An often overlooked element of theatrical storytelling is lighting. Lighting has the ability to hide, reveal, emphasize, and imbue moments with specific emotions. This week we chatted with Oh My Sweet Land lighting designer Nicole Pearce to learn how she approaches this process.
From a design perspective, what do you find compelling about this production?
The play itself is the most compelling. It’s gripping and challenging in all of the best ways. This production in particular will be fantastic because no two performances will happen in the same place. This means a lot of calculations on my part as to where lights are located and how they will turn on and off. The flexibility between performance spaces will distill us down to the most essential elements needed to tell the story. A tight and specific palette which I find endlessly fascinating.
You have worked with PlayCo before on Golden Dragon, Sakharam Binder, and Edgewise. How will your process for Oh My Sweet Land, a site-specific piece, differ from these productions?
The process will remain the same it’s really the parameters and resources that will change. I always begin with multiple readings of the script followed by visual research and talks with collaborators. The next steps are to hone in on the images that are most appealing for the production and discover which lighting tools and angles will best recreate the desired images.
How do you feel lighting can shape a space or the stories that are being told in that space?
Lighting defines the shape of any space. Primarily without it you don’t see anything but with it the viewpoint of any space can change from moment to moment. Light can hide details about a wall or corner of room until the script calls for them to be revealed. All we simply do is change the angle to which the light is aimed at a space.
The relationship between space and light are my favorite part of designing. How can light stretch across a space in an unexpected fashion to illustrate the torment of a character? Or the reverse: how can light expand and fill a space to reflect a characters overwhelming joy?
As you have designed several other international productions, how do you approach working on shows rooted in a culture outside of your own?
This approach is rooted in my research. I spend many hours digging into the culture through news articles, visual images, and cultural texts. I need to know and understand the culture as well as the playwright. This helps tremendously especially when it’s possible to travel to the country of origin to absorb the day-to-day rituals of life in that region.
Oh My Sweet Land is a play about connecting to culture through food. Is there a recipe you rely on to bring you closer to home?
My genealogy is a mixture of many different cultures but the most dominant is Polish. I always come back to Perogie for this connection. I asked my mom for the recipe after I read this question.
8 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
Please the flour in a bowl. Add the salt and mix together. Make a well in the center of the flour. In a cup whisk the egg and add approximately 2/3-3/4 cups cold water. Place the mixture in the well of the flour. Knead the dough adding dollops of water until the correct consistency. Cover with a damp towel and out aside until ready to roll out the dough.
3 #’s onions peeled and diced.
Season salt to taste
Place onions in skillet, season with season salt to taste, add margarine as the liquid boils out of the onions. Continue cooking onions over med heat until tender, and golden brown.
1 16oz can sauerkraut
Place in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and gently simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and place into a strainer. Allow to cool. Once cooled squeeze the juices out of the kraut.
3-5#’s potatoes peeled and cubed, boil until tender. Mash potatoes, mix in the juiced sour kraut, add caramelized onions to taste.
Once filling is complete, place 1/2 the dough onto a floured cutting board. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick. You can either use a biscuit cutter or a paring knife into approximately 3 inch round or square pieces. Fill each piece with the warm filling. Pinch the edges together. Place into boiling salted water. Gently shake the post so the pieces don’t stick together. Once the pierogi float to the top of the water they are cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon.
You can either eat the boiled pierogi with the caramelized onions, or you can fry them in a little butter, then top with the onions.