Symposium presentation tonight!

The Kennedy Center.

Tonight at the Theatre Simpson Symposium, senior theatre majors will present their research papers from the Theatre Seminar class.  Each seminar class is developed around a theme.  Last year the focus was on Vaclav Havel and political theatre.  This year the theme is The John F. Kennedy Center: Fifty Years at the Nation’s Performing Arts Center.  Throughout all of 2011 the Kennedy Center is honoring the 50th anniversary of the innaguration of President John F. Kennedy.  This semester the three seniors, Emily Ledger, Kelsey Swanson, and Tiffany Flory, have been reading and discussing the Kennedy Center for the Performing Art’s history and it’s impact on American society. 

Tiffany Flory, a senior who has been contributing to the blog this semester, has to say about the Kennedy Center:

“A National Cultural Center of the Performing Arts was first mentioned during the Eisenhower administration. However, John F. Kennedy was the one who really started organizing the creation of this center.  Kennedy and Eisenhower both found it sad that the most powerful nation in the world did not even have a national theatre to enrich the American culture.  Kennedy was assassinated before the project was completed, but it was determined that the National Cultural Center would still become a reality and would be named after the man who was a true advocate for the arts and culture of America. That is how the National Cultural Center became known as the Kennedy Center, the ‘living memorial’ of John F. Kennedy.

To hear more about what we have been studying join us tonight at the Theatre Symposium.  Each of us will present a topic related to the Kennedy Center, digging deeper into the significance of John F. Kennedy and his memorial. The symposium is at 7:00 p.m. March 30 in the Barnum Studio Theatre of the Blank Performing Arts Center.  The event is free and open to the public.”

The bust of John F. Kennedy in the lobby of the Kennedy Center.

Turn on the lights: guest lighting designer at Theatre Simpson

The stones look on as the father takes Eurydice into the string room he has built.

To increase the educational opportunities for our students, Theatre Simpson brings guest artists in to work on our productions and share their expertise with the company and our patrons.  Recent guest artists have served as fight director, musical direction, set designer, Shakespearean vocal coach, and lighting designer. 

Tiffany Flory was able to work with Jason Amato, the guest lighting designer for our production Eurydice that closes today.  Here is what Tiffany had to say about working with Jason:

Cool shadows, interesting texture, amazing color, and shooting ELECTRICITY!  The design by Jason Amato for Eurydice is something I’ve never seen in my four years here at Theatre Simpson.  While I was watching him put together his light cues, I was surprised at his process and how fast he did it. 

Orpheus enters the Underworld

I asked him how he came up with his design and he said he analyzes the script almost like a director. “I look at the intention and the motivation of the script and then I take that and put it into the lights.”  When I took an introductory lighting design class I learned the basics about lighting the actors and setting the mood.  Jason makes it look very simple to yet it looks really cool.  While talking with him after a show he told me a fun story about how when he has an assistant he will ask them after a particular moment, dance number, or song what the assistant thinks about it.  Usually their answer is “It looked awesome!” He then challenges that response by asking: what did it mean? If they didn’t know, Jason would share with them his favorite motto, “If you don’t know what it means, then you can’t light it.”

From working on the beginning of this process and now seeing the final product, I understand what he means in his motto. His design is full of emotion and every light has a specific purpose to enhance the intention of that moment. Overall this was a great experience and this has been a wonderful learning experience.

Lighting designer Jason Amato.

Theatre Simpson Welcomes Another Guest Artist

This blog entry submitted by senior theatre major Tiffany Flory:

Jason Amato, guest lighting designer for Eurydice

Last semester we were lucky enough to have Amber Miller come in as a guest set designer for the production of The Learned Ladies. This semester Theatre Simpson is fortunate to have a guest lighting designer for our spring production of Eurydice. The week before spring break, Jason Amato spent the week with the lighting crew putting the finishing touches onto his design.

Before Jason came to Indianola, there was a lot of work that had to be done so that we would be ready to work on what he needed us to do. Caleb Carver was the assistant to the lighting designer, which meant that he stayed in direct contact with Jason to maintain communication between Jason and the crew.  At Simpson the light crew consists of four people. I am the lighting undergraduate assistant (UGA) as well as the master electrician for Eurydice, also Kelsey Swanson, Meghan Vosberg, and Chris Schaben work on the lighting crew.  The four of us, plus Caleb, hung and circuited the light plot that Jason sent before he came.

Caleb Carver, assistant lighting designer, focusing a light from the cats.

Working with Jason was a great experience.  Jason has won many awards for his light designs as well as worked at many professional theatres (mostly around Texas where he is from).  The first day he came, we all got to catch a nice dinner at the local Mexican restaurant, La Casa, and talked about his life, lighting experience, and how La Casa’s salsa was like tomato paste compared to the salsa that he is used to in Texas.  After chatting at lunch, it was time to really work hard at focusing all of the lights and gelling (meaning to add color) to create the mood for his design.  Because Jason is used to working with professional electricians, he taught us a lot about fast tricks to focus, organizational skills, and kept us all on our toes to be fast and efficient.  Having Jason come in and working with him was an exceptional experience and not only was it apparent how talented he was, but he was extremely easy to work with and a lot of fun.

Meghan Vosberg working on one of the foot lights.