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Beyond the Lights: A Conversation with Theater Professionals
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Beyond the Lights: A Conversation with Theater Professionals

Author: Mary Beth Smith

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Welcome to Beyond the Lights: A Conversation with Theater Professionals. Theater is a community event and it takes a village to operate. From actors to designers to company managers to teaching artists to data nerds and dramaturgs and everything in between. So join me weekly to learn more about each person's journey and the "hustle" we call theater as we go Beyond the Lights.
56 Episodes
On today's show, I speak with Tom Ontiveros, a lighting and projection designer as well as a professor and chair of the theater department at the University of La Verne. Tom has such an interesting and unexpected from starting college as a biology major, to working at the Museum of Natural History in LA, to finding himself as an emergency professor for one semester in Pennsylvania and falling in love with teaching. While I could keep going about Tom's journey, I feel it's better to let the rest of it unwind on its own in this conversation.For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode[00:04:18] Siti Company[00:07:03] Museum of Natural History [00:09:47] Intersection for the Arts[00:10:08] Yerba Buena Center for the Arts[00:10:31] Campo Santo [00:11:12] The Culture Project[00:11:24] The Exonerated [00:40:18] University of La Verne[00:47:14] Norco 80Follow TomWebsiteFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
Andrea Grody is a music director and music supervisor, primarily working in new musicals. Now, if you've been listening for a while you know that one of my specialties and loves is new plays, so it was such a pleasure to discuss what that looks like from a musical director's perspective. Andrea has been on two of the bigger Broadway shows over the last few years, The Band's Visit and Tootsie—two pretty different shows. She walks me through a little of what those processes looked like and the different challenges they each presented.For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode[00:04:33] The Civilians[00:05:53] The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland[00:05:57] Music Directing at Penn State[00:13:40] The Band’s Visit[00:17:36] MTI[00:25:09] Tootsie[00:40:43] Maestra[00:49:02] SuffsFollow AndreaWebsiteWordWavesFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
On today's show, I speak with Cate Broomhead, a wig swing on Broadway. With Halloween being yesterday it's only appropriate to release an episode with a person who does a job that we've all benefitted from at some point in our lives. I'd venture to guess MOST of us have worn a wig at least once, and many of us much more frequently than that. Cate walks me through how she got into theater and wig making in the first place, what really goes into creating and maintaining a wig, and what a day in the life of a swing in the hair department on Broadway looks like right now.For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode[00:03:39] Walnut Street Theater[00:04:10] Glimmerglass Opera Company[00:09:45] Gretchen Evans - Wig Maker[00:09:45] JJ Janas - Wig Maker/Designer[00:26:48] Pacific College of HealthFollow CateInstagramEtsyFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
On today's show, I speak with casting director RJ Magee. RJ got his start in professional theater at a very young age, a journey that led him to the famous Interlochen School for the Arts and then eventually onwards to casting for musical theater. RJ is currently involved in a pretty unique project called Theality TV which we talk about extensively in this episode.For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode[00:05:06] Interlochen [00:07:17] The Arden [00:08:45] Jamie Baker Management[00:08:58] Breakdowns Express[00:12:07] Actors Access[00:15:52] Musical Theater Educators Alliance[00:21:54] Theality TV[00:21:58] Broadway On-Demand[00:21:59] Dekkoo[00:22:12] FearlessFollow RJFacebookInstagramYouTubeLinkedInMore Theality TVWebsiteBroadway-on-DemandDekkooFearlessIMDBFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
On today's show, I speak with Darren Lee, a director, choreographer, and performer. Darren has had quite the career, from winning the first-ever Junior Star Search, to being in the original Broadway cast of Miss Saigon, to reconnecting with Lea Salonga in 2015's Allegiance, to being on tour in the UK as the King in The King and I when covid shut the world down.For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode[00:03:43] Star Search[00:04:41] Kids Incorporated [00:06:06] Shogun[00:09:05] The Battle of Miss Saigon: Yellowface, Art, and Opportunity [00:24:48] Red Bucket Follies [00:24:53] Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AidsFollow DarrenWebsiteInstagramFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
