guest: he makes his bed, laughs at our jokes, and makes yummy sounds at dinner.
— John McKernon, lighting designer
Position: Freelance lighting designer
Residence: New York, NYCURRENT PROJECT(S):
Currently (at time of publication) assisting ML Geiger on the Second Stage production of Afterbirth: Kathy & Mo's Greatest Hits.MOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS:
Having had a chance to work with some amazing directors such as Tazewell Thompson, Adam Rapp, Lee Breuer, Greg Leaming, and Ruben Polendo.WHEN I STARTED IN THIS INDUSTRY:
1995HOW I GOT INTO THIS INDUSTRY:
As an undergraduate, I was going to be an actor and director. As a requirement for graduation, I needed to take one design course. Only one design area was taught each year, and it just so happened that during my last year in school the class being offered was in lighting design. Who knows? I could have been a costume designer.INFLUENCES:
Ken Kloth (my undergraduate lighting professor), Brian MacDevitt, and the graduate design faculty at NYU.FAVORITE TECHNICAL TRICK:
I don't know if this qualifies as a “trick” or not, but I enjoy playing with the concept that color is relative. Clear light, for example, can feel either cool or warm, depending on what other colors you surround it with. This sense of color perception forms the basis for my use of color on stage.PLANS FOR THE FUTURE:
My crystal ball is in the shop right now, so it's hard to say. I've always been a “go with the flow” kind of guy. The best I can do is take the opportunities that are put before me and trust that the quality of my work will dig a path ahead of me.Danielle Colburn
I've known Danielle Colburn for over 10 years. As a choreographer and dance professor myself, I am aware of the demands and incredible importance of a lighting designer in the presentation of dance space and the dancers within that dance medium. Danielle Colburn is in a unique category as a lighting designer and lighting artist. She not only has the passion and drive to design, she has insight and vision beyond her years of experience. Danielle has an eye for detail. She has an almost personal attachment to her design visions and brings this unique trait to all she creates.
— Amy C. Farhood, MA, Dance Professor, Diablo Valley College; Dance Director, Sacramento Ballroom Dance Company at CSUS
Position: Freelance lighting designer
Residence: Brooklyn, NYCURRENT PROJECT(S):
Lighting designer for RomAntic aGE with Firebrand Theory at the Gene Frankel Theatre; lighting supervisor for And God Created Great Whales at Biennale Bonn in GermanyMOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS:
Nexus Modern Dance Collective resident designer, technical advisor, and dancer, 1996-1999WHEN I STARTED IN THIS INDUSTRY:
1995HOW I GOT INTO THIS INDUSTRY:
When I was nine, my mom told me, “You're so dramatic; you should be in drama.” From then on, I was training to be an actor (please don't tell anyone), attending magnet schools and a performing arts high school. Once I got to college, I knew I didn't want to act anymore, but I still wanted theatre to be my life. I did everything from scenic art to set construction to props to stage management, and, when I took my first lighting class, I knew that's what I wanted to do. I had been a dancer as a kid, as well, more as a hobby than anything else, so when I found Nexus, it was like the best of both worlds for me. Not only was I a dancer with them, but I designed the lights for every single piece they performed for those years.INFLUENCES:
Chris Akerlind, Eldon Tam, R. Lap-Chi Chu, Janie Geiser, Gregory Crewdson, Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Andreas Gorsky.FAVORITE TECHNICAL TRICK:
I just learned something great about the ETC Obsession®, while I was assisting Adam Greene on Embedded over at the Public. He, our programmer J, and I were trying to figure out some things on the board, and we discovered the handy “Replace With” softkey. There are multitudinous projection cues in this show, and the shutter is a grayscale scroller that is handled by the light board. While we were figuring out the construction of the scroller, the intensity levels for blackout and open kept changing. If you go into Spreadsheet, there is a softkey that changes your levels in one swoop. If channel 109 is at 20%, and you want to change it to 30%, just type in “Channel 109 at 20 (Replace With) at 30.” Simply marvelous!PLANS FOR THE FUTURE:
Ultimately, I would like to be the resident lighting designer of a modern dance company again. That was, by far, the best time of my life.Joe Cabrera
Joe is an extraordinary talent. He can absorb more information in less time and do more with it than anyone I have ever met. When he first came to work for me, he taught himself to program a grandMA, on his own, within six hours. Immediately after that, he provided technical support to some of the leading programmers in the U.S. He combines the intellectual approach of an engineer with the ability to accurately communicate with both artistic and technical people. The sky is the limit for Joe.
— Bob Gordon, President & CEO, ACT Lighting
Position: Technical support
Employer: ACT Lighting, Inc.
