Tony Awards for Lighting Design in 2010 – Some Detail On the Designers

I have to admit that apparently since I didn’t watch the Tony Awards last night, I am apparently a bad theatre person.  Or so I’m told.  You see, I’m actually lighting a show and making a paycheck right now, so I didn’t have a chance to sit and watch the Tony Awards show.  Did you watch, or are you baaaad like me?

The big lighting design awards last night were Best Lighting Design for a Play, and Best Lighting Design for a Musical.  In the PLAY category, the Tony was awarded to Neil Austin for Red by John Logan; in the MUSICAL category, the Tony was awarded to Kevin Adams for American Idiot by Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day and Michael Mayer.

Best Lighting Design for a Play: Red (Golden Theatre) by John Logan, lighting design by Neil Austin

Neil Austin – the LD behind the show:

Production images of Red:

(All images from Johan Persson, from the Neil Austin website)

About Red (from the Tony Award website):

Master American expressionist Mark Rothko (Alfred Molina) has just landed the biggest commission in the history of modern art. But when his young assistant (Eddie Redmayne) gains the confidence to challenge him, Rothko faces the agonizing possibility that his crowning achievement could also become his undoing. John Logan’s play is a searing portrait of an artist’s ambition and vulnerability as he tries to create a definitive work for an extraordinary setting.

Producers: Arielle Tepper Madover, Stephanie P. McClelland, Matthew Byam Shaw, Neal Street, Fox Theatricals, Ruth Hendel/Barbara Whitman, Philip Hagemann/Murray Rosenthal, The Donmar Warehouse

The images from the show are amazing.  From a few people who emailed me today to tell me about the show, it was also apparently equally amazing, and Austin’s work is stellar.

Best Lighting Design for a Musical: American Idiot (Berkeley Rep) by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer, Lighting Design by Kevin Adams

Kevin Adams, LD behind American Idiot:

Production images from American Idiot, from Kevin Adams’ website:

From the Tony Awards website about American Idiot:

American Idiot tells the exhilarating story of a new generation of young Americans as they struggle to find meaning in a post-9/11 world, in a journey borne along by songs of the band Green Day. The musical follows working-class characters from the suburbs to the city to the Middle East, as they seek redemption in a world filled with frustration. The cast of 19 is led by past Tony Award-winner John Gallagher, Jr.

Producers: Tom Hulce & Ira Pittelman, Ruth and Steven Hendel, Vivek J. Tiwary and Gary Kaplan, Aged in Wood and Burnt Umber, Scott Delman, Latitude Link, HOP Theatricals and Jeffrey Finn, Larry Welk, Bensinger Filerman and Moellenberg Taylor, Allan S. Gordon/Élan V. McAllister, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Awaken Entertainment, John Pinckard and John Domo

You’ve probably heard of Kevin Adams, if not Neil Austin too.  Kevin Adams got some press on last year for his design for Passing Strange (which has become one of my favorite designs ever).  I ran across an article in Live Design that asked Kevin five questions – this was my favorite two – students and people wanting to break into the lighting design industry, pay attention:

Live Design:  What is the best career advice you’ve ever been given?

Kevin Adams:  I was never really interested in a “career,” so I never really asked for career advice. I realized early on that employment as a freelancer was always going to be up and down, so I’ve tried to make every day less about working and more about making things that, at the end of the day, satisfy me. And if other people respond to the work I make, then great.

Live Design:  And what’s the worst?

Kevin Adams: Probably telling myself that a “career” doesn’t matter.

Amazing.  I hope this gives a little bit of insight into the Best Lighting Design category of the Tony Awards.  It is so important to me that people know more than just who won the award!

Why Do Lighting Designers Love Lighting Theatre?

Magda's Death, Puccini's "La Rondine." Lighting Design by Jim Hutchison (USA829)

I have been spending so much time in travel limbo lately that I have had so much time to think – about anything, nothing, everything, the meaning of life, why Cheetos are so addictive, all of that jazz.  When I think back on all of the roads I have traveled in my life and career, I keep finding myself asking the same old three question:

“Holy cow, how the hell did I get myself back into lighting theatre again?!”

I always seem to keep coming back to theatre again.  It’s like an addiction or something.  I had an easier time quitting smoking than I have ever had not doing theatre.  Not that I want to quit, mind you, but you understand the analogy, I hope.  It’s my favorite place to be in the world – I’d rather see anything in a theatre rather than an arena, amphitheater, or what-have-you.  The theatre is a place that everything in the entertainment business emulates:  convention centers are like theatres with endless configurations; arenas are the same, and all of those mid-sized rock and roll venues like House of Blues and The Granada in Dallas are essentially in old theatres or shaped like theatres.

So what relevance does that have on this ramble?  Who knows.

I gotta believe that other readers in the Community have this crazy obsession with lighting theatre.  I mean, many of you make your livings doing theatre, and others are like me – I make my design living lighting corporate events and music, but I have a master’s in lighting design with a theatrical emphasis.  I do theatre whenever it comes my way, but I do the other work and consulting so I can support my theatre habit.  Freaking lighting designer theatre junkies, they’re all the same.