On today's show, I speak with music director Or Matias. Or has such an incredible resume that includes Juilliard, NYU, The Great Comet, Octet, Moby Dick, The Wave which premiered in Austria, an upcoming children's album, honestly the list goes on and on. I've had the pleasure of seeing a bit of Or's work both on and off-Broadway and I was so excited to have a chance to speak with him.For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode [00:00:39] Chloe Treat[00:05:52] Ars Nova[00:06:10] Dave Malloy [00:11:05] “Time Does Not Bring Relief”[00:14:42] Adam Guettel[00:16:34] How The Great Comet Went From Cabaret to Broadway[00:20:11] Off-Broadway Cast Recording of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812[00:22:25] Original Broadway Cast Record of The Great Comet[00:26:01] Mimi Lien[00:35:55] OctetFollow OrWebsiteTwitterInstagramFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
On today's show, I speak with costume designer Carolyn Mazuca. We talk about everything from our love of San Antonio and the Southwest, to imposter syndrome, to the differences between working in film and television vs. theater. I absolutely loved chatting with Carolyn and I know you'll enjoy our conversation as much as I did.For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode[00:07:55]  Old Town Albuquerque[00:08:17]  Carnegie Mellon[00:17:34]  Oregon Shakespeare Festival[00:38:34]  Cambodian Rock Band at OSF[00:40:03]  Mother RoadFollow CarolynWebsiteInstagramFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
I'm so excited for you to listen to (or revisit) my conversation with Erica Hemminger, associate set designer of Moulin Rouge. A lot has happened since we recorded this a year ago, but my fascination with the elephant continues. Please enjoy this rebroadcast of episode four of Beyond the Lights.Please note, the next new episode will premiere on Tuesday, September 7th, and then alternate Mondays moving forward.___________________________________________________________This week we have Erica Hemminger an associate set designer on Broadway.  If you’ve been to a Broadway show within the last 10 years you’ve probably seen something she’s worked on, including but not limited to Anything Goes, Beautiful, American Son, and the biggest one to date Moulin Rouge.  We discuss how she got started in set design, why we should all be discussing our salaries more, and just how many elephants are on the Moulin Rouge set. For a full transcript of today's episode visit in this Episode[00:01:02] Derek McLane[00:03:17] Carnegie Mellon [00:03:22] DePaul University[00:10:17] I Am My Own Wife[00:17:46] Moulin Rouge! The Musical[00:28:52] The Elephant of the Moulin Rouge[00:31:13] Catherine Martin[00:35:14] The Wiz Live[00:35:20] Hairspray Live[00:36:22] Kenny Leon[00:36:25] Harvey Fierstein[00:44:40] Anything Goes[00:45:45] Buffy the Vampire Slayer Musical EpisodeFollow Erica HemmingerInstagramFollow Beyond the LightsFacebookTwitterInstagram
Hi everyone! I am still on a bit of a break, but I promise, I'll be back with NEW episodes in two weeks. Until then, I am rebroadcasting my episode with Music Director Jason Loffredo. Now, Jason and I recorded this in August of 2020 so any "upcoming" projects have long since passed. Nonetheless, this episode remains one of my favorites, enjoy!______________________________________Today’s guest is Jason Loffredo a music director in New York City. We discuss how an invite to play on a softball team led to becoming a substitute musician in a Broadway pit and ultimately to becoming the music director for off-Broadway's ALTAR BOYZ and Broadway's KINKY BOOTS. Jason also breaks down the ins and outs of working as a substitute musician on Broadway, what a music director actually does, and how he's kept busy while Broadway is suspended.  If you have a musician in your life, THIS is the episode to share with them.For a full transcript of today's episode please visit beyondthelightspodcast.comLinks Mentioned During this Episode[00:39:30] Finale Tutorials[00:42:12] Kate Rockwell's BACK TO MY ROOTSFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
This is week in re-broadcasts, I am proud to present the second episode I ever recorded with my friend Kat West stage manager, extraordinaire of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish. Enjoy!______________________________________Today's episode features Kat West, a freelance stage manager working in New York City. We discuss her work with Prospect Theater Company, how she became involved with Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish (directed by Joel Grey), what it's like working on a show when your son is 3 months old, becoming a better advocate in the room, and what a "typical" middle-of-the-process day looks like in the life of a stage manager.  For a full transcript of today's episode visit in this Episode[00:02:57] Prospect Theater Company[00:10:00] Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish[00:10:07] Museum of Jewish Heritage[00:11:26] National Yiddish Theatre[00:15:33] Steven Skybell as Teyve[00:26:15] Teyve the Dairy Man[00:55:12] The FerrymanFollow Kat WestInstagramFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