Residence: Woodland Hills, CACURRENT PROJECT(S):
Right now, most of my time is spent teaching, supporting, and helping develop software for the grandMA range of consoles. I also do the same for the Frog range, as well as a fair bit of graphic design.MOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS:
I always get a great sense of achievement when a troubled customer calls up and the conversation ends with them saying something to the effect of, “You saved my life.”WHEN I STARTED IN THIS INDUSTRY:
Accepting my first job in this industry meant moving 3,000 miles away from everyone I knew. It was a big leap, but it just felt right. Since then, I have met more than my fair share of excellent people, both in the industry and in my new home.HOW I GOT INTO THIS INDUSTRY:
When I was very young, I started acting with a children's theatre group. Eventually, a show came along in which I didn't want to act, but I still wanted to be involved. Someone told me I could help out the lighting guy, and it has all been downhill from there.INFLUENCES:
One of my greatest influences is my friend and mentor, Mario Collazo. He and Bob Gordon have ways of challenging me to continually improve my performance.FAVORITE TECHNICAL TRICK:
In high school, a friend of mine and I created an effect using a mylar reflector to simulate water ripples. That effect has found its way into more than a few of my designs.PLANS FOR THE FUTURE:
I know that I am happy with the stability of where I am now, and I feel a debt of gratitude to those who have helped me get here. I intend to treat every opening door with the same kind of cautious optimism that has worked for me so far. Whatever happens, I hope I never stop learning.Stephen Sakowski
I worked with Steve when he was interning for The Lighting Design Group in New York, and he is one of the hardest working individuals I've ever met. He is really passionate about lighting and learning, and he absorbed everything like a sponge. I'm sure that he will go far in this industry, whatever path he takes.
— Patrick Dierson, lighting designer
Position: Freelance lighting designer/electrician
Residence: New York, NYCURRENT PROJECT(S):
Production designer for The Scallywags Sketch Comedy Group; lighting designer, Cedarwood Avenue at the Vital Theatre.WHEN I STARTED IN THIS INDUSTRY:
I was first introduced to professional theatre and lighting while I was attending Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio (BFA Theatre Design and Technology ‘03). I planned to become a technician, but once I started taking design classes, I really fell in love with the artistry of lighting. After that, I really started to involve myself with the special events held at the school and started freelancing around Columbus, in addition to working on most department productions.HOW I GOT INTO THIS INDUSTRY:
In the fall of 2002, I was the production intern for The Lighting Design Group. While interning for LDG, I was Otis Howard's assistant on NBA Inside Stuff 2002-03, The Glamour Magazine Women of the Year Awards 2002, and MTV's Fashionably Loud 2. Since my time as an intern, I have been working as a freelance designer and electrician and have also assisted Patrick Dierson occasionally, who I first worked with while assisting Otis Howard.INFLUENCES:
Patrick Dierson, Otis Howard, and Dana WhiteFAVORITE TECHNICAL TRICK:
I believe that some of the most beautiful visuals are the simple ones, playing light against darkness, using shadows instead of fighting them, keeping it simple. Now, I know that this isn't really a “trick” so much as it is an approach, but it is first thing that came to mind.PLANS FOR THE FUTURE:
I am planning on attending graduate school in the next couple of years, and, in the long term, I would love to teach design at an undergraduate level. For right now, though, I am always looking for more design opportunities, and new and exciting projects to work on.Jake Pinholster
Jake has assisted me on at least a dozen shows since arriving in New York last fall, ranging from Broadway to downtown to uptown to out-of-town and back again. It is a rare bird that I could and would want to drag along on that journey. He has the heart, dedication, passion, curiosity, and stamina of a true theatre artist/junkie.
— Elaine J. McCarthy, projection designer
Position: Lighting designer/assistant
Employer: Largely freelance, although I've spent most of the recent months as Elaine McCarthy's assistant/associate.
