Now in its 15th year, the Gilbert V. Hemsley Jr. Internship in Lighting has offered young LDs a unique opportunity to gain experience in a professional repertory situation. Now, according to New York City Ballet lighting director Mark Stanley, who coordinates the internship along with Ellen Sorrin and LD Alan Adelman, the program is expanding its activities in order to reach out further to the academic community.
"Basically, it's an in-school seminar program," says Stanley. "We will offer five grants in the next year to selected colleges or universities to pay a professional designer's stipend for weekends of master classes and seminars held on their campus. The school will be required to pick up airfare, housing, and a per diem." The plan, he adds, is designed to "get more professionals talking to students. I'm now putting together a list of people who may do it, including Ken Billington, Duane Schuler, Beverly Emmons, Natasha Katz, Frances Aronson, James Ingalls, Alan Adelman, Robert Wierzel, and myself."
The plan, which is still in development, is another way of honoring Hemsley, who was a gifted educator--he taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison--as well as a designer (his credits include numerous productions at New York City Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Boston Opera Company, American Ballet Theatre, the Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham companies, and such Broadway productions as Sugar Babies and the 1976 revival of Porgy and Bess.) The internship, which was named in his memory, is awarded annually to one young designer. It begins each August with the New York City Opera's fall season, then switches over in November to include the New York City Ballet's winter repertory. It offers young people an unrivaled opportunity to meet and work with a large number of professional designers; additional opportunities often include touring and media events.
Former Hemsley interns have gone on to varied careers in lighting. Russ Swift, the 1985 intern, now teaches lighting at Emerson College in Boston. He enrolled at University of Wisconsin, Madison, because, he says, "Gilbert was doing a series of color lectures for Rosco. I went to one and it was a whole new way of seeing color, one I had never thought of." Speaking of his internship experience, he says, "We did 21 operas in one season," including new and old productions. "I worked with Duane Schuler, John Gleason, Mitch Dana. I can't think of anyplace else where I would have been exposed to all those different designers and styles--and how to make that same rep plot do all those shows." Gary Marder, the 1989 intern, now assistant lighting designer at the Metropolitan Opera, notes his internship gave him the invaluable experience of meeting a wide array of designers. "I met Ken Billington for the first time," he says, "as well as Natasha Katz and John Gleason." He later assisted Billington on several productions and himself worked as assistant lighting designer at New York City Opera. (Other recent interns have been John Lasiter [see Lighting Dimensions May 1997] and Jeff Croiter.)
Of course, the internship will continue even as the in-school program gets underway. Also, says Stanley, "We're flexible about how the structure of the program develops. We'll be talking to teachers to get some feedback and tailor it for different needs."
For more information about the program, contact Ellen Sorrin or Mark Stanley at 212/870-5656. The fax number is 212/870-5651; e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.