Next month marks the tenth anniversary of The Broadway Lighting Master Classes, a milestone for this remarkable offering to the lighting community.
I had the idea to start this now well-established institution 20 to 25 years ago. I always felt that New York City has something that no other city has — an incredible pool of theatre lighting designers working on Broadway. This has always been a special group of people with exceptional talent, and I felt we needed to share that with the rest of the world.
The thought always lingered in the back of my mind, until 11 years ago when I finally had the time and money to start something. I thought I could make it work on my own, but I realized that having Jules Fisher associated with the effort would guarantee success. With Jules as the creative consultant, we introduced the first Broadway Lighting Master Classes ten years ago.
It was crucial for our students to see a Broadway show designed by Jules and have the opportunity to go backstage for a tour and discussion. The next day, we would also have a critique of the show led by Jules. This worked out wonderfully. We included panel discussions with all types of working theatre professionals.
At one of the early seminars, someone said to me, “You know, Sonny, you're world famous because of the BLMC.” After I reflected on this, I realized it was becoming true, as we had attendees from all over the world — Russia, Japan, Poland, Israel — not just Americans. In all this time, I haven't been to another seminar like the BLMC. Through the years, virtually everyone who has attended has personally thanked us for a great experience.
And it is still a great experience. The quality is in the knowledge of faculty, the willingness to share without holding back, and the sincerity of the students. Many of the attendees are already professionals, and they come to recharge their batteries and network with others. At the same time, they learn something.
For four years, I ran the BLMC with my late wife, Kelly, and it was a lot of fun and a lot of work. Now, under the direction of Primedia Business, some things have changed but not too much. Jules is still the creative consultant and doing a great job. The classes have also expanded to offer the Broadway Sound Master Classes for those interested in audio for theatre.
What has changed most is theatre technology. The acceptance of moving lights in theatre, architecture, television, and film has really grown. Designers are using hundreds of fixtures in all sorts of applications, which would have been unimaginable just ten years ago. I don't think we even discussed the automated fixture at the classes when we started, but it's been an amazing addition to the industry. The number of moving lights used these days is staggering.
It's not only the lighting designers and technology driving the changes; audiences, producers, and directors all have greater expectations. LDs respond to these needs and create their designs accordingly.
Looking forward, we have so much progress to anticipate. Dichroic glass filters are being used more widely, taking design to new creative heights. Further advances in moving lights are sure to keep coming, and new sources of light are expected, as well. LEDs are making quite an impact on the industry, and, while this is happening slowly due to limited output, they will certainly become more efficient and an ideal solution for many theatre applications.
I look forward to another ten years of progress. Happy Anniversary, Broadway Lighting Master Classes!
Sonny Sonnenfeld has been an active member of USITT since its inception as well as the IES. He has been involved in theatre and architectural lighting for over 55 years and is a past recipient of the Wally Russell Lifetime Achievement Award (2003) and the LDI Life in Light Award (1999). He is now partially retired, living in Las Vegas with his wife, Rose, and serving as a consultant for Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC).
For additional information on the Broadway Lighting Master Classes, please contact Ellen Lampert-Gréaux at 212-204-1807 or Kim Good at 913-967-1865, or visit http://blmc.net.