Tech: Part One: Lights

Part One: Lights

It is 10 p.m. Rehearsal is over, the actors are gone. But work for Clint Bryson is just beginning.

Though he designs and builds sets for the drama department at Catalina Foothills High School, Bryson is the lighting designer for The Winter’s Tale. He began in theatre as an actor, but he discovered a passion for working backstage in college.

Bryson admitted that he’s not adept in the graphic arts. “With painting, my hands just don’t work that way,” he said. Lighting is a good balance between the artistic and the technical. “It’s painting with light on a three dimensional black canvas.”

This evening, Bryson is hooking up the lights. The process takes about 8 hours, spread over a couple of days. “One of the fun challenges here is that every show is a different configuration,” Bryson said, referring to the theatre’s changing setup.

For Winter’s Tale, the stage is pushed back farther than normal, with two sections on either side for the musicians. There is a large section jutting out in the middle, the audience surrounding it on three sides. This means that Bryson must figure out how to treat all three sides equally.

There’s an old adage in the theatre that the lights are something that shouldn’t be noticed. They serve to enhance and support the play, not be the focus. The lights are essential in driving the emotion and energy people experience. “It’s a lot of fun to have that kind of manipulation of an audience,” he said.

He’s not the sole creative force behind the look of the lights. The process began with script consultation and style discussion with the director before he applied his knowledge. He typically watches one rehearsal near the end of the process to help make final lighting decisions.

The design process, according to Bryson is  “adding your artistic stamp and ideas to a collaborative group of people that have a vision for the show.”

As an example, he explained how music influences his decisions. Like lighting, it helps set the emotion in a scene. Hearing the music can help pinpoint the specific emotion underlying the moment.

He then turns to the small swatch books full of colors, searches through the subtleties for just the perfect color.

Though Bryson designed the lights, he won’t be running them for the show. The stage manager, Leah Taylor, will ensure the cues run smoothly during the performance.