Spotlight September 2015

<![CDATA[Spotlight September 2015: An Interview with Lighting Designer Erin Belpedio & Sightlines with Playwright Carlyle Brown!]]> Spotlight September 2015: An Interview with Lighting Designer Erin Belpedio & Sightlines with Playwright Carlyle Brown!
News, Events, Interviews, and More!
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September 2015
A Note from Wu Chen

This morning, I was talking to playwright and theatre maker Carlyle Brown, who also happens to be this month’s Sightlines contributor. We were talking, as we often do these days, about value, storytelling, powerful theatre, history and the integral role and inherent intelligence of the audience. Interestingly, Lighting Designer Erin Belpedio and I had talked about many similar things in this month’s interview.

Both Carlyle and Erin also talked about technicians and designers. Carlyle told me about a master class lighting designer (and July Sightlines contributor) Mike Wangen gave. The gathering, Carlyle relayed, was rapt as Mike talked about the skill and consideration that went into making seemingly innocuous choices - and the tremendous impact those choices had on the experience of the show.

I was reminded of a time when I was asked why I liked a particular director/designer so much. By way of example, I said that when I asked this person about a random piece of set dressing, he could give me a whole story about it - not just why it was there on a set, but why it was there and present in the lives of the people in the tale unfolding in the world thus created.

And I was reminded of great dance. A brilliant solo is astounding, and an amazing ensemble can be awesome - in the literal sense. I remembered a dance piece in which a simple costume change transformed the entire experience. The clarity and focus was palpable; one couldn’t imagine the performers wearing anything else.

I was reminded of listening to music, and the tremendous technical skill of the musicians, and the many different ways they learn and perform. The power of an excellent sound design.

The paint detail that absolutely no one notices but everyone would notice if it weren’t there.

A character vividly sketched with a few inexplicably instantly revelatory sentences.

Marketing designs so clever you wonder if it was done especially for you.

A stage crew executing a seamless scene change in full view.

A brilliant and cohesive acting ensemble.

A perfectly called show.



-Wu Chen Khoo

co-founder and Operations Director

Technical Tools of the Trade


p.s. We’ve got lots of events coming up, especially in early October, so keep a close eye on the Website and Subscribe to the Facebook page so you don’t miss anything! Our Fall Panel series is going to be especially interesting!

Sightlines: Playwright Carlyle Brown

A Reflection on the Beginning
by Carlyle Brown


My first professional theater production was with Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul in 1986-87 season directed by Artistic Director Lou Bellamy.  The play was The Little Tommy Parker Celebrated Colored Minstrel Show, it was a beautiful production and it is among my most favorite to this day.  The set, designed by Ken Evans, was a 19th century railroad Pullman car sitting on wheels that rested, paused on railroad tracks as if it would race across the stage at any moment.  The visible interior of the Pullman car, with its bunk beds, sofa chairs, and wood stove, where almost exactly as I had waxed on about in the stage directions creating a cluttered, enclosed sense of entrapment. Among the cast members were James Craven, James A. Williams, Marion McClinton and Terry Bellamy.  The acting was fierce and fearless.  I remember on opening night I was in the theater lobby with Lou waiting as my play was about to begin.  We were holding for some reason or other.  I asked Lou two questions.  First, where were all the black people?  Lou said simply, “This is Minnesota.”  And then I asked him what were we waiting for?  And Lou said, “We’re waiting for the wind to come from Minneapolis.”  Apparently Leo Marcus Whitebird, the sound designer had a device that would create the atmosphere of the swirling icy wind in Hannibal, Missouri in the winter of 1895 and he was late driving it over from Minneapolis.  The next day theater critic Peter Vaughan wrote a rave review in the Star Tribune and the next morning Lou and I had breakfast.  He wanted to bring me back, to write another play and he wanted to do it next season.  The subject he suggested was a story about the African Company, the first African-American theater company in America, and their infamous production of Shakespeare’s Richard III in 1821.  Pretty heady stuff and a bit daunting for a guy who had just opened his first professional play, but it was an offer not to be refused.

Read the full article HERE!

Tech Tools Calendar of Events

Basic Rigging: 2-Day Workshop
Friday, September 25th 1:30pm - 5:30pm
Saturday, September 26th 9am - 1pm

Hanging things. Installations, theatre, dance, concerts: no matter what the event, we often find ourselves wanting to hang things from other things. When not done right, it can appear fine while in reality be catastrophic. However, the basic skills are easy to learn and extremely marketable. Unsure how to start? Take this class!

NOTE: Everything in this class is required knowledge for our Ground Rigging and Theatre Rigging workshops. Arena and Theatre Rigging are extremely similar and both use everything covered in this class.

Watch for new panel discussions coming soon...
Visit our Events Calendar for information!

Not seeing something you'd like TTT to offer? Let us know HERE!


Interview: Lighting Designer Erin Belpedio



Erin Belpedio: “It was a backstage job that wasn't acting. My sister had been acting and I wanted to work on the same show but I didn't want to act necessarily. I enjoyed doing the lighting because I loved working with the timing and learning that sort of control which is less seen in theater and is usually done by the stage manager, calling cues. But I liked being able to have that experience.”


Read the full interview HERE!

Wu Chen Recommends...

So as I’ve mentioned before, I think education and learning (which don’t quite line up as often as one would rather like) should be lots and lots of fun. So I’ve been very happy with the excellent MITK12Videos YouTube channel. It is just what it sounds like: MIT students put on STEM videos for K - 12 students. Many of the experiments are extremely accessible and replicable at home. They’re short, too, largely ranging from 4 to 15 minutes - and they’re all quite fun. Many artists do what they do to explore the world around them. This is exactly what these students are doing - and helping others to do as well. Check them out and encourage them!

A little teamwork at the Arena Ground Rigging Basics workshop held at the O'Shaughnessy in St. Paul.  Photo Credit: Megan Engeseth Photography
Photos used in this publication are copyrighted to Farrington Starnes and used with permission. Photos used in this publication are copyrighted to Megan Engeseth Photography and used with permission.
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