As lighting director for the John Jasperse Company, your work has been seen around the US and Europe. Do you specialize in dance lighting, and how do you specifically design it for touring?
I do a lot of lighting for the downtown dance scene in New York. The productions are often rigorously experimental and intellectual, and the artists tend to be truly vital thinkers. These are not lights-and-tights people, so my plots usually end up being super-specific to the show. When working with John Jasperse, the physical theatre space tends to be so important to the work that the plot changes drastically per venue on tour. I think it is important to note that John and I co-design the shows together, and since I go on tour with the company, we are able to able to work together in creating a cohesive aesthetic package at each stop. John is a special kind of choreographer: He knows what a Robert Juliat profile is and what L200 looks like when dimmed. We don't go into a premiere, thinking, ”How can we create a design that will tour effectively?“ We just do what's right for the show and then make it work in each theatre.
How do you juggle your career as an LD with that as a painter?
I do a lot of painting while knee-deep in production. It is a nice break into a different mindset. I'm sure my painting is influenced in a certain sense by the shows I am working on or have just seen. There's a lot of information out there to filter and process (both on stage and in our increasingly complex world), so I find that creating independent artwork can be a great way to release the burden of these processes — if only for an afternoon!
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
After a spring-break trip to New York while in college, I came back to NCSA [North Carolina School of the Arts] scared and intimidated by the city. I told Norman Coates, our lighting professor, that there was no way I was moving there. He said, “Where the hell else are you going to go? Of course you are going to New York.” And so, I did.
And the worst?
“Don't worry, they have laundry at the next venue.”
What piece of technology — lighting or otherwise — can you not live without?
I was going to say something like my cell phone or my Mac, but the reality is that I love when my cell doesn't work, and lately I'm taking out the computer in the theatre less and less. The fact is, due to our limited time in the theatre, I would be lost without paper. Computer notes are fine if you can afford to have an assistant, but with a hardcopy of the plot, a hookup, and a note-pad, you are pretty much good to go.