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Syracuse University Drama Department unveils revolutionary teaching tool for lighting design
Syracuse University Drama Department unveils revolutionary teaching tool for lighting designFebruary 20, 2002Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
Syracuse University’s Department of Drama in the College of Visual and Performing Arts has unveiled an exciting new teaching tool that enables lighting design students to create a lighting scheme on a scale model that contains the same technical and lighting instruments used in major theatres.
It’s called the Lightbox, and it is the first system in the country that was custom made for a university theatre. The unique system enables student designers to see the effect of their designs without requiring a full-scale production. The Lightbox contains a miniature staging area and 36 dimmers that control 110 fiber optic lighting units. The dimmers and lighting units can be re-configured to become an exact 1/2-inch scale replica of any stage or exhibition space lighting system. The Lightbox system also includes the same computer hardware and software, and light control console found in professional theatres, including both the Arthur Storch and Archbold theatres in the Syracuse Stage complex.
“Students and professional lighting designers can use the Lightbox to create a complete, time-sequence of lighting cues, save it to disk and then run the program full-scale in the theatre,” says Alex Koziara, professor of design in SU’s Drama Department. “The system is much more refined than traditional scale lighting models that rely on flashlights to emulate a look on stage.”
Student designers used the Lightbox to create the lighting design for the SU Drama Department production of “Caprice,” which is playing in the Storch Theatre at the Syracuse Stage complex Feb. 22 to March 3.
“The Lightbox project is a ground-breaking solution to the limitation of only seeing results of designs full-scale,” says James Clark, chair of SU’s Department of Drama. “It provides an opportunity for lighting designers and, more importantly for us, lighting design students to demonstrate their designs using the lightbox model.”
Koziara and Charles Kirby ’92, an alumnus of the SU program, developed the Lightbox during the past year with the help of a $25,000 Syracuse University 2001 Vision Fund Grant. The Vision Fund Program was created four years ago to stimulate innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Kirby, owner of the New York City design studio Thematics (www.thematics.net), conceived the idea for the Lightbox as a teaching tool and created a rough prototype that he brought to SU about two years ago. After securing the Vision Fund Grant, Koziara helped Kirby refine the idea and, with the assistance of Julia Rusthoven, a senior costume design major, and input from other students, the Lightbox became a reality.
“The Lightbox has the ability to mimic what actually happens on a real stage,” Kirby says. “With the Lightbox, students get a chance to learn the lighting keystrokes and an opportunity to test their ideas in a safe environment.”
Both Kirby and Koziara say the potential applications for the Lightbox go beyond set design for theatres into a variety of disciplines such as environmental and interior design for commercial and private spaces, including museums and galleries, department stores, hotel lobbies and anywhere else that lighting is used to improve internal or external environments.
“We have already discussed crossover uses for the Lightbox with the professional theatre at Syracuse Stage, with the departments of museum studies, and fashion and design technologies in SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, and with faculty from the University’s School of Architecture,” Koziara says.
The Department of Drama is one of four divisions of SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. The department has a unique affiliation with Syracuse Stage, one of the outstanding Equity theater companies in the country. Clark, director of the Drama Department, is also the producing director of the professional company and Robert Moss is the artistic director. The department offers bachelor of fine arts degrees in musical theatre, design/technical theater, drama (with emphasis in acting, stage management or technical theater) and a bachelor of science in drama.
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