I feel like theatre as a form of art has shaped many of us into the designers that we are today.  When I was young I remember stumbling across a video of a concert style production of Jesus Christ Superstar.  120K PAR rig, some amazing performers and singers who blew the lid off of it, and some person who must have been working a manual preset board of some sort.  Amazing.  Since then, I have been hooked on this thing we call “theatrical” lighting design.  I see this in every work that I design – it is so important for me during the corporate events to get a solid feel of the experience the client wants to provide for the attendees, and a lighting designer can create that outstanding experience with light.  It’s theatre, after all!

What’s your story?  Why do you like lighting theatre?  Please leave a comment below, wouldja?  Share your story with everybody!

Pilobolus’ “Shadowland” Review

Please excuse the dated nature of this review, but I’ve been entrenched in busywork with projects here at KTH.  I am just coming across it myself, but I have been so excited about reading these reviews that I had to post!

I have been following the news about Pilobolus’ Shadowland work as it has progressed, and this show is apparently pretty awesome.  I caught a few minutes of video of the Pilobolus cast performing some of the work on Pablo Motos’ show, El Hormiguero.  Check it out:

I also found a review on El Pais of the Madrid show – from the El Pais website.  Translated from the original español – written by Pablo Leon (and to be fair, here are some other Pablo Leon articles):

Dance, theater, circus, fables and shadows. This strange mixture serves as inspiration for the new show of the Pilobolus company, which has chosen Madrid for the premiere of “Shadowland” (tonight at 22.30 at the New Apollo Theater).  In his newly created darkness reigns, dreamlike passages and contemporary dance.

The initial innocence gives way to more erotic and adult choreography.

Like many stories, it all begins with a dream.  A nightgown hanging in the air, a subtle movements and air racing show choreographed in the rest of a young woman who suddenly is precipitated into a nightmare world.  Convened by a strange magic, the protagonist is trapped in a world of shadows and from there, emulating a curious or a bold Dorothy Alice, begins a journey of initiation into adulthood.  “Everything has an air of story, but a wicked fairy. We wanted to get to that mythological language,” said Itamar Kubovy, executive director of Pilobolus and one of the creators of the show for three weeks will be represented in Madrid.

The company, founded in America in 1971, was seduced by the dark world of two years ago when I ordered the opening of the Oscars and produced a show imitating the shapes of the nominated films.  Given the success of the assembly, they arrived several commissions for advertising (an ad for Volkswagen and one of BBVA) and has since investigated the combination of shadow and dance.  The nine dancers who make up the cast-off actions performed without words, but develop an entire story using only their bodies represented an even more difficult.  In early summer Dogit premiered in New York, a short story about a young girl during a dog becomes a nightmare.  That was the origin of Shadowland.  “It was a challenge to tell a story using only the dance. We wanted to combine it with the shadows as an allegory of knowledge: when we light the unknown, the first thing you see are silhouettes at twilight,” said Kubovy excited after the first rehearsal.

To make this transition from oral language to communicate across the physical, the company contacted Steve Banks, a writer on SpongeBob SquarePants (an acclaimed animated series).  The connection was perfect.  And tonight’s presentation in the capital, the conclusion of four months of intensive work.  Kubovy no doubt that “Madrid is the perfect place to display the work because it is progressive, multicultural and a gateway to Europe.”

Despite his childhood winks, as the play progresses it becomes more complex and cruel.  The initial persecution innocent give way to erotic scenes-from a trio to a topless dominatrix empress existential-or references to the intervention of a creator and a creator (god and goddess “?).  To the sound of music composed by David Poe’s choreography also become more elaborate and the dancers, with absolute control of the movements, they show the influence of contemporary creators such as Pina Bausch and Martha Graham.

Some images from the show – I have got to see this work (all images from Neo2):





Pilobolus – SHADOWLAND


The performance group Pilobolus is premiering a new work called Shadowland in Madrid tonight, September 18.  Before I say anything else, watch this video, it’s just a few minutes.

I got chills on my neck from that!  Pilobolus’ work has always been amazing – this work in particular, a collaboration with David Poe (American music icon) and Steven Banks (Spongebob Squarepants Lead Writer).  From the Youtube page:

Part dance, part shadow act, part circus, and part concert, SHADOWLAND is a surreal story of a young girls sensational world as she comes of age, created in collaboration with lead writer of SpongeBob SquarePants Steven Banks and the American musician, producer, and film composer David Poe, whose poetic work for SHADOWLAND ranges from ballads to hard-driving rock numbers that lift the audience out of its seats!

I *think* the lighting designer for this is Neil Peter Jamopolis. Am I wrong on this? I have been looking, and I’ll certainly correct the post if I am wrong.

Looking Glass Theatre Company Extends Arabian Nights – Again!

