Our series of backstage videos on “The Art of Theatre” continues with an interview with Ed Hunter, Lighting Designer for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder. Ed talks about the challenges of lighting a complicated show like this one, how many people it takes to do the job, and the role technology plays in making it possible. The show is currently playing at the Saratoga Civic Theater through October 19, 2019. Tickets are available at southbaymt.com/shows/ticket-sales/gentlemans-guide/ or by calling 408-266-4734.
Watch the three-minute video below, or read the transcript that follows. Enjoy!
My name is Ed Hunter, and I am the lighting designer for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.
How are you adding color to the show?
Even with a black and white set, there is still a lot of opportunity to add color. Some of it is subtle, like the changes I make to the back wall of the different departments. And some of it’s much more bold. So just like during Lady Hyacinth’s song, as she’s traveling around the world, and I’ll change the color of the back wall to represent the different countries that she travels to.
What special lighting effects are you using?
There is a fun effect for the bishop falling from the tower: a kind of swirl that I do with the lights like something out of an old Hitchcock movie. As the bishop is falling, it gives you the sense that the world is swirling around him before he hits the ground.
How hard is it to light a show like this?
It does take a fair amount of time to get things done. First you need to hang additional lights on all the pipes in the theater. Then you have to get up there and focus them, which means pointing the lights at the places you need them to be pointed at. Then, finally, you create all of the cues or changes for the show in the lighting. These get stored in the lighting computer. For this particular show, there’s just over three hundred light cues and sound cues combined. And the stage manager will call or say, “Go!” for 240 of those cues. So that’s a cue about every 40 seconds or so during the show.
How many people does it take to run lights?
I did the design and planning, but I had the help of a master electrician, who runs the crew, and a programmer who programs the light board, a light board operator who actually runs the show. And also, I have two follow spot operators, so when you add all those people to the people who help put the show in, that’s about ten people on the light crew.
How has technology changed the lighting game?
The big change in the lighting technology has been the introduction of LED lights. All right. You can see that in the show because when the back wall changes color suddenly, that’s the LED lights. And that happens, you see, during Lady Hyacinth’s song as she’s traveling back and forth around the world. Also, the computers that we use to run lighting have become a lot more sophisticated over the years.
What do you like most about Gentleman’s Guide?
From a lighting standpoint, it’s dealing with the stage within a stage. It’s working to make all of the different locations look like they’re really different with lighting. And so I spent a lot of time thinking about that.
How do you measure success?
If I’m successful at doing what I’m trying to do, then you’ll barely notice that I’ve been there. And the lighting will just be part of the show.
Why should people come see the show?
You should come and see A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder because it’s a fun romp. Between the cast, the sets, the props, the wigs, and the lighting, it makes for a great evening of theatre.