Participants at this year's Broadway Lighting Master Classes found themselves entranced by that Ragtime beat. The smash Broadway musical was the centerpiece of this year's classes, presented by Entertainment Design magazine in association with Sonny Sonnenfeld, December 10-13. Creative consultant Jules Fisher once again put together an eclectic mix of personalities, who examined many aspects of stage lighting, providing participants with much aesthetic food for thought. And the EDDY Awards, held December 11, attracted an equally eclectic group of designers, technicians, and manufacturers, all on hand to honor the best in products and people over the past year.
There were several new aspects to 1998's BLMC, beginning with a new venue at the Pope Auditorium of Fordham University, located near Lincoln Center. Offered for the first time was an optional automated lighting tutorial on Wednesday, December 9, conducted by Jim Waits of Vari-Lite, Inc., and using equipment from Vari-Lite, Strand, ETC, Compulite, and AC Lighting/Flying Pig Systems. The classes got underway on Thursday, with Fisher presenting a broad overview entitled "One Approach to Theatrical Lighting." He was followed by Donald Holder, the Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning lighting designer of The Lion King, who discussed the creation of the lighting design for that show. Next up was special-effects master Chic Silber, whose current project is the new Broadway revival of Annie Get Your Gun, then Gil Wechsler, former resident designer of the Metropolitan Opera, who discussed techniques of opera lighting. That night, attendees went to Broadway's Ford Center for the Performing Arts to see Ragtime.
On Friday, Beverly Emmons kicked off the day with a discussion titled "Issues of Style in Lighting Design," providing varied examples from her own work, which ranges from small dance companies to the works of Robert Wilson to Broadway shows like Jekyll and Hyde and Annie Get Your Gun. She was followed by Fisher and Eisenhauer, who provided a case history of Ragtime. Eisenhauer then partnered with followspot operator Bert Morris for a session titled "Incorporating Followspots in the Creative Process." The afternoon was devoted to Wendall K. Harrington, who discussed her career as a projection designer, and Luc Lafortune, who discussed his career as lighting designer for Cirque du Soleil.
Friday evening got underway with a pair of special events, which were open to the public. First came a panel on the landmark Broadway musical A Chorus Line, sponsored by Production Arts and hosted by Steve Terry of the PRG Lighting Group. The panel featured lighting designer Tharon Musser, sound designer Abe Jacob, Gordon Pearlman (who created the LS-8 computer lighting system for the show), sound designer Otts Munderloh (the production sound engineer who mixed the show), production electrician Gershon Shevett, and Baayork Lee, a member of the original cast who has staged many national tours of the production.
This was followed by the Entertainment Design (EDDY) Awards, which honored the spirit of collaboration. The honorees included the design team of the current Broadway revival of Cabaret, the technical team behind the scenery and lighting of the recent Lincoln Center Theatre production of Twelfth Night, the designers of Cirque du Soleil and the architecture firm Sceno Plus, and the Henson Creature Shop. As for the lighting and sound products of the year, winning companies included, on the sound side, Apogee, BSS Audio, Gefen Systems, Mackie, Sennheiser, and Wireworks (see the February issue of ED), and, on the lighting side, Altman, Clay Paky, Diversitronics, Le Maitre, Vari-Lite, and Wybron.
On Saturday, electrician Steve Cochrane made a lively presentation titled "Getting the Show Up and Running," then Eisenhauer returned to discuss "Cueing the Musical: Timing and Rhythm." The all-important issue of paperwork was discussed by Vivien Leone, who has worked as an associate to such well-known lighting designers as Andrew Bridge and Paul Gallo. Stan Pressner and Clifton Taylor presided over a session on color, and Danny Franks ended the day by discussing his work adapting stage productions for television.
The finale came on Sunday with a brunch panel at the DoubleTree Guest Suites Hotel, featuring a number of Ragtime creative personnel. Besides Fisher and Eisenhauer, the lineup included sound designer Jonathan Deans, scenic designer Eugene Lee, and lyricist Lynn Ahrens. Costume designer William Ivey Long, not a part of Ragtime, was on hand to provide a number of lively observations, as well.
In addition to these sessions, attendees took part in a special Manufacturer's Showcase held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, featuring exhibits from AC Lighting, Altman Stage Lighting, Avab/transtechnik, City Theatrical Inc., Group One/Clay Paky, Compulite R&D, ETC, GamProducts, High End Systems, Le Maitre Special Effects, Lee Filters, Martin Professional, Rosco, Strand Lighting, Strong International, Vari-Lite Inc., White Light, and Wybron, Inc. A new attraction was a light lab featuring filters and patterns from Rosco, Lee, and GamProducts. Overall, this year's BLMC offered a tightly packed, idea-filled weekend, designed to stimulate creative impulses. The Broadway Lighting Master Classes will return this December--tentatively scheduled for December 8-12--at a location to be announced. For more information, call (212) 229-2965, ext. 829.