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Let there be light

If you caught the "Glass Menagerie" at artattack Theater — last year, or more recently "Ellington," at Oregon Cabaret Theatre, then — whether you noticed it or not, you've been under the spell of Mike Stanfill, — artattack's resident lighting designer.

"I love lighting design because of how subconscious lighting — is, how it can change the mood of those in the audience. 'Manipulate' — almost describes this, but without the negative connotation?I love helping — to tell the story with the lighting," says Stanfill.

His love of lighting is what led the Portland student — and actor to study at Southern Oregon University which unlike most schools, — offers a fine arts degree specifically in lighting design rather than — only the more general theatre degree.

Set to graduate this June, Stanfill says while there's — more money to be made in theatre on the East Coast, he hopes to keep himself — busy enough, doing a couple shows a month in Seattle and San Francisco. —

For now, the native Portlander is enjoying Ashland.

"Ashland is the speed that I need to go now," he said. — "Portland felt so laid back and Ashland's even more so. I love the art — culture, the theatre culture that's here."

Stanfill begins his designs by reading the script, first — as one would read a novel for the enjoyment of it, and then at least once — more, taking notes, asking himself questions like "What is the theme?" — "What are they trying to say about life?" Depending on the play, he'll — also research the playwright, his inspirations, and history surrounding — the play.

Then Stanfill sits downs for his first meeting with the — director.

"I had a chance to work with Jim Edmondson (technical — director in theatrical department at SOU and long-time resident director — and actor with OSF). He's very clear in what he wanted and left a lot — of room for me to be a designer," says Stanfill.

Once he has his design in mind, he will light plot, creating — a draft of what lights will go where and such for the light crew to follow. —

"Then we go into something called tech. It's a huge train — wreck? You have all the designers and technicians there, and the actors — will start running a scene and the director will yell "Stop!" and the — lighting designer will adjust something. Usually we'll take 6 to 7 hours — on a two-hour show."

It's a little bit different at artattack, says Stanfill — comparing artattack to the New York "actor studio," i.e., a small, intimate — space that allows for a lot of fun and creative choices.

"The artistic directors at artattack are young like me. — And I'm still young and na've enough to feel there's no wrong ways, but — only better ways to do things.

"The difference between a good and a bad designer," Stanfill — continues, "is a good designer knows what can be improved upon where as — a bad one would stick with the same idea, steam rolling ahead, no matter — what."

A good lighting design doesn't usually end up getting — reviewed because if it's going with the story, it doesn't get noticed. —

"Glass Menagerie" was one of the exceptions, says Stanfill: — "The lighting was so incredibly bold that it got a review."

A good review, that is.