Q&A With Adam Honoré, Lighting Designer

(Adam Honoré)

One of Live Design’s 30 Under 30’s in 2018, Adam Honoré is making his mark as a BIPOC lighting designer, in spite of the challenges. A young designer on the rise, with a pocketful of awards and nominations at the age of 26. He is Harlem NY-based, originally from New Orleans, and his résumé includes off-Broadway productions, regional shows, national tours, and international premieres. His work has been seen from the US and Canada to Austria and the Philippines, where he designed the international premiere of Fun Home, which was directed by Bobby Garcia and featured Tony Award winner Lea Salonga. For his off-Broadway work, Honoré won the AUDELCO Award for Carmen Jones at Classic Stage Company, which also earned him Drama Desk and Henry Hewes nominations, as well as AUDELCO and Henry Hewes nominations for Ain't No Mo' at The Public Theatre. He was a Helen Hayes Award nominee this year for a revival of A Chorus Line at Signature Theatre in Washington DC. Honoré will be a guest on the Light Talk podcast that airs on Saturday, September 26, and Live Design drops by for a chat.

Carmen Jones, Classic Stage Company

Live Design: What made you interested in theatrical design?

Adam Honoré: “Lights, Camera, Action!” were my first clues into the world of production. From a young age, I was presented with the concept of directors, actors, and a third category only known as crew members. The stage, similarly to Hollywood, is composed of similar players. 

It was not until I attended my first stage play did I discover a fourth element of production—something that was felt on a spiritual level. This was the glue that held the production together in an almost “godlike” fashion; a force known as The Creative Team. This team would be responsible for tackling the “who, what, when, where, and why” of the entire production. Each member is an expert of their field. 

This concept thrilled me so much that I’d do anything to participate. 

Early on, scenic design piqued my interest because of its ability to complete entire worlds, but lighting design, like music, had an opportunity to speak to the production on an emotional level as well. 

LD: What challenges did you face as a person of color? Did you have mentors to guide you?

AH: The constant challenge faced as a designer of color is being pigeonholed into working on productions of and by people of color. I work very hard to expand my artistic boundaries beyond productions showcasing the “marginalized Black experience.” Designers of color have an opportunity to bring a different background of culture and artistic vision to a “regular” production experience. 

Not unexpectedly so, I did not have a host of mentors of color leading the way, but instead a group of allies that wished to spread diversity and support the next generation of designers.  

LD: How do you think the theatrical design industry can better support diversity?

AH: The hiring process is crucial. Hiring designers on more than the one “black” show of the season, and giving them opportunities to collaborate over multiple seasons. This is important on the creative front and in crew aspects. 

Opportunities in arts education are also important. Growing the field of diverse designers and fostering the next generation will be key.

LD: What have you been doing during the past four months when the theatres have been closed?

AH: On the non-theatre front, I’ve spent a lot of time remodeling my home. This has given me a creative outlet that has a final goal in mind. 

Theatrically, I’ve been meeting with directors and designers discussing how we’d like to see change incorporated within the industry. This “pause” has given us the opportunity to reflect on how the industry operated, meanwhile gazing into the theoretical future. 

LD: What is the most challenging production you have worked on, and why?

AH: I don’t have specifically one production that wins “most challenging,” but I have found the productions where the vision of the director and myself do not exactly align are often the hardest. 

LD: You "came of age" in the LED era, how has that technology informed the way you work?

AH: The heart of lighting design is the same; the execution has changed. We no longer have to hang multiple instruments to complete a multi-color idea from one position. Personally, I am very conscious of how the rig appears to the audience. LEDs have given me the opportunity to create electrics that support the mood and tone of the piece; from the writing to the scenic design. In many ways, I think I lucked upon the industry at a time that fits my aesthetic (I’d love to revisit this question in 20 years).

LD: What's next?

AH: I’m currently hopeful the industry will pick back up in the late spring because I have a number of projects I’ll be excited to return. Fingers crossed. 

In the meantime, I’ll be participating in mentorship programs, panels, and guest lecture opportunities. 

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