2AMt is a wonderful community of artists from all over the theatre spectrum, but we think it’s high time to give designers a little extra love–so we’re going to check out the big talent and bigger brains of some special designers in a series of designer spotlight posts. This time around we’d like to introduce you to San Francisco-based lighting designer Christian Mejia.
Take it away, Christian.
How did you come into your art? What was your training?
My elementary school was very invested in the visual and performing arts, so it was mandatory for each class to put on a couple plays for the school every year. I performed in these productions and brought my love of theatre to high school where, alas, I wasn’t cast in the first show I auditioned for. So I signed up for deck crew instead and loved the experience of such an integral support role. Thus ended my onstage career. By the time I was a senior, I was designing scenery and had convinced myself (and my parents) that scenic design was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So off I went, a young aspiring set designer, to study at Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. While in my first year, I rapidly fell in love with the fluidity and freedom of lighting, and I ended up graduating as a lighting designer with a secondary emphasis in set design and technical direction. Since then, I have been working almost exclusively in lighting. But, I have had opportunities to expand my experience into projection design, which I find to be a really nice meld of the design principles of both scenery and lighting.
What do you find inspirational currently?
I find music to be extremely inspirational for me. When I conceptualize my designs, I listen to a lot of different genres and styles that will help mentally ground me into the world of the show. In fact, my favorite lighting designs have been for dance pieces because I respond well to movement and musically motivated cues. On any given show, hearing the sound designer’s work evolve during the design process is an enormous help for me since it allows me the opportunity to respond to the aural landscape of the piece.
And I’ve found that when I’m feeling lazy, my “Totally Rad 80’s” station on Pandora inspires me to actually get up on a ladder and hang those lights.
Tell us about a favorite show of your own?
I recently enjoyed working with director Ben Randel on a production of Treefall by Henry Murray. The show takes place in a world that has been rent practically uninhabitable by an environmental apocalypse. The audience follows the story of three adolescent boys who struggle to create a family with each other, despite the fact that they have no real models for a working family structure. In order to construct what they perceive as a proper family, they rely on hazy recollections of gender roles and artifacts left behind by their parents. These constructions unravel and shift dramatically when they meet a girl who is traveling through their area; she becomes the catalyst for primal and urgent feelings to explode to the forefront and the boys struggle to respond.
I particularly enjoyed working on this show because of its more abstract concepts of primitive humanism, exploration of gender roles, and heavy undercurrents of sexuality. All of the design elements succeeded in reflecting this abstract world, and each element strongly supported the others. I joked that this show was the closest to experimental work I had done since college. But truthfully, the experience was not only refreshing and enjoyable, but nostalgic as well.
Favorite work of someone else’s, whether in your discipline or not?
I have a few favorite artists in mind that I often have the pleasure of working with. Kuo-Hao Lo, resident scenic designer at New Conservatory Theatre Center, consistently surprises me with the sheer range of his capabilities. His conceptual work is always fresh and his designs are so grand in scale that they make any space look bigger. Josh Senick, sound designer, inspires me with both his original compositions and the music he pulls for his designs. He makes extremely strong choices and always has the theory ready in his back pocket to support his decisions. Arturo Catricala, director, impresses me with his rich, vivid, and layered visions. He has pulled some work out of me that I didn’t even know I had buried in there. Whenever I’m collaborating with these colleagues, I find myself growing and pushing boundaries. I’m so fortunate to work alongside some brilliant artists.
A Perfect Ganesh
You can have a look at Christian’s website, and contact him, here.