It was 1986, Carson City, NV... I was in fourth grade, playing a donkey in a production of Pinocchio. Somehow the long hours, late nights--and perhaps the fact that the girls out numbered the guys ten to one--appealed to me. Theatre has been a part of my life ever since.
After moving to Auburn, CA, a few years later, I continued to perform, all the way through high school. My sophomore year, though, I began taking an interest in lighting. Of course, everyone there thought lighting consisted of flicking on the two-scene preset board and turning on all the fixtures above the stage--there it was, nothing to it. I decided to look into the field a little more seriously. From struggling with the foreign slider patch and experimenting with things called gobos and gels I began this little endeavor of mine.
Later that year, the theatre finally stepped into the 1990s by upgrading its equipment to ETC Source Fours and a console. I started seeing what I could do with this new gear. One group of performers held an annual cabaret-type show that was the most fun for me to work on. I was able to design lighting for major production numbers including "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from Les Miserables and "This Is the Moment" from Jekyll & Hyde. I don't think the audiences understood all the work that went into this, but the actors knew their show was enhanced by all the time I put into it. In turn, I felt that if this was what I wanted to do, then I could do it. Who knew where it would lead to?
But first, there were bills to pay. I went to college in southern Oregon, and had a full plate in front of me: I was a department manager at Wal-Mart, and a merchandiser for Frito Lay; I was also a board op at the newly refurbished Ginger Rogers Theatre in Medford, OR--but after grueling 15- to 17-hour days I felt I was losing sight of goals that had once seemed so close.
Plus, I wished the college I attended had the lighting equipment that I had left behind down south. Perhaps one of these days manufacturers will begin helping schools and getting the students trained on the current gear. With all the budget cuts in college programs, this would be a great way to get new talent using their products. I think students in the lighting field must let faculties know how much equipment is out there, and continue to beg and plead for the new technology.
After my hiatus from full-time lighting, I finally had a break that jump-started my dreams. I had applied for an internship at LDI97 in Las Vegas and somehow managed to meander my way back onto the lighting scene. LDI opened my eyes to an entirely new array of gadgets and toys that tossed my mind into a state of bewilderment. From working in theatres that couldn't afford to buy gel, much less any kind of intelligent lighting, to entering a convention center full of equipment that was completely new to me was quite an experience. Here was an industry I had never seen before. That little bug inside of me that was egging me on to fulfill my goals was rejuvenated, and I had the time of my life.
Growing up in the foothills of California, I was alone in my journey, but in Las Vegas, lighting seemed to be all that existed. I was able to see close up the consoles and intelligent lights that were being used on a scale that I looked forward to getting to someday. Going from booth to booth it was refreshing to see that so many people were not only interested in this field, but were making a living from it. One of the many LDI highlights was the High End Systems party--you could just tell the performers, drawn from the company, were having fun with what they were doing. To me, having fun is what it's all about.
Now, a full year later after seeing what was out there, I have a position in the field, at Oregon Stage Lighting & Sound (OSL&S) working for owner Bob Peterson, who has designed for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland for years. With the official title of technical projects manager, I have a broad job description--whatever Bob needs me to do, I do. I've worked on public relations materials, maintained fixtures, been an assistant designer and a chief designer--then back to running a spotlight the next day. I've worked on so many shows, from the Miss Oregon Pageant to concerts to dance, plus acts like Pam Tillis, Robert Cray, Los Lobos, War, and Bruce Cockburn. Since joining OSL&S, besides learning so much from Bob, I've received a paid crash course in intelligent lighting and have loved every minute of it. High End Systems Cyberlights(R), Studio Colors(R), and Technobeams(R).... Who could ask for anything more?
One of the most memorable experiences of the past few months was when I designed lights for Roy Clark, who was appearing at the Ginger Rogers. Naturally, I told my friends about this, and they said, "Roy who?" Before their time, I guess (OK, and mine as well, after all, I'm only 23). The focus had gone rather smoothly, but with little time to record some looks, I worked frantically until the house opened. Between the two shows that evening I had about 25-30 minutes before the house reopened, and while recording some more I felt a little more confident in what I had.
The announcer for the second show came on: "And now... Mr. Roy Clark." My four Cyberlights, hanging from the first electric, shot through the fog off stage left and as Roy walked on they slowly followed him to center--the second show was underway with a bang. I felt so confident after that opening worked, the rest just flew by. Afterwards Roy came up to me and said, "Brad, let me ask you something. Those lights that came down on me for the opening, what were they? I felt like I was a detective out there on stage." It was great: not only did I enjoy the show and how my lighting turned out, it seemed that Roy and his crew were very pleased with it as well. In this profession, the grueling schedules can take a lot out of you if you aren't having a good time; the rewards don't usually come from a paycheck or pats on the back, but from the satisfaction of knowing you did a killer job.
Over the last three months I've been working with Leprecon in beta-testing its new version of software in its LP3000 board. I also have an offer to help out with this board at LDI98, which should be a great experience. All in all, over the past year I've seemed to be in the right place at the right time--each month that passes I can look back and see all the knowledge I've gained in such a short time.
As for the future, I would like to go touring to see if it is all it's cracked up to be. And, of course, I would like to be given the opportunity to design more and more. In my spare time--I'm sure I can find some somewhere--I would love to finish writing my play, which I've been working on (and off and on again) for the past four years.
Finally, to those LDs out there now--save some room for me up top, because I'm on my way.