John Ezell Retrospective At USITT Gets Extra Punch From Thematics’ Lightbox

Thematics’ Lightbox played an extraordinary role at the recent USITT Annual Conference & Stage Expo in Phoenix where it was used to light a special retrospective of set designer John Ezell’s work. This application reinforces Thematics’ commitment to assist set designers in making their models look spectacular when on public display. Thematics previously lit models at regional and national design galleries for the American College Theatre Festivals and the World Stage Design exhibit. At USITT Lightbox special inventory was also used to light a Young Designers Forum.

John Ezell’s retrospective was well deserved. His regional, Broadway and international design credits are impressive, and he serves as a consultant to Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and participates in the exchange of theatre artists with the People's Republic of China. His drawings have been exhibited in New York, San Diego, Prague, Brussels, and Beijing, and he has received the Award for Experimental Television Art in Milan, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Award for Excellence, and nine Critics' Circle Awards.

Lightbox’s goal for gallery shows is to use a full line of little lights—fiber optics, LED strips, and gooseneck wash units—to add touches of color, spotlight an area, and show textures. Each aspect of the equipment line is available in stand-alone configurations or with DMX cue sequences, which make on-site incorporation into a model simple. Our fixtures are placed to best serve the scenery, not replicating lighting as it was in the production but illuminating the scrims, backdrops, and textures at their most effective.

The 33 models Ezell exhibited on the stage of the Phoenix Convention Center represent a tremendous range of work. Prior to the opening, Lightbox associate designer Ben Tevelow walked through the exhibit and spoke with Ezell and his team of design associates about the desired lighting look for each display. They indicated that the process of the design was to be emphasized in every way possible. Tevelow found a way in each of the models to stay true to this concept. For example, the glass panel walls in the Enemy of the State model were lit with three 16” LED cool white strip lights, six 26° fiber optic fixtures on a 1E truss track 24” long, and one manual single-source illuminator under the model.

Other models featured a gooseneck for a broad wash of light where appropriate or, for the quarter inch models, a very low-profile 12” long LED warm white strip light (often wrapped in gel) to sneak light on to a backdrop. For the windows in the Dancing at Lugnasa model, a bare fiber behind the windows worked perfectly. The painted shadows on the backdrop for the West Side Story model were reinforced by uplight on the fire escapes.

“Our hope for the exhibit was to illustrate process, and Lightbox was so sensitive to the needs of the work,” says Ezell. “The best aspect of what Lightbox does for set designers’ models is to highlight transparencies and depth.” Ezell has asked to keep the Lightbox inventory used at USITT and hopes Ben Tevelow will be able to meet the exhibit as it travels to future museum stops.

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