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Players360 >> Creative Team Insights - Austin Kelm, Lighting Designer of True West

It takes a great number of artists to bring any production to life. What audiences see on opening night and subsequently throughout the run is a product of careful planning and tireless preparation from the entire team. We sat down with each True West designer to give some detail into their creative process.



Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I began designing lights in High School at a local church. It was a bunch of half functioning LEDs and some moving lights that barely moved. A year later, the church moved and got a brand new lighting system. That's where I really started to understand how light and lighting instruments worked. At the time, I was a Freshman music major at Jacksonville University. I had already started getting occasional gigs to design lights for corporate events, concerts, etc. but didn't think I could make a career out of it. My girlfriend was a theatre major, and I decided to help out with their light hang one day. From then on, I was hooked. I switched my major, began studying Theatre Design, and also began designing lights for the 5 & Dime. That was three years ago. Now, I'll be pursuing my M.F.A. in Lighting Design from Texas State University this fall.

How are you approaching your design for True West?

Anytime you have to light a realistic play in a house, apartment, or other residential dwelling, your only job as Lighting Designer is to recreate the feeling of the that space. One has to take into consideration first and foremost where the light would be coming from. This can include windows, table lamps, or even indicator lights on appliances. Once you've recreated this, you have to be able to make the actors visible, without affecting the look and feel of the space. Another way of saying this is the Lighting Designer's job is to create the environment for the story to take place in.



What has the process of working collaboratively with Brian and the rest of the Creative Team been like?

The Creative Team on this show is made up of very capable designers and managers. Oftentimes, working in Community Theatre is a bit interesting because some designers may not have the expertise necessary for the show or may not know how to communicate their designs properly. It can be a bit stressful as an LD when you don't know what the set is going to look like until the last minute. On this show, I've had renderings and discussions with the Creative Team for weeks before I had to start putting my lights up. This allows me to actually design, to really dive into the script and decide how to recreate the environment.

What do you hope audiences leave thinking or feeling after the show is over?

When reading or experiencing a script, each person feels something completely different than the person next to them. To hope that an audience gets a specific feeling or thought out of a show would be to stifle that individualism that makes seeing a show so unique. Instead, I just hope that some audience members appreciate and agree with the environment myself and the other designers have created, while others decide that the story should have been portrayed differently due to their past experiences. Furthermore, I hope that discussions about the show occur before and after seeing it and that people are vocal about what they got out of the show, even if it's not positive. That is what makes Theatre so beautiful and each show unique. Seeing True West at Players should be an entirely different experience from seeing the show on Broadway, The 5 & Dime, or any other theatre.


With all this being said, the most important aspect of Theatre is you, the audience member and the unique feelings, emotions, and thoughts you experience during a show. After seeing a play, musical, fringe festival, etc. these experiences need to be discussed honestly and openly. Too often, patrons and reviews use words like "Great, Excellent, or Outstanding." No doubt at least one article will be written about our rendition of True West using nothing but these sort of terms. I implore you, the viewer, to come see this work and then have open discussions in person, over social media, or by writing your own review. When doing so, be honest, open, and even critical of the work you saw. The only way Directors, Actors, or Designers can improve, shape, or grow our craft is through direct criticism and open discussion of our work. Thank you, in advance, for your criticism. 



See Brooklyn Murphy in True West here at Players by the Sea from March 15 - March 31. Tickets are available at playersbythesea.org or by calling 904.249.0289.

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