Hello friends! I'm coming to you in a bit of a different format today. I will be taking a break for the next weeks and instead of not showing up in your feed every Monday I've decided to re-share some earlier episodes that you may have missed if you are a new listener or perhaps you just want to revisit. This week is the VERY first episode I released with my dear friend and incredible artist Tai Verley the artistic director of Revolution Shakespeare. Enjoy! ______________________________________Today's guest is Tai Verley, a freelance actor and the Artistic Director of Revolution Shakespeare in Philadelphia, PA. We discuss how she went from Psychology major to actor, from being told she would never understand Shakespeare to running a Shakespeare Company, how she is continuing to foster artistic creation through her company during Covid-19, and so much more. For a full transcript of today's episode visit Mentioned During this Episode[22:30] The Shakespeare Forum[26:24] Revolution Shakespeare[42:04] At Home with the Macbeths[59:16] My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite[1:00:14] Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie[1:00:39] Artists Against Abernathy[1:07:51] Mister Rogers appears in front of CongressFollow Tai VerleyTwitterInstagramWebsiteFollow Revolution ShakespeareFacebookTwitterInstagramFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
On today's show, I speak with Cándido Tirado a playwright, teacher, and chess master. Cándido and I discuss his time at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, why there is a rumor that he punched a critic after a bad review (spoiler, he didn't punch a critic), his status as a chess master, and how that informs his approach to theater. For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode[00:05:12] Míriam Colón[00:05:14] Puerto Rican Traveling Theater[00:12:20] INTAR[00:13:24] Maria Irene Fornes [00:31:17] Bobby Fischer and the Game of the Century [00:36:03] Play Chess OnlineFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
On today's episode, I speak with Dawn Chiang. Dawn is a lighting designer that has worked on Broadway, in opera, regional theater, dance, live events, I could keep going, truly.  I first met Dawn a few months ago as a part of the Actor's Fund LinkedIn Challenge, which we talk about extensively during this conversation. Dawn is the first lighting designer to come on the show and I'm so excited for you to listen.For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode[00:07:57] New York City Opera[00:16:57] Oregon Shakespeare Festival [00:28:38] Jennifer Tipton[00:34:16] The Actors Fund[00:34:36] The Career Center[00:46:49] Broadway Bound Theater Festival [00:47:15] The New School for DramaFollow DawnLinkedInFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
Cara Reichel is a co-founder and artistic director of Prospect Theater Company in New York City. If you've been listening to this show from the beginning, you may know of my history with Prospect--but if not,'re in for a treat. I worked with Prospect back in 2008 as an Assistant Director to Cara and have been a fan ever since. We talk about everything from her early years in NYC, Prospect's origins and ultimate growth, and some of the barriers to entry for early career directors. For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode[00:04:50] Princeton Chapel Choir[00:13:12] Drama League [00:14:18] SDC[00:33:15] 59E59 [00:35:24] Primary Stages [00:46:06] The Wolves[00:46:33] A Strange Loop [00:51:01] The Masters by Ursula K. Leguin[00:52:25] The Hello Girls Cast Recording[00:52:59] Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge Follow CaraWebsiteFollow Prospect Theater CompanyWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagramFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
On today's show, I speak with Kristi Ross-Clausen, a self-proclaimed eclectic theater practitioner. Kristi has been in the industry for 30+ years and has done everything from working in a large theater in Appleton, WI where she calls home to going on tour with Broadway shows War Horse, Mamma Mia!, and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode[00:14:07] The Spotlight Operator’s Handbook[00:14:38] Drama Bookshop [00:17:17] Handspring Puppet Company [00:41:43] Sing FasterFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