Residence: Brooklyn, NYCURRENT PROJECT(S):
I just finished associate designing for Elaine McCarthy on Three Seconds in the Key, an Off-Broadway show with the New Georges Theatre. Coming up soon is a show I am designing scenery for at the Ontological-Hysteric called My Renaissance Faire Lady, which has been explained as a “progressive rock musical with no singing.”MOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS:
I think my most notable industry-related achievement to date is being ridiculously lucky. I moved to New York about eight months ago and, within two weeks, got the job assisting Elaine on Wicked. In the intervening months, I have worked off-, off-, off-, and on Broadway in some of the most exciting original works I could have hoped for. I can't even begin to credit that kind of precipitance to skill or experience.WHEN I STARTED IN THIS INDUSTRY:
I suppose I started in this industry, for-real-and-for-true, in September of last year when I moved to the city after graduating from the University of Florida. I got into theatre when I was 14 and working in a community theatre, which was a great learning environment because no one knew how to do anything, so all I had to be was the person most willing to figure it out.HOW I GOT INTO THIS INDUSTRY:
I had two opportunities very early in the forms of Williamstown Theatre Festival and the ETS-LDI show. I went to Williamstown for the first time in 1999…I also started interning at ETS-LDI in 2001 and will go back next fall for my second year as crew chief for the Institute and workshop sessions. ETS-LDI gives me the contacts I will need more as time goes by, as well as allowing me to keep in contact with friends on the artistic side who work in other regions.INFLUENCES:
I have to give credit to Anne Valentino and Elaine McCarthy for being my professional role models in this industry. Artistic influences are wildly erratic but generally tend to include anyone who endeavors to combine art and technology for the sake of telling a better story or painting a more beautiful picture.FAVORITE TECHNICAL TRICK:
There isn't really a perennial favorite. My favorite trick is whatever the last one was that got me out of a tight spot.PLANS FOR THE FUTURE:
To keep working. I'm not a very good free time manager, so I try to stay as busy as possible. A number of shows are coalescing in the immediate future. The end of the year and beginning of next are filled with plans for ETS-LDI and the Wicked tour, and long range plans are beginning to draw vague outlines of a studio with associates from several areas of design for the purpose of experimenting with a truly multimedia, multi-disciplinary environment.Bryan Barancik
Bryan came out to a uniquely difficult project…and delivered us an inspired and exciting light show that kept the overall tone of a rock concert and helped us achieve our most important goal — enhancing the storytelling of the movie. With the work ethic of a seasoned professional twice his age, it was a privilege to work with someone so young and vital.
— Kevin Saunders Hayes, creator/composer, Vox Lumiere
Employer: Partner, Luxious Lighting
Residence: Las Vegas, NVCURRENT PROJECT(S):
Paradise Lost: Opera Electronica; various Princess Cruises productionsMOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS:
Creating a nationwide lighting technology conference (while still in college); founding Luxious Lighting; having the opportunity to work with numerous notable lighting designers.WHEN I STARTED IN THIS INDUSTRY:
1996HOW I GOT INTO THIS INDUSTRY:
While attending Northwestern University, I started programming and designing for numerous student productions. I developed relationships with several local companies who hired me for gigs in the Chicago area.INFLUENCES:
My music professors in college (I was a music major); the sound of an audience; Andrew Wilder, Arnold Serame, Steve Cohen, Joel Young.FAVORITE TECHNICAL TRICK:
Closing both the strobe and dimmer for blackouts. It's that much more powerful.PLANS FOR THE FUTURE:
My main goal is to keep working on new and innovative types of productions, trying to create new ideas while staying fresh on the basics. I would like to continue using the video and lighting converging technologies, seamlessly integrating the two into my designs.Adam Wuertz
I have a lot of respect for Adam. He is a young guy, doing a difficult job, in a town where there is always someone ready to replace you…he has an uncanny knack for seeing what will work and what will not in his environment. He does not get caught up in the technology of a thing but rather he sees a need and addresses that need. I've programmed a number of nightclubs in my time, and his solution to the programming requirements in Rain was simple and elegant. On top of all that, he is a genuinely nice guy.
— Mike Falconer, Doubleplusgood Media
Position: Technical director
Employer: The N9NE Group
Residence: Las Vegas, NVCURRENT PROJECT(S):
Four new venues inside of the Morongo Casino, Resort, and Spa; one new venue at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas; five new venues at Victory Plaza in Dallas.MOST NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS:
Rain Nightclub and Skin Pool Lounge at the Palms Hotel and Casino, both in conjunction with Kelley Technologies; Baby's Nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.WHEN I STARTED IN THIS INDUSTRY:
I started participating in theatre actively when I was 13. However, I did not focus on lighting until the summer of 1998.HOW I GOT INTO THIS INDUSTRY:
I got my first taste of nightclubs working for Matthews Studio Group. We did the install for Las Vegas' first megaclub, C2k, and Baby's at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. One night, I was asked by the LD at Baby's to cover for a night. That one night turned into 20 months, and the rest is history.INFLUENCES:
Lawrence “Loz” Upton, Marc Brickman, Ayn RandFAVORITE TECHNICAL TRICK:
Pulling the console out of the lighting booth and setting it up on the dance floor. This helps my LD's to understand what they are really doing. The birds-eye perspective in nightclub design is equivocal to designing a theatrical show from off stage left.PLANS FOR THE FUTURE:
To become more integral in the overall design of our new venues beyond the technical aspects.