Creating Lighting Designs

By Josh Epstein, lighting designer, Into the Woods and A Midsummer Nights Dream

Josh Epstein

Theater design of all types often begins by thinking about metaphors. As designers we try to get to the heart of what the playwright is saying and find a visual way to enhance or clarify that message. Sometimes it is about establishing a grounded, “real” place to set the play in and sometimes it is about creating an abstraction. When you are working on two plays at once there is an additional challenge of trying to find the commonalities between two completely separate works to create some sort of through-line between the two: from Shakespeare to Sondheim and back again. In the case of both of these plays the most obvious commonality is the woods. As a designer I have spent a lot of time thinking 

Working on the lighting for the Rep. Photo by Laura Pates.

about how these woods should feel for the actors and the audience. And in the end I came to the realization that it is less about literal trees and bushes and more about the idea of journey. And from a lighting point of view that meant finding a way to evolve the space and embrace the exploration without grounding the location too specifically. I have tried to create an environment where we can evolve from a starting point where there the lighting reveals everything and has a sense of solidity and architecture to a world that is full of shadow and texture. The characters adventure from what feels like a world with a clear and steady footing to a place that hides mysteries and the unknown and they emerge on the other side. I hope the audience joins them as they discover and relate to the journey for themselves.

Come see Into the Woods and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at PlayMakers November 1 – December 7. For tickets, call 919.962.PLAY (7529) or visit our website.