Theatre’s Woman of Light

Anyone can comment on stunning performances by actors, elaborate sets and glitzy costumes. But it takes a trained eye to recognize lighting design and its monumental impact on the quality of a show. This year, while Instructor in Theatre and lighting expert Billy Murray is on Sabbatical, Jen Philp is responsible for lighting the stages of Andover’s theaters. After attending graduate school at the University of Illinois, Philp is spending the year at Andover, designing the lights for approximately ten major productions. Philp took time out from her busy schedule to speak with The Phillipian about her experiences with technical theater. Phillipian: What got you interested in technical theatre? Jen Philp: Going to see theatre. It was interesting to me to see how they did tech. It was fun, because I tried to figure it out how they did it on my own. P: Did you try out any other kinds of tech work before settling on lighting? Why did you end up choosing it? JP: I tried costuming, set design and stage management, but lighting was definitely my favorite. I liked being able to mold the picture, especially when there wasn’t a set. I liked being able to tell the story. Lighting is a good way to express what’s going on with the mood and location. P: How do you go about designing the lights for a show? JP: First, I read the script for fun. Then I reread it for clues that the playwright suggests. Then, I talk with the director and the other designers for inspiration. P: How are your designs affected by the set and costume designs? JP: Lighting is affected by the color choices in a show, especially those of the sets and costumes. By using lights, you can make one color look like another on the stage. P: What’s different about designing lights for plays and designing lights for dance shows? JP: With a scripted play, the playwright gives you lots of clues in the text, whereas with dance you go by the mood of the music and ideas given to you by the choreographer. P: What will you be doing in the coming terms? JP: This term, I’m designing the lights for Love’s Labour’s Lost, as well as for the Dance Open. I’m designing the lights for [the Theatre 520 production] The Diviners, the spring dance concert, and Twelfth Night (the Junior show). I’m also acting as an advisor for the Broadway Review. P: How can PA students get involved in technical work? JP: First of all, through our workshops. In the workshops, students learn how to use lighting instruments. We also hang lights for the productions and focus them. Students can also sign up to work on the tech crew of a show, running the light and sound boards, stage managing, or working backstage on the running crew. Finally, students can talk to the [Drama Lab] Producers about helping out with [student directed] theatre classroom shows. P: What are your plans after Andover? JP: I don’t know! [laughs] I either want to continue to train somewhere, or design for professional theatre.