Looking Glass Theatre Company in Chicago, IL has just extended the run of The Arabian Nights, directed by Mary Zimmerman.  This show is getting a heck of a lot of great reviews – Mary Zimmerman is a pretty amazing director, and the lighting designer for the show is TJ Gerckens, the managing director at the Contemporary Theatre Company in Columbus, OH.  If you’re in or around Chicago, you should most definitey try to get tickets for the show.  I’m a huge fan of TJ’s work – his Metamorphoses lighting with the huge pool gave some of the coolest looks my eyes have ever seen.  TJ sees light and lighting like a man born for the purpose – I always wonder what the color of the sky in his world is.

Check out some images, and go see the show!

arabian nights looking glass

arabian nights looking glass

arabian nights looking glass

Toyo Ito and the Za-Koenji Public Theatre in Tokyo

Toyo in Tokyo – has no one else seen that?  Come on, people.  We can’t let little obvious bits of comedy escape like that!  That’s really where it ends though, because Toyo Ito and his work are both pretty awesome.  He just designed that beautiful fully powered solar stadium for the World Games 2009, and now he’s done a public theatre in Tokyo.  Meet the Za-Koenji Public Theatre:

koenji theatre toyo ito

From the Za-Koenji Theatre website:

ZA-KOENJI Public Theatre is a theatre for contemporary performing arts. The theatre is funded by the city of Suginami in Tokyo and managed by Creative Theatre Network (CTN), a non-profit organization led by president Ren Saito. The theatre produces, presents and supports a wide range of cultural activities for the community of Suginami, enabling people of all ages to see and take part in many art forms from drama and dance to music and storytelling.Director and playwright Makoto Sato, is the Artistic Director. His vision is for ZA-KOENJI to become a forum or Agora; a meeting point where the communities of Suginami can come together with local, national and international artists.

That daylighting shot in there is amazing to me. Using the available resources (ie, THE SUN) as an architectural and artistic form is exactly what we should be doing.  More pics:

koenji toyo ito

koenji toyo ito tokyo

koenji theatre tokyo toyo ito

Check out the Za-Koenji Public Theatre’s website.

Thanks, Coolboom!

Blackbird by David Harrower – My Month in Columbus


The show I just spent three weeks lighting is now open.  Contemporary American Theatre Company in Columbus, OH (affectionately known as CATCO) has produced and opened David Harrower’s Blackbird – directed by Geoff Nelson, lighting design by me (Jim Hutchison), scenic design by Jessica Secrest, costume design by Kristine Kearney, and sound Design by Nitz Brown.  Jonathon Putnam and Anna Paniccia are Ray and Una, and the chemistry is – well, go see the show if you can.  If you don’t know the script, it’s deep.

Michael Grossberg of the Columbus Dispatch wrote a review of the show, and actually mentioned me, which he never used to do when I lived in Columbus and worked around town:

What ultimately happens on Jessica Trent-Secrest’s convincingly cluttered set under Jim Hutchison’s fluorescent office lighting shouldn’t be fully revealed (in print or in after-show conversation) except to note that the questions asked and parried raise deeper questions within the characters and observers.

I had a hell of a good time lighting this show.  I don’t want to say too much about the design or the story yet – but yes, I did use some 40W fluorescent fixtures in the design of the show, hanging down at thirteen feet in all their bright fluorescent glory.

Thanks to TJ Gerckens, Keya Myers-Alkire (best ME ever), Jennifer Kramer, Whitney Thiessen, Cheryl Rouseau, and all of the CATCO staff.  You guys make a lighting designer feel right at home.

If you’re within travel distance of Columbus or you find yourself in Columbus between June 3 and June 21, 2009, get a ticket to see Blackbird.

Brady Darnell is One Big Bad Wolf

One Big Bad Wolf is a blog by Brady Darnell – Brady is an actor, director, and writer in the Denver area, and he writes mostly about the Denver theatre scene.  Brady had a great article  recently about Joe Dowling, the AD at the Guthrie, and his very ‘awesome’ salary.

As someone who lives in Denver and works in and around the area as a lighting designer and consultant, I can certainly tell you that work is hard to come by lately – me being very new to this area doesn’t help, no matter what my resume or portfolio looks like.  If you’re in the profession, it’s good to be completely up-to-date on what’s playing, who’s working, what’s working, and which theatres are hiring.  Professional theatres are folding all over the country; most recently, the long time Carousel Dinner Theatre in Akron, OH (not to be confused with the Carousel Dinner Theatre in Fort Collins, CO, which is doing okay).

It’s a designer-eat-designer economy right now.

Dolly Parton Saves the 9-to-5 Musical

I have to link this, because it’s fantastic.

A post over at The Light Network listed a blog post from KTLA’s Morning News about Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” musical, slated to open on Broadway in April of 2009.  Apparently the opening night of Dolly Parton’s musical had some technical difficulties, and Dolly saved the day from her seat.  From the article:

Audience members could hear construction equipment like power drills and saws at work while Dolly continued to charm the audience with a talk about the origins of the musical show; as well as introducing her ‘9 to 5’ film co-stars. As the delay continued, Parton offered to take questions from the audience; and then asked if the audience would like for her to sing another song; ‘I Will Always Love You.’ Before beginning the second number Dolly told the crowd, “Maybe I’ll wait, in case things get screwed up again and I have to fill more time.”

Read the whole article at KTLA Morning News’ blog.