We all have different ways of making art, I suppose. I've been yammering on about Discover Color in concept now for months, but this weekend I got to get away from a keyboard and on my feet actually making it. Lighting Design is a particular kind of art, generally speaking you need someone or something to light to start with. That means, inevitably you go last. Your work is the last thing people see and so it might feel like you're not rally engaged early on in the process. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the lighting designer, you must patiently wait your turn, even if you thought of the project in the first place.
Becky has taken Scott's music and added choreography that is pitch perfect. The intention was always the movement equivalent of a Rorschach test. People should be able to see it and make meaning out of it themselves. The colored light will be the determining factor. After sitting in on a few rehearsals I could see that Laura and Erica were going to execute the choreography perfectly. So now it was up to me to bring in lighting that was going to actually accomplish what I had set out to do in the first place. Help the audience Discover Color.
That was the mission of the weekend - and it was a busy one. I spent Friday afternoon/evening loading in the lights for Discover Color. Then Saturday morning I sat on the couch in my living room with a power supply, the light board for the show, and two of the lights I'll be using and created color combinations timed out to the music/choreography. I had always planned on working it out this way. You see coming up with this color combinations was going to take me hours. Making sure the timing worked to the track and finding combinations that worked in sequence wasn't going to be easy. There are 38 distinct looks in the show, only one of which is ever repeated. Every one of those color combinations had to be created and timed. So I sat with a stopwatch, staring at the two walls of my living room testing color combinations and programming them into the light board. Testing the timing and correcting as I went.
The result was a series of cues that time out perfectly to the music and choreography. But would they work when translated over the lights…
Before I could find out, other duties called. Saturday evening I was booked for a wedding in Manhattan at a location called Studio 450. This space could have been used for Discover Color. It is an all white venue on the west side overlooking the Hudson river and a tiny portion of the High Line. The couple booked me through a partnership I have with a music company called Scratch Weddings. They signed up for a package we call the dance floor lighting package. It's a simple 6-light package just meant to make the dance floor more exciting. In this space, however, the splash of color provided by the up lights was a super fun addition to the space. It also continued my day of exploring different color combinations and their effects on how we see color. I like working weddings because I can follow along with the music and have a little fun. Bouncing through the infinite color combinations from the LEDs I was able to create a series of colors in rhythm with the music all the while taking mental notes…would this combination look good for Discover Color?
The next morning meant no rest for the weary. I had unloaded the wedding gear and loaded the gear for Discover Color back into the car. Then headed out to the venue for rehearsal. This would be the moment where we see how good a job I did. After hauling all the heavy gear up the three flights of stairs and setting it up there I got a chance to see if the looks I had written the day before would work in conjunction of the space, the choreography and the lighting rig.
It's my pleasure to be able to tell you - they did. It was a surprise even for me. I had planned it all out, tested everything at home, and watched rehearsal videos countless times. Yet, I'm always surprised when it all works. This did.
There are still some tasks to do. I have to figure out some of the physical logistics like hanging the scrim (which will happen late tonight) and how I'm going to set up the massive light board in the least intrusive way possible, but those are details I can work out. For now, we're in good shape.
One last thing, spending a morning looking at color combinations in fine detail as lights blasted against the walls of my apartment tuned me in to color in the world around me. Next time you see a sunset that strikes you, really pay attention to it. You'll start to see surprising color everywhere.