The industry today isn’t the same as it was years ago. In the next 10 to 20 years, there will be better lighting boards and better lights. LEDs are slowly taking over. There are obvious advantages: they are very small and they don’t get warm so you can hide them in the set, they hardly draw any power, and they can all do colour mixing so they are perfect for the corporate world, but they pose some serious challenges in the theatre. They are still very cold, they flicker as they dim and most fixtures don’t have doors or shutters so they spill all over the place. I use them often for specific effects, but they can’t replace the incandescent lamp just yet. Despite those changes, I don’t see the role of the lighting designer changing any time soon. It hasn’t changed since the 40’s. While the technology behind projection design is evolving very quickly, it’s geared more towards the corporate world than the theatre.
Coming from a country as small as Israel, I didn’t have any official training. Most shows travel, but the designers don’t go on the road with those shows, so I learned my trade by taking other people’s designs on the road. I wasn’t planning on becoming a lighting designer so I just learned from experience. Unlike set or costume designers, a lighting designer has to be creative under pressure. We don’t have months to think about it beforehand, as time in the theatre is expensive and usually very limited, so we have to do the bulk of our work with the director and actors watching.
If you’re a student aspiring to go into lighting design, go see a lot of shows. Major in theatre or film. Learn how to be a good technician, try to know all the lighting boards. Learn how to do many things, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and try to gain as much experience as you can. That’s how I learned. After moving to Canada in 1999, I worked as a lighting board programmer at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre for a year, where I met most of the other lighting designers in town. I learned to observe their process, which was instrumental in my development. When I started designing I would design anything I could get my hands on; I did high school shows, fringe festivals, co-ops, universities, anything to gain experience and get time in the theatre.
I design about 15 shows a year, I get to travel around the world and meet a lot of wonderful people. That’s the thing I value most about this job: the friends I’ve made over the years. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in Brazil, the Netherlands, the US, Germany and anywhere between Yukon and Newfoundland, and I made friends everywhere I’ve been. There is a real sense of community around the theatre world in Canada. I have close friends all over this country and I get to work with them again and again and develop artistic chemistry over many years, which is very exciting.