Don Slater, Lighting Designer, Talks About the Challenges of LETTICE AND LOVAGE


Typically, lighting is one of those aspects of theatre that most patrons cannot recall when you have done a good job of it.  Fortunately, it has been quite a while since I made it through tech week with a bad lighting design (one that the critics noticed). Even if I don’t get mentioned in the reviews, there is still great satisfaction in seeing a well lit show. Lettice and Lovage has some nice opportunities for me to continue in the vein of doing good lighting that few people in the audience are aware of.  L&L departs from many Quotidian shows in that it is set in multiple locations: the front hall of an English stately home and a couple of other, smaller locales.  As is almost always the case in a theatre with limited setting capabilities, some of the location differentiation must be defined by the lighting.  Lettice’s apartment and Lottie’s office are created in the same space on the stage, but will appear quite different through the use of furniture, set dressing, and lighting.

stage_lightsA lot of my design work is drawn from my personal affection for minimalism.  My lighting has a tendency to be somewhat spare, my set designs, even more so.  I have always worked from a limited color palette.  I think of this leaning as a natural extension of reality and feel it is quite appropriate to Quotidian’s mission.  The Writer’s Center has a small lighting rig with only 16 dimmers and I seldom use more than 20 instruments.  However, the rig is adequate for most situations and I have a very high comfort level with it.  On rare occasions do I evenly light the entire stage, more likely to end up with pools of light, darkness in between, and instructions to the cast on how to find their light.  I expect that Lettice and Lovage be treated in this manner.  One of the pleasant aspects of regular work in a small space with a minimal rig is having the luxury of building the design in your head without having to commit it to paper.  When you are dealing with 150 instruments or are new to a space, you just can’t do that.  So, I pretty much know in my head what the show will look like and how I will accomplish most of that look.  I will make the final choices for color and levels in the week before we open.

Working with Quotidian Theatre Company is a labor of love for me.  Jack Sbarbori, the Artistic Director, is quite often the set designer and set dresser.  With over 15 years of collaboration, I find that I instinctively know what he expects of the lighting for a show, especially if he is directing as well.  The other designer, Stephanie Mumford, who does our costumes, also works in controlled familiar palette.  The result of this is a well defined set of prerequisites and an easy framework within to create the lighting.  So it really is a lot of fun.  This is my first outing with Lou Pangaro directing, but I have lit several shows in which he was a member of the cast and he is aware of my idiosyncrasies. And we are all looking forward to opening.

Lettice Douffet, an expert on Elizabethan cuisine and medieval weaponry, is an indefatigable but daffy enthusiast of history and the theatre.  As a tour guide at Fustian House, one of the least stately of London’s stately homes, she theatrically embellishes its historical past, ultimately coming up on the radar of Lotte Schoen, an inspector from the Preservation Trust.  Neither impressed or entertained by Lettice’s freewheeling history lessons, Schoen fires her.  Not one however, to go without a fight, Lettice engages the stoic, conventional Lotte in battle to the death of all that is sacred to the Empire and the crown.  This hit by the author of Equus and Amadeus featured a triumphant award-winning performance by Dame Maggie Smith in London and on Broadway
Our production features Jane Squier Bruns as Lettice Douffet, Leah Mazade as Lotte Schoen, John Decker as Mr. Bardolph, Elizabeth Darby as Miss Framer, with David Johnson and Ruthie Rado.
Directed by Louis Pangaro. Tickets available today!

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