By Jonathan Painter, Contributor
Q: What do you do at Furman?
A: I’m an adjunct professor here at Furman. I mostly teach intro to theatre. Outside of the university I’m a lighting and sound designer.
I do a lot of work in Atlanta and Greenville, but I also work in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and NYC. It really depends on where the work is. When I’m teaching I try to limit the amount of traveling so my focus is on the class.
Q: Tell me more about what that lighting and sound design entails?
A: When you go see a play in theatre, you will hear sound effects and music. If it’s a musical you will hear the bands and the actors on microphones. Those all fall under sound design. Lighting design is a little less tangible. We use theatre lights in tandem with patterns and colors to create a space to tell a story in. The sophisticated answer I like to give is that we create a world with light to hold and house the story.
Q: Having taken your class I know that the answer to this question is “three quarters of the things you have ever read” but what would you say is your favorite play?
A: Well, when I start teaching I don’t set out to say that every play is my favorite play, it just sort of happens accidentally because I like all of the plays so much. I think it’s the line of work that I do. Since 2012 I’ve done over 100 shows professionally. The only way to produce at that level and to work at that level is to have whatever show you are working on be your favorite show.
I know that sounds like kind of a copout to say that whatever I’m working on is my favorite, but it’s true. It has to be. If you don’t love the shows you are working on you will not work at your fullest capacity.
Q: What projects are you working on right now?
A: I’m doing a production of “Our Town”, “The Addams Family” , “Under Milk Wood” , and “Les Liaisons dangereuses.” I try to string projects together and bounce them around.
Freelance design is pretty feast or famine. You’ll go through periods where you have lots of jobs lined up, and then you’ll go through periods where you don’t have any jobs lined up. It’s about learning to manage not only your finances, but also your time.
Q: Did you have any instructors, friends, anyone who really influenced you or inspired you to peruse this path? How did you end up being a theater professor and a lighting/sound guy?
A: My high school theater teacher Jacqueline Brown-Williams. High school can be rough. One of the things that theatre provides, or can provide, is a place to belong, and call home and find fulfillment for your spirit and soul. When you are being as emotionally vulnerable as you have to be to be a performer, it’s hard not to develop a deeper connection to the people around you. We deal in a business that is entirely based around personal investment.
So yeah, my high school theatre teacher and the professors here were all influences on me as an artist and a storyteller. No matter what kind of day I was having I could go sit in Jay or Rhett’s office and talk about pretty much anything. I think that’s where the seeds for me to want to work as a college professor were laid. That sense that you could be a real resource for people at such a transformative stage of their lives was something that I find really inspiring.
I would say that my advice to anyone who wanted it is don’t miss those opportunities. Find someone who really wants you to succeed. People want to invest in other people. As long as you are open to that happening, it can be really transformative.
My other piece of advice is this: Go see a concert. Go see a play. Go see an art show. That exposure will only help you. No matter what aspect of our culture you become a part of, being conversant in music and the arts will get you very far.
It’s hard not to leave college without at least a tinge of regret. Whatever you can do to maximize your chances of avoiding that, you should.