On today's show, I speak with David R. Molina a musician, composer, and sound designer. I have a not-so-secret love of sound design, and quite frankly I can't believe it's taken me THIRTY-NINE EPISODES to have a sound designer on, but here we are.  David has so much insight to share about composing for theater, film, radio plays, podcasts, you name it. This conversation was a lot of fun for me and gave me an even deeper appreciation of just what sound designers in the theatre space accomplish.For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode[00:25:01] Play On Shakespeare and Next Chapter [00:33:32] Dallas Theater Center[00:34:07] Round House Theater[00:34:31] Emilio Delgado [00:35:55] San Francisco Arts Commission [00:44:00] It Was Always Here[00:46:34] Teatro Campesino[00:46:40] La PeñaFollow DavidWebsiteInstagramBandcampFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
On today's show, I speak with Liza Luxenberg, the Senior Vice President of Aurora Productions. Aurora is a production management and technical supervision company that specializes in Broadway, Off-Broadway, and touring theater productions. Liza walks me through her journey from college stage manager, to intern, to her Senior Vice President role at Aurora. She is the first Broadway person I've interviewed since the announcement of Broadway's return and we discuss a bit about what that MAY look like. Things are moving fast toward re-opening and as you'll hear, we're very excited for that to happen.For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode[00:06:01] Bay Street Theater [00:07:11] Aurora Productions[00:16:17] Intern at Aurora Productions[00:17:24] Work at Aurora Productions[00:28:44] Michael Kors Fashion ShowFollow Aurora ProductionsWebsiteFacebookFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
Arianna Gass is a theater-maker who primarily occupies the multimedia theater space. They are a worker-owner of Obvious Agency, an artist cooperative in Philadelphia known for creating interactive live performance. They are also currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Chicago which we talk extensively about. This was an enlightening conversation for me and really exposed me to areas of theatre and performance theory that I did not know much about before today. For a full transcript of this episode visit beyondthelightspodcast.comMentioned in this Episode[00::02:20] Stella Adler Teen Conservatory [00:04:56] Vasser College Experimental Theater [00:05:55] Barnes Foundation[00:10:15] Obvious Agency and Creative Cooperative Futures[00:11:53] Applied Mechanics[00:11:54] Headlong Dance Theater[00:09:55] Ninth Planet[00:13:15] New York Theater Workshop[00:14:11] Ivo Van Hove [00:16:17] Barnes Jawnt [00:18:50] Bicycle Coalition[00:18:53] Black and Brown Workers Cooperative[00:19:11] US Federation of Worker Cooperatives[00:19:17] Girls Rock Philly[00:28:21] Hamletmachine [00:29:13] The Wooster Group[00:29:14] The Wooster Group’s HamletFollow AriannaWebsiteTwitterFollow Obvious AgencyWebsiteFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
On today’s show, I speak with Erica Andracchio. Erica is the Executive Director at Left Coast Theater in San Francisco. Left Coast is an independent theater that is dedicated to elevating new works by LGBTQ+ artists. We discuss her journey to becoming an Executive Director, what that looks like at a theater like Left Coast and some of the key differences and similarities between her role and that of an Artistic Director. Erica is a woman who wears many hats and we discuss a few very different ones throughout this episode.For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode[00:03:29] Curran Theater [00:13:58] Just Not Sorry Browser Extension[00:14:50] Left Coast Theater Company[00:17:47] San Francisco Here I ComeFollow EricaWebsiteInstagramFollow Left Coast Theater CompanyWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
On today's show, I speak with Ryan McAlpine, a flying director with Flying by Foy. Ryan is a Flying Director on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in New York, San Francisco, and the Australia production which is currently on stage in Melbourne. Ryan is currently in Australia with the show and while we talk extensively about what it takes to fly in a production, he also gives me a good glimpse of the health and safety protocols that Australia has put into place for theater. For a full transcript of this episode visit in this Episode[00:03:47] Flying by Foy[00:05:06] Utah Shakespeare[00:31:23]  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child [00:33:55] The Curran[00:36:56] Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ScriptFollow RyanInstagramFollow Beyond the LightsWebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram
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