Moss, whose lighting design has been called “exceedingly evocative and artful,” is resident lighting designer for Studio Tenn Theatre Company in Nashville. He also works as a freelance lighting designer and concert lighting technician.
Moss will receive the award at USITT 2016 in Salt Lake City in March. The Rising Star Award is presented annually to a young designer in lighting, sound, scenic, or projection design in the first four years of his or her career after completing his or her college degree.
“Stephen Moss is a wonderful addition to the list of Rising Star winners,” says Ellen Lampert-Gréaux, Live Design’s creative director. “We were not familiar with his work, and it’s always a delight to discover such a talented young designer, who comes so highly recommended. We look forward to following his career.”
Moss graduated from Lipscomb University in Nashville with his BA in technical theatre in 2011. That year, he was nominated for Broadway World Nashville’s Best Lighting Design Award. In a review of the Studio Tenn production of The Glass Menagerie, Broadway World Nashville theatre critic Jeffrey Ellis described “the particularly beautiful golden glow of Stephen Moss’ expressive and evocative lighting.”
Studio Tenn managing director Jake Speck recommended Moss for the Rising Star Award. “He has been incredibly successful in creating and implementing some truly breathtaking designs, which have greatly enhanced our productions,” Speck wrote of Moss. “His immense skill as a designer is matched by his quality of character and work ethic.”
Moss titled his portfolio “Painting With Light.” He said he’s “thrilled” to be chosen as the 2016 Rising Star. “When I learned I would receive it, I was ecstatic,” he said. “It’s quite an honor!”
Moss said he grew up playing French horn and originally wanted to go into music. “Nashville is Music City, so I was attracted to that industry,” he said. “In high school, I ran sound for a few plays, but I never touched lighting until sophomore year of college at Lipscomb University. I had been running sound for some campus events, and then the next summer they had no lighting staff, so they just threw me into it—sink or swim. And I took to it like a duck to water. About a year later, I switched my major from music education to technical theatre.”
In his senior year, Studio Tenn staged a production of A Christmas Carol at Lipscomb, and Moss got to co-design the production along with his lighting design professor, David Hardy. “At the end, I gave them my card and said, ‘If you ever need a lighting designer, call me.’ And they actually called me the next semester to design A Glass Menagerie.”
The next year, Studio Tenn was producing the reopening gala for Nashville’s newly restored Franklin Theatre. “The LD they had lined up couldn’t do it, so they called me two days before my graduation and said, ‘Would you be interested?’ ‘Uh, yeah!’” he recalled. “And I’ve been doing shows there ever since. I was in the right place at the right time.”
Moss said he’s in an exciting place right now because Studio Tenn has launched a new series of rock musicals that “combine theatre and a concert setting”—his two great loves.
“The Legacy Series offers a theatrical concert experience with an ensemble cast,” he said. “We did The Hank Legacy (2013) to celebrate the music of Hank Williams, followed by The Cash Legacy last year, and this year we’re doing The Ray Legacy celebrating the music of Ray Charles.”
“I really feel at home with this series,” he said. “I really like how it’s somewhat theatrically staged, but it’s more about the music; so I can feel the music and feel how it should look in terms of lighting.”
Moss said he had hoped to go to USITT 2016 in Salt Lake City this year, but wasn’t sure he could swing it. “I guess I had better go now,” he joked.
Rising Star winners 2005-2016:
- 2016 Stephen Moss, lighting designer
- 2015 Chris Wood, lighting & sound designer
- 2014 Janie Bullard, sound designer
- 2013 Aaron Porter, lighting designer
- 2012 Jason Simms, scene designer
- 2011 Daniel Brodie, projection designer
- 2010 Ben Pilat, lighting designer
- 2009 Sean Savoie, lighting designer
- 2008 Elisheba Ittoop, sound designer
- 2007 John Horan, lighting designer
- 2006 Justin Townsend, scenic and lighting designer
- 2005 Kelly Hanson, scenic designer
USITT, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, is the national nonprofit serving the live entertainment design and technology industry. Its Annual Conference and Stage Expo is the only complete production event in North America, featuring over 250 training sessions, hands-on demonstrations, presentations, and networking opportunities and 280 exhibitors of the latest tools and resources for creating live entertainment. Visit USITT’s show site at www.usittshow.org or download the app at www.usitt.org/mobile.