Not long ago, I wrote a post here, offering my thoughts on the remarkable lighting and set design by, respectively, Herrick Goldman and Beowulf Boritt. Within a week or two of its appearance, David Barbour reviewed the same show in the magazine he edits “Lighting & Sound America”. The contrast between our articles is worth noting – and that’s the reason for this follow up.
Before we go any further, let me tell you that you can read Barbour’s brilliant and comprehensive piece in the September edition of L&SA or at http://www.lightingandsoundamerica.com/climateofeden.pdf
After first commenting that the music, lyrics and book of the show were “undistinguished”, I drew the conclusion that the designers made all the difference in the audience’s perceptions of the show by doing what most lighting teachers say just ain’t done: drawing attention to the lighting. Here was my take:
“Herrick Goldman lit it brilliantly, with cues aligned with the music, and/or the lyrics or the dialogue. He used a variety of gobos and Roscolux colors to enliven and illuminate the small stage. But perhaps most important, he used a Rosco X-24 projector to provide both animation and depth to the color and the gobos. This artful design added immeasurably to what was happening on the stage. The key component here wasn’t the Roscolux, the gobos or even the Rosco X-24 – much as I wish that were true – it was the talent and courage of the designers and the director to make the lighting a significant additional character in the show.”
But David Barbour, who is certainly a keener and more insightful observer, had a much more comprehensive view. First, quoting Goldman, he noted that the director suggested that the designers draw on the work of Shag, aka Josh Agle, an artist of pop-inspired works. Goldman said: “everything in Falling For Eve is in Shag’s palette. Because he uses a lot textures, it gave me control over color and texture, rather than angle, which is what I normally would have had” (The ceiling in the theatre is quite low and Beowulf’s set was all white.)
So the first lesson to be learned here is that the designer wasn’t choosing random colors; he was using a specific palette and collaborating with the director on that palette.
The next lesson was revealed in this paragraph from the L&SA story:
“The lighting had many programmatic aspects; the downstage portal was bathed in golden tones for scenes in which Adam and Eve were together and happy in Eden. The blue-on-blue look signaled the onset of nighttime or moments when the action turned scary for Adam and/or Eve.”
Quoting Herrick Goldman, the article when on to say: “Many of the blue gobos had scrollers in front of them, so we could change the tonality or make them disappear by putting the blue color in front of them. When Eve first discovered the ocean, we pulled out the colors and the whole sky lit up with a cool, watery feeling.”
Sitting in the audience, I totally missed Goldman’s artful use of color to change moods … but I sure as hell got the emotional impact. In other words, the designer used colors subtly to enhance the dialogue on stage, and succeeded (at least for me). But it was so skillfully and carefully done that I, the Vice President of a color filter company, wasn’t even aware of it!
So, my kudos to Herrick Goldman and to all the theatrical lighting designers who are making both good and bad plays works better. Even in a musical like “Falling For Eve”, where bright, splashy colors are de rigeur, there is opportunity to improve the production, as Goldman did, with smart subtlety and clever use of colors.