An Interview With...
Chris Davis


How did you get started in theatre?
I played Charlie Brown in a 5th grade Christmas play. I didn't act again until 7th grade, when I played Bernardo (just try to imagine that!) in West Side Story. Needless to say, I was woefully miscast. The school had a very old (1929) resistance dimmer board that fascinated me, so I started working backstage.

What hooked you? School play, Broadway show, etc.
Both! When I was in high school my friends and I used to second-act a lot of Broadway shows, and then go back to the school and try to recreate some of the lighting effects that we had just seen. Theatre, and especially the backstage stuff, was the first thing that I felt I was really "good" at, and I was hooked.

What was the first show you ever worked on?
Well, the first "real" show I ever worked on was a community theatre production of "1776" here in Rockville Centre. I ran a follow spot. The first show I was paid for was a revue produced by the now defunct Theatre Tonite called "Those Were The Good Old Days". It took three of us to run the lights, and we split the one very small paycheck.

What was first show you ever saw?
"The Pirates Of Penzance". It was in the city, but I don't remember which company.


What is your position on a production?
Typically, I'm the lighting designer.

Describe what your job entails.  What are the duties of a lighting designer? 
I start off by reading the script several times and start formulating a preliminary lighting concept, nothing specific, just a general idea of what direction I'm thinking of going in. I'll bring these ideas to the table,
and then in collaboration with the director and the rest of the design team I'll refine this concept into something more specific.  Then, after attending some rehearsals (especially if it's a musical!), I draft the
light plot (a drawing which shows what type of lights are hung where, what color gels they get, how they are grouped, etc.). Once the plot is hung, I focus the lights and set the cues.

Did you go to school to learn what you do?
Yes, I have a BFA in Theatre Design and Technology from SUNY Purchase.


What has been your favorite show to work on?
Into The Woods, without a doubt. I find something new and exciting every time I do it.

What motivates you to keep doing what your doing?
The need to eat and pay bills. That, plus the fact that there's nothing else I'd rather do for a living:-)

How do you feel about pre-casting?
I don't have a problem with it. It happens everywhere, not just on Long Island.

What was your worst theater experience?
The time I had to walk out on a show the day of final dress. A lot of innocent people were hurt and I felt horrible for that.

What was your best theater experience?
I can't really point to one specific production, but overall it would have to be the time I spent at Broadhollow. We had a terrific design team, and
we cranked out some truly handsome productions.

If you could give one message to ALL of the actors out there, what would it be?
If you've had to endure a long cue-to-cue, thanks for your patience. But please stand ON the spike mark, not just near it!

If you could give one message to ALL the producers out there, what would it be?
You can never spend too much on new equipment, but you *can* on maintaining old junk.

If you could give one message to ALL the directors out there, what would it be?
The laws of physics state that light doesn't bend around corners, even for you!

If you could give one message to ALL the other techies out there, what would it be?

Why do you work at the theatres that you do?
Because they pay an almost living wage, and they're staffed with wonderful, creative people.


Do you think Long Island theater will continue to grow?
I certainly hope so. The most critical problem is developing a new audience, figuring out what they want to see...

What brings you greatest joy?
The look of awe and wonder that fills a small child's face on Christmas day. Not!

What irks you?
Calling tech week "hell week". Jeez, I hate that expression!

If you won lotto tomorrow you would...
Quit my job and open my own theatre (of course!).

Is it true you would rather be rich than good looking?
Sure, who wouldn't?

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
Jerry Garcia's guitar.


Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like the readers to know about?
Keep an eye out for a series of shows called "The American Musical Theatre Salutes", we'll be all over the Island this coming summer and fall.

What is your dream theatrical project?
A big budget Broadway musical with unlimited tech time.