In a recent interview with junior theatre major Allie Butemeyer ‘18, she recalled a particularly impactful scene in Trinity’s recent production of Good Kids:
“There was a moment when we took out all the lights so the stage was in complete darkness. All of the actors hit the home buttons on their phone to light up their faces and in this moment the main female character sees the video of her rape. All the actors are assumed to be watching it in darkness, then we put a pale blue spotlight on the main female character as the phone lights turn off and fade into darkness again. It is haunting. It takes your breath away. It is the only way to capture the sadness of that moment.”
|Allie Butemeyer '18 works at the lighting control station in Trinity's Stieren Theatre.|
After taking a lighting design class with theatre professor Tim Francis, Butemeyer became involved in Trinity’s productions as the Assistant Lighting Designer. In this role, she is responsible for designing, hanging, focusing and writing cues for the lighting in the show.
“Like the rest of a show, we want the lighting to look effortless,” Francis said, “which means we have to hide the immense amount of effort put into it.”
An “immense amount of effort” may be an understatement, though. Butemeyer begins the lighting design process by researching how to operate the lighting. With this knowledge in mind, she and Francis discuss the lighting and design concept for the show, including what gobos, which are patterns on the lights, and colors they want to include. As opening approaches, the more technical and labor-intensive work begins. Butemeyer and student workers hang each light individually, lowering the lights so they are out of sight of the audience.
“It’s a balancing act,” Butemeyer laughed, “You have to pick up a heavy light, pray that it won’t fall, and pray that you won’t fall.”
Once the lights are hung, they are patched into a control board so each light can be individually controlled from a console in the theatre. Next, Butemeyer and the student workers balance more than 20 feet above the stage on a narrow lift to focus each light, ensuring that they are are getting a sharp image in the right place on the stage. With hundreds of lights in the theatre, this task is tedious and time consuming.
As the manual labor comes to an end, Butemeyer and Francis begin a process referred to as cue design. “We sit down at the computer and decide when we want one light to turn on and another to turn off for the entire show,” Butemeyer explained, “That way someone can sit at the board during the show and just press go.” This particular step requires collaboration with the stage manager, director, and other members of the production to ensure the lighting coincides with what is happening on stage.
“We don’t see the lights with the actors until the tech rehearsal, so collaboration is crucial to making sure the lights fit the aesthetic of the show,” Butemeyer explained, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an especially unique show because there are basically no limitations to what we can do with the lights. The show has magic and fairies, so that pushes the bounds of creativity for what [Professor Francis] and I can do to make the show come to life.”
|Butemeyer adjusts a light on the catwalk in Stieren Theatre.|
Butemeyer came to Trinity as an engineering major, but after three semesters changed directions to pursue a theatre degree.
“I got involved with theatre freshman year,” she recalled, “But after taking [Professor Francis’] class I thought, ‘I really enjoy this. I could make a career out of this. Why am I not doing this?’”
What’s special about lighting design, though, is that it allows Butemeyer to incorporate her expertise in electrical engineering, a testament to Trinity’s liberal arts model. “Each light has a power source,” Butemeyer explained, “You still have to draw power from somewhere so I still frequently deal with circuits.”
|A Midsummer Night's Dream will run until February 25, 2017.|
“We have a black steps and black flats and all the characters are dressed in black,” Butemeyer explained, “We want the audience to interpret the magic and decide what it means to them.”
Trinity’s theatre department encourages everyone to attend a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which will run until February 25. For information on curtain times and tickets, visit the Current Season page. Courtesy of Trinity’s Student Government Association, 500 Trinity students will receive free tickets to the show on a first come first serve basis. To claim your tickets, visit the box office the night of the production and show your TigerCard.