Page 3 - Beverly Emmons: Lighting Broadway, Enlightening Tomorrow
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Beverly Emmons | New York, New York
Bevery Emmons and Judith Daitsman collaborate on lighting design for the Martha Graham Dance Company.
lighting for many different ballets. The [program’s] layering function enables the lighting designer to turn layers on and off for specific works, so that the specials and color for a single evening of three ballets is instantly available, emailable, or printable.”
eMpOwereD thrOuGh technOlOGy
A Vectorworks Spotlight software user since 2001, Emmons wishes the program had been available
when she started in the industry. “You’re constantly making changes and the documentation is fabu- lous—to be able to quickly fill in all that information is great. Drawing by hand you had a blueprint and a little tube of Wite-out®. You erase the thing that is different and you draw on it again.” Conversely, Emmons can make changes quickly and eas- ily with her software, whether she’s designing around an air condition- ing duct that wasn’t mentioned up front, or an architectural feature that wasn’t anticipated.
On a recent visit to China for
the International Lighting Design Conference, Emmons noticed that the focus was on how new technol- ogy would be used and what it would change. “I said [at the confer- ence] that I’ve been doing lighting for 45 years and we’ve had new technology every step of the way.
In each case, you absorb what the new vocabulary is and you make
it work for the show, because
that’s what lighting design is for: theater, dance, opera, whatever
it is.” Emmons believes that ulti- mately the technology that wins is the one that works reliably and in the context of how speedy and accurate lighting designers have
to be. “In the case of Vectorworks software,” she states, “it is also
how widespread the commun- ication is, and that’s what
makes it successful.”
illuMinAtinG the pAst fOr the future
Modern theatrical lighting has been a growing industry for the past sixty years. Big commercial produc- tions have always kept elaborate documentation in order to maintain
long-running shows. Yet until now, these documents, including plots, focus charts, cue sheets, and
other information from past shows, have been saved in the designers’ personal storage. Emmons, with the support of several notable lighting designers, conceived and created two very important efforts to digitally archive historic documents for future generations of lighting designers and students of lighting design. To preserve and make ac- cessible the lighting documents
for many shows from Broadway and beyond, she is building the Theatrical Lighting Database (, an arm of
the New York Public Library,
and The Lighting Archive (
The latter even features a 1948 Martha Graham Errand Into the Maze blueprint by Jean Rosenthal, among other high-profile show documents such as Ken Billington’s Sweeney Todd, Gilbert Hemsley’s Porgy and Bess, and soon-to-come Natasha Katz’ 2006 adaptation of Tharon Mussers’ A Chorus Line.
Emmons explains the mission: “The whole idea is to show what people did as the technology of

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