London’s Guildhall School Honors Live Entertainment Professionals

The prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London has awarded its annual Fellowships and Honorary Fellowships. Among the honorees this year are lighting designer and Guildhall graduate Prema Mehta and lighting designer and technical manager Ben Sumner, who is currently vice principal and director of production arts at Guildhall. Fellowships were also awarded to American theatre and opera director Peter Sellars and writer and actor Natasha Gordon.

The Guildhall has produced notable graduates who are now in the live entertainment community including Tony-nominated and Olivier Award-winning sound designer Simon Baker and Tony and Olivier-winning lighting designer Neil Austin. Both are also fellows.

Prema Mehta (Guildhall Stage Management and Technical Theatre 2004) is a highly successful lighting designer who has lit over two hundred productions in her 16-year career.

Prema has worked as a lighting designer across the country on numerous regional and West End productions. Her recent productions include Hymn at the Almeida Theatre, The Comeback at London’s Noël Coward Theatre, and she is soon to open The RSC’s production of The Winter’s Tale. In one of her recent productions, Swive at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Prema took on the challenge of using solely candles in the wood-paneled theatre.

Credit: Joseph Lynn

Prema is also the founder of Stage Sight, a sector support organization, which works to improve representation across all offstage roles – including technical positions and members of the creative team – in terms of class, ethnicity and disability. Prema was inspired by her own experience of working as a lighting designer, and is passionate about making change to the industry to ensure we return to a more inclusive workforce.

In 2019, Prema was nominated in the Theatre & Performance category at the H100 Awards, recognizing the UK’s creative talent.

Ben Sumner trained in Stage Management at the Central School of Speech and Drama. So far his career has included education, lighting design, production management, stage management, technical management and theatre administration. He has worked in corporate events, dance, drama, musical theatre, circus, opera and television.  

Credit: Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Ben first taught at Guildhall in 1987. In 1990 he became senior lecturer in Technical Management at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts where he remained for 12 years, before moving to the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in Perth, Australia as program director (Production, Design and Arts Management).  
In the summer of 2007 he returned to Guildhall where he is now vice principal and director of production arts. He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a National Teaching Fellow. He also holds an MBA in Education Management from the University of Leicester.