At Joe's Pub — at the PUBLIC Theater — you have to design for a variety of acts from cabarets, to singer/songwriters, to rock shows. What are your biggest challenges in coming up with new looks for so many different acts?
The biggest challenge isn't in creating new looks, but rather in using the looks we have prewritten effectively for the right band. Joe's Pub covers every form of entertainment, from cabaret, to dance, to world music. You never have enough time to cue out a whole show, so we have close to a 100 prewritten cues and effects that we can update and modify for each band as they come in. The way to create a great show at Joe's Pub is in talking to each band or performer prior to their show during sound check and getting a good sense of his or her musical style. Then, we selectively implement the pre-existing lighting cues and tweak the color, texture, and movement to really help define the look and feel of every show.
What is the best career advice you've ever been given?
Abigail Rosen Holmes told me years ago, “Be nice to everyone, because you never know where your next gig is coming from,” and I've found it to be the God's honest truth. No one wants to work with a cocky young designer for 12 hours a day; they want a drinking buddy with good paperwork skills. If you're mean to your crew and aggressive to your fellow designers, you quickly find yourself unemployed and even worse, unable to hire a crew. You need to be the diplomat on the production because the last thing the director wants is an LD who is obnoxious and needy. Directors and producers want designers who are solutions and not problems.
What has been your proudest moment in your career?
Presently, I would say lighting The Dresden Dolls at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival this summer in California. When you light a band that's on fire and hit all the right cues, the end result is magical.
What inspires you in your creative goals?
Creatively, I'm inspired by honesty in a performance. In today's bubble gum market of mass pop and musical theatre, it's rare to find true performers willing to bare themselves without contradictions. I have found that working with great performers such as STEW, Lucian Souza, The East Village Opera Company, and Jackie Hoffman, you don't need to over-light a show with the usual flash and trash. You just need to light a show well.
What piece of equipment can you absolutely not do without?
My cell phone. Without it, I'm out of work, and then I'm out of business. Emails are great, but if you need to contact me at any given point during the day, you can get me on my phone.