A broad mix of personalities and ideas made for a seriously stimulating four days at the Broadway Lighting Master Classes (BLMC), held last December 11-14 in New York. This was the fifth annual Broadway Lighting Master Classes program, and the first under the aegis of TCI/Intertec Publications, although BLMC founder Sonny Sonnenfeld was very much involved as well. A group of 93 participants from nine countries took part in a non-stop colloquium about lighting design for the stage.
Creative consultant Jules Fisher, who programs the BLMC, acted as keynote speaker with "One Approach to Theatrical Lighting." Fisher spoke at length about his career and his ideas on lighting design, setting the tone for the entire seminar. He was followed by lighting design legend Tharon Musser who, with her associate Marilyn Rennagel, provided a wise and witty overview of her astonishing career.
Lighting/scenic designer/director Neil Peter Jampolis discussed his work on several opera and theatre productions, and used slides of them to illustrate his points. There were several themes running throughout the BLMC, one of which was a debate about the uses of moving lights. Fisher spoke of them enthusiastically in his session, while Jampolis and Musser offered strong reservations. The discussion continued through several other presentations over the next few days.
The final presentation of the day was Beverly Emmons, assisted by Clifton Taylor and Stan Pressner, in a presentation titled "Color Strategies: Three Versions." Participants then headed off to Madison Square Garden to see the spectacular musical version of A Christmas Carol, which featured lighting designed by Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, followed by a backstage tour.
A Christmas Carol was the topic of the next morning as well, as Fisher and Eisenhauer discussed the issues and challenges involved in designing the production: the need for very broad stage coverage, the use of blacklight, and the challenge of designing a production scheduled to return annually. After a break, Eisenhauer went solo to discuss "Cueing the Musical: Timing and Rhythm," suggesting ways that participants could beef up their musical knowledge and apply it to the sensitive issue of cueing.
After lunch, technical director/production electrician Steve Cochrane spoke on "Getting the Show Up and Running," offering lots of practical advice about dealing with technical and personnel issues, especially when touring shows. Cochrane was followed by Danny Franks, who spoke about "Stage Lighting for TV." Franks has extensive experience adapting stage productions for PBS, and he used video clips from stage productions such as Into the Woods and their television adaptations to explore the different demands of the media. The day closed with projection designer Wendall K. Harrington (The Who's Tommy, Ragtime, The Capeman), who provided a feisty and funny overview of her work called "Projections: Who Needs 'Em?" and discussed the various types of projection media available.
Emmons was back again on Saturday morning with "Issues of Style in Lighting Design," in which she discussed in detail specific problems in lighting several different productions. She was followed by LD/theatre consultant Roger Morgan, who provided a holistic view of lighting design as a career and vocation.
Next up was Ted Mather, associate lighting designer on such musicals as Miss Saigon, Beauty and the Beast, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and The Capeman; his topic was "Design Documentation." Mather revealed the various ways of storing and presenting information, which are necessary when designing a musical that is intended to be restaged around the world. He was followed by Donald Holder, the lighting designer of this year's smash hit The Lion King (see "Rite of passage," page 48), who walked the audience through the design process for this highly complex production.
The BLMC came to an end on Sunday with a special buffet breakfast, a forum at the Mayflower Hotel with many of the weekend's participants, and a panel featuring Fisher with Tony Walton and William Ivey Long, the scenic and costume designers, respectively, of A Christmas Carol, as they discussed the art of collaborating with other designers.
Between sessions, participants had the chance to take part in a manufacturer's showcase, featuring the newest products from many of the industry's top manufacturers and distributors. A bonus event on December 12 was the Lifetime Achievers Panel, in which key figures including Michael F. Connell, Lawrence Kellermann, Ed Peterson, Richard Pilbrow, Joel Rubin, and Sonnenfeld examined the development of theentertainment technology industry over the last several decades. Steve Terry of Production Arts moderated.
The Broadway Lighting Master Classes will return this December, time and place to be announced. For more information, call 212/229-2965, ext. 824.