Photo by Christina Hallowell

Theatrical lighting isn’t just about illuminating the actors so you can see them, it’s about creating an environment. In the following interview, Stephen Jones, the lighting designer for our five mainstage productions discusses working in repertory, creating the world of each play, and the magic of designing Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Q. Tell us a little bit about Stephen Jones
A. I’m a Theatrical Lighting and Scenic Designer and a member of USA (United Scenic Artists). I freelance as a professional designer across the country specializing in dance, ballet specifically, concert events, and regional theater. I am also on the faculty at Vassar College as Head of Design and have served as Director of Theater.

Q. Does your previous experience include repertory theaters like TAM?
A. I’ve previously designed for repertory theater, that’s actually how began a career outside of dance. I love the challenge.  A traditional non-repertory setting presents its own challenges in that you have to design with one play in mind, specifically. So if you’re designing Romeo and Juliet, with scenes in multiple locations, you have only a finite amount of scenes for which you’re going to be creating environments. In a repertory setting, it’s extremely challenging because now you’re compounding that by however many productions there are in the season, in this case, five. The idea of still shaping and sculpting and creating art while finding a common thread throughout all five productions is a huge challenge, and I think it’s one that most lighting designers really relish. It tests not just your ability to provide the fundamentals, which is illumination, but how you can sculpt and create the mood and accentuate and heighten the story using a finite palette. If you’re a painter and you’re given four colors and you’re told to create fifteen paintings with just those four colors, it really brings out a lot more creativity than creating one painting with 300 colors.

Q. Tell us about how you sculpt and create the mood for Midsummer.
A. The challenge for creating the worlds in Midsummer is, how do you shape these moments from Athens, which is so stark and rigid, into a world that is full of themes and dreams? Jim [Alexander], the scenic designer and I have been collaborating a lot. He has given me a fantastic canvas to begin to move back and forth between these worlds. Specifically, we are approaching [the design] from a very expressionistic standpoint. As you   watch this production, I think what’s going to be exciting is to see how color contrast plays in the magical moments between Oberon and Titania. You have this dreamlike world that is the magical forest and then come back to the cold, hard reality of the lovers.


Stephen and members of the 2015 Company at the Opening Night celebration for Fallen Angels.

As a lighting designer, there’s a convention of using specific angles in concert with color to really shape the scene. Lighting design for this show is more than just bringing up some light on the actor randomly. It’s about picking up moments and sculpting them much like a classical painting would be presented. There will be the use of really saturated colors and patterns projected across the stage to give this illusion of being in the forest with moonlight coming through the branches of the trees. That’s the direction that we’re going.

Q. Do you have a favorite moment in the show?
A. I think [you have to look at] the entire product as a whole. There are plenty of moments, but to pick one moment in isolation would be like looking at one corner of a painting. You really have to step back and enjoy the ride of going from one moment to the next and how those things seamlessly interplay with one another.