an interview with Stephanie Buchner, lighting designer for Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven
What drew you to the SONGS script?
I love how crazy it is. When I read it the first time I was very excited about how it plays (literally) with form. I love plays that don’t make linear dramatic sense and the challenge af trying to figure out what the conventions of the world are for me as a designer.
How did you approach the design process?
The script calls for a temple like set which Emily Green (set designer) and Marissa Wolf (director) had already decided upon, which meant the lighting would have to take us between the episodes. I wanted most of the play to be warm bright big looks to make the most of the raw wood of the set and to make the Koreans and Korean American look pretty. I was inspired by the dark unflattering angles of Korean and Asian horror movies for some of the creepier parts. For the dances and more movement based parts of the show, I thought about Karaoke bars and Pop Videos and urban Asian cities at night for bright colors and low angled side lights.
The script also calls for the florescent lights hung above the stage to be used for lighting the White People. I imagined that their world was very cool, sterile and ugly. Marissa and I talked about their movement being spare so I choose to put them in cool squares of light, that restricted their movement and provided another contrast to the full stage of the Koreans and Korean American.
Did anything surprise you?
Keiko, the costume designer, gave me the swatches for the Hanboks that the Koreans and Korean American wear during the show and I was completely inspired by the colors she choose when I made my lighting color palette.
I added some blue low angle lights, one for each of the three walls to my plot at the last minute. I didn’t have a clear idea what I would use them for and I wound up using them in most of the transitions and the entire last scene.
What is your favorite moment on stage (lighting or otherwise…or both!) in this show?
There is a Ghost man section, in which I got to do darker, more horror-esque lighting. Katie (the actress) looks so beautiful in the creepy barn as she runs away from the Ghost Man.
What project is next for you?
I’m designing a show for Copious Dance at Z-Space/Project Artaud and the Playground Festival at the Thick House.
For more on Stephanie and her work visit her website!