Costumes, set, and now lighting design – more from the outstanding team behind Chad Beckim‘s latest play After., with Lighting Designer Greg Goff.
PCP: You’ve designed for quite a few theaters in New York and beyond. What are some of your recent highlights from the past year – whether it be designs for theater, dance, or live performances?
GREG: I had a great time working on Broke-ology with Tazwell Thompson at TheaterWorks Hartford. I think the collaboration between everyone involved really hit the nail on the head in regards to what we wanted to do with the show. Soldiers Tale at Pace University with Jody Oberfelder Dance Projects was another standout because we took the story and put in a modern setting, something not commonly done with that piece. The show had lots of technical elements that both supported the dancing onstage and our ideas of the type of modern story telling we wanted to express.
PCP: Like the rest of our design team, I’m sure you have had times when you’re working on multiple projects at once. What are some of the challenges you face with the differences in projects? What keeps you grounded during those periods (besides coffee)?
GREG: A challenge I face while keeping track of multiple projects is keeping my thoughts and ideas focused on each individual show when I sit back down in the rehearsal room. A way I’ve learned helps me stay focused is to write everything down, for me it’s that simple. When I write something down it becomes engrained in my mind. I love technology, and have moved towards a more digital way of working and tracking progress on shows. However, the minute I’m confirmed as the lighting designer that show gets a yellow pad I keep with me at all times. I keep important details, ideas, budgets, dates, etc. on that pad, it’s with me from the first phone call until opening night.
What keeps me grounded is a balance in my life, which took a very long time to find. I often feel the need for creative expression, but even the most consummate artists need other things like proper sleep, immersion in other arts, and a social life outside of our wonderful theater family. Having this balance in life keeps me hungry to imagine, explore, create, and express every time I sit down in rehearsal or at the tech table.
PCP: What were some of your impressions from your first reading of the play? How have they changed/grown since meeting the rest of the design team?
GREG: My first impressions of the play were various thoughts of two completely different worlds, things that oppose each other. I don’t want to give much away but things like comfort versus fear, or freedom versus oppression. Feelings like those will make their way into the language of the lighting in the play. Hopefully audiences will feel that, either consciously or subconsciously, while experiencing After.
Those impressions have only grown stronger since I’ve had more meetings with Steven and the other designers, but it’s not because everyone intends to do the same. We think our individual pieces make the whole, not all the design elements saying the same thing.
PCP: Last week, we asked our set designer Jason Simms if there was a specific space he loved to design for or wished he could design for. He of course gave a very diplomatic answer, saying that it’s his responsibility “to fall in love” with each space to make the most out of it. Do you feel the same way?
GREG: I do and don’t, for me it’s less about “falling in love” with the theater and more about imagining how it can work for me given how the set interacts with the theater, or if it makes no mention of it. Sometimes set designers intentionally choose not to show parts of the theater, an example of this would be shows that use a lot of masking, be it by blacks or architecture that is hidden behind scenery. Other times set designers leave things open and exposed. In each case my design is in response to what we’ve established in design meetings and what actually comes to fruition onstage after load in. Based on the above I may mask all the fixtures and only light the actors and set, or I may expose some of the lights and highlight elements of the theater itself, or I’ll do some combination of the two.