Describing himself as "very honored and flattered," lighting designer Tom Ruzika received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle's Angstrom Award for Lifetime Achievement in Lighting Design at the group's annual ceremony, held March 16 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The award is sponsored by Angstrom Stage Lighting of Hollywood.
Ruzika was honored for all his work in Los Angeles theatre, particularly his longtime affiliation with South Coast Repertory (SCR), plus productions at the Mark Taper Forum and other area venues. "I continue to move past my set ways, by working with all the new technology," he says of his design philosophy. "I head up the graduate lighting program at the University of California at Irvine, and when I assign my students to design a big musical, they immediately put on tons of color scrollers, Vari*Lite(R) automated luminaires, and High End Systems Cyberlights(R). I would not--could not--think of these things when I was starting out, but now SCR has 32 color scrollers and we're trying to figure out how to get a stock of automated lights in there."
The LD, also noted for his work in themed entertainment, is trying to bring some of the "high-tech flash" of that arena into his theatrical work. "My students know all about the equipment that's out there, and they want it. And so do I," he says. He recently lit four shows in 10 weeks in Los Angeles, ranging from the "simplicity" of Oleanna to the much more elaborate Arcadia (both for SCR), The Pajama Game (for Reprise), and Some Like It Hot for Fullerton Civic Light Opera. On the theming front, The Ruzika Company is lighting a mile-long roller coaster for Knott's Berry Farm in California, working on Universal Studios projects in Orlando and Osaka, and a touring version of Star Trek: The Experience, which will originate in Germany. "It's great to be honored for 30 years of achievement, but I'm not about to retire," he laughs.