By Tracy Gallinghouse
The stage lighting designer is traditionally responsible for the design and supervision of all aspects of lighting for a typical stage production and collaborates with the director to ensure that all aspects of the production are properly – and suitably – illuminated. As professional stage lighting designer Bill Williams says, everyone fully expects the lighting designer to “perform magic, miracles and to make the sets, costumes and actors...'look fabulous.’”
(Paul Wood Photography)
Ginny Award-winning Lighting Designer Carlos Nine recently returned to Slidell Little Theatre after a stint as lighting designer at King’s Dominion Amusement Park in VA and was recruited to design the lights for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His first exposure to theatre was shortly after Hurricane Katrina with the 2005 production of The Gifts of the Magi. Eager to learn more, he was hooked when he worked backstage during the Young Actors Theatre of Slidell (YATS) production of Seussical.
Carlos has a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Southern Mississippi, with an emphasis in Lighting Design, and he plans to pursue a Masters in Lighting Design.
Carlos recently agreed to a Q & A session for insight into his work and the art of light design.
Q: How did you get involved with theatre, and what made you want to become a lighting designer?
NINE: I became involved in theatre in 2005 right after Katrina. The first show that I saw was The Gifts of the Magi. The show was so much fun to watch, and after that moment I knew that I wanted to be involved in theatre in some form. I was asked to do backstage for the YATS show Seussical. This was the first thing I ever did. After that I went from backstage to spotlight, to light board operator. Something about being on a light board was really fun to me, and I knew that I wanted to learn more about that aspect of theatre. In college, the Dean of the Theatre Department asked me what I wanted to do. At that moment I was still unsure of my decision, but I knew that I had to take a shot, and learn more about lighting. He directed me to the lighting and sound professor, and he put me in his intro to lights and sound class. I never looked back from that moment. Everything I learned about lighting was all due to a risk I took, and something I knew would be fun to try, now I am making a living out of it and still happy with it.
Q: I love how the right lighting can make a set come to life. My personal favorite examples of your lighting design were the primary colors for the TYA show, “Goodnight, Moon” and last year’s show, “Arsenic and Old Lace.” What is/are your personal favorites?
NINE: Wow, tough question, only because I love a lot of my shows. I know that a couple of my favorite moments were in three shows, and funny enough they were all showcase pieces. One director’s qualifying piece for the department was Eleemosynary. She had taped out three squares that were used as specific places, and each one of the ladies’ moments of the play. I ended up putting one light on each square, and making the light shine inside each square one at a time. Those created some nice moments in the show, and created some great moments between the actors. Another show is Exit the King, this show was another directing piece. At the end of the show, I had three lights on the king’s platform: one to hit his face, one straight above him to create the shadows of death on his face, and one under the platform to show his soul dying. Coming up with that was not something that I thought would work, but ended up making the death seem so much heartfelt than it actually would have been if I just took all lights down. The third and final show was The Last 5 Years, The Musical. The scene was with Cathy singing her audition song in front of the curtain, and as soon as the song was ending, Jamie was pounding on the door behind the curtain. The second the curtain opens, all you saw was a reddish-orange color spilling on the stage, and hitting Jamie in the back, and his shadow on the door. The moment of him slamming on the door, and that color hitting him was a powerful moment in the show, and I loved how I was able to make that moment become really powerful.
Q: If you could design lights for any show, what would it be and why?
NINE: There are so many shows that I wish I could design. I think if I had to pick one show, for a musical, I would love to design You're a Good Man Charlie Brown. For a straight play, I would love to design Death of a Salesman.
Q: What are the challenges of designing light for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream?”
NINE: Designing Midsummer versus designing any other show is so hard to do. With Midsummer you have such a free range to design with. The description is not like "A suburban house with a bay window." It's a fantasy feel, and a free range with colors, and looks. It's not an easy piece to design sometimes. It all depends on what the director is looking for, and how they are planning to style the show. I like it, only because I love a good challenge.
Q: I know you just finished working for King’s Dominion Amusement Park in Virginia. How did that differ from designing lighting for a theatrical show?
NINE: Working at an amusement park versus a theatre are two complete different spectrum. At a theatre you have months to prepare for a show, at Kings Dominion, we don't have that much time. Also, the shows range from a BMX style stunt show, to an outdoor show, to a singing show. During Haunt in October, we got an acrobat show, and a show that is the same style as "Stomp." So dealing with all these shows can get pretty crazy when something goes wrong in each one, but it is a really fun challenge to have. The best part is all the people I have met through each show, and in the entertainment department alone.
Q: Do you approach each job the same?
NINE: I do not approach each one the same way. Lighting an amusement park show is designing with music, not scenes in a script. You don't deal with settings or emotions, you deal with the beat of the music, and how crazy you can make it be. I like both aspects, because it's nice to be able to do both in lighting, but sometimes I do miss sitting down, and dissecting a script for looks, and cues.
Q: Musicals or Plays?
NINE: I love to design musicals. You can do a lot more fun lighting with musicals.
Q: What is next for Carlos Nine?
NINE: I will be going back to Kings Dominion for a second season. I love my work up there, and I feel like I still have so much more to learn, and a lot more growing to do as a designer. The park is really helping me with that. Keep posted on my Facebook page, "Carlos Nine Lighting and Sound Designer" Or my website Carlosninedesigns.com.
Examples of Carlos Nine's Lighting Design
1.) Above is from a production of Arsenic and Old Lace at Slidell Little Theatre. This is the pre-show look.
2.) One of my favorite looks is from The Importance of Being Earnest. This was in the second act. I love the way the LED’s fell on the white cyclorama. I won a Ginny for Best Lighting for this production.
3.) This is from a production of Exit the King at the University of Southern Mississippi. It was a special directing project by Kristopher Kuss. This look is so strong to the show, because it created an alley for the actor to follow. I called the look a “death stroll.” He was walking to his death, so it made sense to create an alley for him to walk through.
4.) The Last 5 Years is a show about beautiful moments, and lots of heartbreak. This is the moment when Jamie (Darren Hayes) is trying to get Cathy to listen to him. The curtain opened up to this look of one orange light coming from behind him. It made the scene and the feel of the moment so powerful. This was also a special Directing project at the University of Southern Mississippi.
5.) This is from a production of Legally Blonde the Musical with Theatre 13 at Rivertown. The Greek chorus is doing the Delta Nu pose while Emmit (Sam Dudley) sings his final note in the song. I love how the Greek chorus is the pop of purple, with the spotlight on Emmit only.