When the Lights Went Out: Lighting Designer Alan Edwards

(Alan Edwards making ice cream)

Lighting designer Alan Edwards shares how he is coping with COVID-19 closings in this series, "When the Lights Went Out," where theatrical designers discuss what they are doing these days.


After the invited dress for Guys and Dolls at Ford's Theatre in Washington DC. was over, there were no notes—just news that the company would be on hiatus. Alan Edwards continued teaching an undergraduate lighting design seminar at Yale, moving the class online. “Now that the school year is over, I feel like I'm back in the mindset of summers in middle and high school, when every day was a new adventure, and there weren't really any plans except bike riding, swimming, and maximizing the cool air in the house—we didn't have air conditioning.”

These days, he also cooks—cheesecake, cheesesteak, chili, chocolate cake with cream cheese icing, and French vanilla ice cream. “I learned to make a version of bibimbap. When I look back on this time, I can honestly say I ate good,” he says.

He sometimes dines with others, cooking and eating on FaceTime. “I've been staying in more constant contact with people than was possible before,” he says.

Edwards also gardens on his small outdoor patio. “I love being able to look outside and see green nature out there. I've got two long baskets of petunias, for color and fragrance, white, pink, and hot fuchsia in the middle. I love all the color.” Pots of marigolds hang on the inside railing, and below are lily turfs. “When I first started planting out here years ago, I wanted real grass. Then I started collecting Better Homes and Gardens catalogs, and realized I liked the tropical foliage look.” He’s planted all this before, but this year he added an herb garden. “During this time, this space has been a real haven, particularly at night, listening to the late-night traffic and distant radios of other people also sitting outside taking in this perfect summer weather.”

With so little traffic, Edwards realized he could get around the city more easily than before and capture some places on film, New York City at sunrise, from the West side, in the morning, for instance, and a spot on the Hudson River in New Jersey. When he arrived in Jersey, early, “there were already a few other photographers, joggers galore, and a Telemundo truck setup for a live morning broadcast. I burst out laughing.”

This moment has been important in other ways, too. “It's been eye-opening just how far inequality stretches in our country and in the world,” says Edwards. “This current moment is the wakeup call. This country needs to get it together and come to terms with so much. I hope this current wave of momentum will propel us into a better society.”

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