One of the highlights of the Broadway Lighting Master Classes since 1996 has been “the color lecture,” presented in various guises by LDs Beverly Emmons and Clifton Taylor. This session has evolved over the years as lighting technology has evolved—in addition to tungsten color temperatures and gels, stage lighting now includes arc sources, dichroic filters, fluorescent tubes and lamps, LEDs, and more. Life is more complicated for the LD, especially someone who is timid around color.
A six-time Tony Award nominee, Emmons has had an esteemed career on and off Broadway. Her outstanding work on Broadway includes The Elephant Man, A Day in Hollywood/A Night In The Ukraine, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Passion, The Heiress, and Jekyll and Hyde. She also lit some of Robert Wilson’s visually compelling theatrical epics, including Einstein on the Beach and the CIVIL warS part V. She is currently creating The Lighting Archive to help save and make accessible historic lighting papers, and she is working with a few colleagues to catalogue Tharon Musser’s career, including 100 Broadway shows.
Interesting, one of her first jobs out of college was as an assistant to Jules Fisher, who asked her to create the color lecture for the BLMC.
“It was important to me from the beginning to have an alternative explanation of color,” says Emmons. “There is not one right answer: everyone thinks about color their own way, and it is important in teaching to defend the non-verbal aspects of the lighting experience.”
This year the session has been re-named Color Therapy, and Emmons looks at the new technology with a practical eye: “It is time to start addressing the strategies for mixing colors,” Emmons says, pointing out that the class provides “a new way to think about color and an approach to solving color problems.”
For instance, as Emmons notes about using a color other than white to evoke the moon: “Moonlight is cold white in nature. So to be convincing it has to have that quality even if you are adding an emotional component to it.”
For Taylor, who works extensively for theatre, ballet, and opera, has lit three productions to date on Broadway: Jay Johnson: The Two And Only; Frozen; and Hot Feet. His upcoming projects include Ariadne Unhinged for the Gotham Chamber Opera Company in NYC, a screening at MOMA a new film of the 2006 Tanglewood Production with the Boston Symphony Orchestra celebrating the 100th birthday of composer Elliot Carter, and a production of the Kurt Weill opera, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, with the Boston Symphony, conducted by James Levine at Tanglewood this summer,
As for the color lecture at the BLMC, Taylor notes: “I have found that when I talk to young people, there is a timidity about color, they are almost afraid of it. I hope the color lecture with give people the confidence to use it more and be more experimental with color. I hope they gain a new confidence about how color works in the theatre.”
Taylor is very excited by the new SeaChanger CMYG color changer for ETC Source Four Ellipsoidals, which will be includes in the color lecture this year for the first time. “This product should be available on the rental market now,” he explains. “I think it will really take off. I am specing it for the Boston Symphony.”
Emmons and Taylor are also including some Vari-Lite VL 1000 fixtures with arc sources, to be able to compare and contrast with the other tungsten fixtures in their rig, and show how they go together on stage.
When asked if one should use color judiciously, Taylor answered, “For what show?” Ah, therein lies the reason for the color lecture!