What is your official position at TDO and how long have you worked with us?
I am the Director of Production and Technical Operations and, at this time, I am working on my 28th season with The Dallas Opera.
How did you get started in the industry?
I started in the opera world in 1976 while a student at the Yale School of Drama. I was hired by the Yale Symphony to build a production of Peter Grimes in Battell Chapel. While doing that, I was offered a job at The Santa Fe Opera for the 1977 season.
What are some of the challenges you anticipate during the upcoming 2019-2020 season?
We have the usual challenge of producing two large shows in rotating repertory. The Golden Cockerel and The Magic Flute are both fairly large shows with multiple scenes (Magic Flute has 12 with several of those having two parts) as well as a few tricks each–such as the aerial entrance of the Queen of the Night in Flute and the trap elevator in Cockerel. So the challenge is assembling the productions quickly, hanging 500 or so lights, focusing all those lights, and then sitting down and developing the light cues that give life to the production and enable the transition from one scene to another make sense. In addition to that, we have to rehearse with the crews on just how to transition from one scene to another and also work out how we do the change over from Flute to Cockerel and back. During all this, we have to rehearse the singers and the orchestra on the stage as well as figure out the logistics of adding several hundred costumes into the mix. And not to be forgotten, is the work to be done to simulcast The Magic Flute to Klyde Warren Park.
What are you most looking forward to in the 2019-2020 season at TDO?
Working with my colleagues. Opera is a wonderful world in that it brings people from all over to collaborate in one place for a number of weeks in order to produce a product. This season, I welcome back several artists whom I have enjoyed working with and sharing laughs with for a number of years, while also welcoming new artists to the Dallas Opera mix.
what has been your favorite production to work on?
I have been in the opera business for 42 years, so, it is a bit hard to pin down one favorite production. Rather than a single favorite, I have a number of favorites. It should be noted that, sometimes, what makes them a personal favorite is not necessarily the quality of the piece but, rather, the circumstance and the process involved in producing the piece. Here they are: The American premiere of the full three-act Lulu in Santa Fe in 1979; the production of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass at the Opera Company of Boston with Sarah Caldwell conducting and directing; The production of Robert Di Domenica’s Balcony at the Bolshoi in 1991. And here in Dallas, I would have to say Billy Budd, The Manuel de Falla Trilogy, Moby-Dick and Everest.
What opera trends do you see on the horizon?
Video, video, video. Video is taking over the stage, both as projections and as video content incorporated into the structure of stage scenery.The other trend I have observed, first hand, is the production of more and more new works, particularly American ones. I have worked on and seen more new works in the last 10 years than I did in the first 30 years of my time on the opera stage.
Resident Lighting Designer: The Dallas Opera
Q: A Lighting Designer is a very niche position. How did you know you wanted pursue that career? Starting in high school I would help with set construction and lighting for the musicals, but I had no idea you could make a living at it. Right out of high school I went to LA for Interior Design School and after a year decided that it was not for me. After spending the summer and part of the winter working at a resort outside of Yellowstone, I went to the University of Wyoming to try to decide where to go next. While I was considering what degree to pursue, I got a job in the theatre department and just stayed. It was there that I realized that you could make a career out of theatre. When I decided that Grad school was the next step, I had to choose a field and lighting felt like the natural choice.
Q:? How did you begin your process for designing this show? I begin by reading and listening to the synopsis, libretto, and music. After that, I enter discussions with the director and designers to see how we want to tell the story. Are we playing it traditional or are we putting a twist to it? If we are stepping away from traditional, how far will we go? What season is it? What time of day? What mood are we trying to set? That all ends up influencing the design approach: the colors, the equipment, the angle and so on. After we agree on the design approach, I look for paintings or images that reflect the emotional journey of the story. This gives me a starting point for each scene from which I can develop the full arc.
Q: Lighting is more than just the audience’s ability to see the actors on stage. Can you elaborate on what lighting a show really means?
Lighting helps tells the story through mood, ambience, color, and focus. For example, even if you’re in a very bright scene, I can make one area a little brighter and that is where the audience will focus their attention. The quality of the light in a scene has a major effect on how the action and emotion is perceived. Lighting can really help propel the story forward.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
Everywhere. Walking down the sidewalk, seeing shadows of the trees. The light reflecting off of buildings, paintings in museums, concerts. What the sky is like in different parts of the country or the world: Dallas vs Wyoming or Santa Fe, for example. The world is a festival of lighting design choices.
Q: What would you say to the next generation wanting to work in this industry? What do they need to bring?
They need to be a gap-filler. By that I mean they need to take every chance they can get no matter how small, i.e. don’t be afraid to be an assistant. The knowledge you can get from a position like that is invaluable. Everything moves so fast, the better you can educate yourself, the better you’ll be at your craft.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in the 2019-2020 season at TDO?
I am most looking forward to designing Pulcinella. I’m excited to design a dance piece; this is an exciting opportunity to tell a story through primarily movement. And dancers are fun to light!!