Behind the Scenes
Name: Jeff Quinn
City of Residence: Miami
Occupation: Lighting Designer/Teacher
Credits and Awards: Carbonell Best Lighting Design
Awards for The Goat and Frozen. Curtain Up Best Lighting Design
Awards for Boy Gets Girl, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Frozen.
Exhibited at World Stage Design 2005, Toronto. Upcoming exhibit at the Prague
Quadrenniel, June 2007. Approximately 500 scenic and lighting designs for
theater, dance, opera, and special events.
How long have you been a lighting designer?
What got you interested in lighting?
My sophomore year in high school, I noticed a lot of interesting people
around the theatre, so I started hanging out there too, and it turned out that
auditions were already over, but not all the production positions were filled.
So I did the lighting for The Importance of Being Earnest. It
What is involved in creating the lighting for a show?
Everything. The goal is to create a unique and interesting environment for
the show that fits it so well it seems necessary, and to find a pace for
changing that environment that both suits and augments the work of the director,
cast, other designers, and playwright. And of course, the scenery, the
costumes, and the cast have to look good.
How much of your direction for lighting is in the
script and how much
is of your own design?
There’s a great deal in most scripts, and that creates a broad outline. The
scenic design, the director’s blocking and intentions, and the mood that can be
felt in rehearsal add specificity. Then I try to respond.
How has lighting a show changed over the years?
The most important change is that it is easier to handle projections now, so
that texture is a quality of light most designers now play with most of the
time. When I started, it felt cutting edge to try projections at all. Most of
the other changes are simply about more: we use more cues, more dimmers, more
electricity, more and brighter lights, more color, more movement. And there is
usually not more time to work in the theater, so we are relying ever more on
pre-planning by computer to stay organized enough to get the job done.
What shows present the biggest challenges?
It’s not always the ones that will obviously be challenging—musicals and
multi-scene dramas that require a lot of changes. Sometimes the biggest
challenge is to make the “simple” show come alive, to be unique.
What inspires you?
I look for inspiration everywhere—in the work of other artists, in and out
of the theater, in nature, in my collaborators, in my students, in daily life.
What are the hallmarks of good lighting?
It fits the play. Usually, that means it tells a story.
What do you consider your proudest professional moment?
Every opening night that goes well, and most of them do. There have been
many moments that seemed, and were, uniquely important at the time, but then the
next show comes along, and it’s the most important project ever.
What show or project have you most enjoyed working on and why?
I enjoy nearly all of them, but a few stick out. Frozen at
GableStage, despite a macabre subject, brought together a great team and a very
pointed script, and we were able to exceed our own high expectations through
hard work and luck. Nefertiti, the Musical at the Parker Playhouse was a
chance to work in a bit more detail and with a bit more equipment than usual,
and I was very pleased with how that design turned out. Angels in
America at New Theatre was an exquisitely impossible task—how to create the
sweep of that epic play in that tiny space with a limited budget. It forced us
all to make bolder choices than we might have in a better-equipped theater, and
I thought resulted in especially fine work. This Is How It Goes is a
script that invents its own genre, and that pushed all of us at GableStage to
invent a style of presentation that could be relaxed and pleasant and insidious
What is the best thing about working in South Florida theatre?
It’s wonderful growth. I came here in 1985. The growth in both the
quantity and quality of professional theater in South Florida since then is just
amazing, and it has been exciting to be a part of it.
Current and upcoming projects:
Several TBA plays at GableStage this season
The grand opening of the Ziff Ballet Opera Theater at the Carnival Center
The musical Parade at New World School of the Arts
An awards show for the American-Hispanic Advertising Association