An Interview With...Ian Stovall

How did you get started in theatre?
25 years ago I was an Electrical Engineering major, and misread the catalogue. "Lighting" sounded cool; I missed the TH (Theater) part of the course number.

What hooked you? School play, Broadway show, etc.
The total acceptance of theater people for each other.

What was the first show you ever worked on?
A little one act in college, "Not Enough Rope."

What was first show you ever saw?
"Madame Butterfly" road show when I was real little, "Romeo & Juliet" at Circle in the Square in High School.


What is your position on a production?
Lighting Designer

Describe what your job entails.
I start by reading the script, then I work with the producer to get a reasonable budget number, meet with the director and other designers to get the "feel" of the show, get the areas that need "specials," and then hit the computer to draft up the plot, select the colors, and order the rental equipment.  Come tech week, we hang it, then cue it and set levels during a lighting rehearsal. We fine tune thru final dress, then away we go.  In the old days, we had to work all kinds of manual boards for the run, now the computer board handles it.

Did you go to school to learn what you do?
One class, but my professor said I picked it up faster than anyone he had ever seen. I have continued to learn and refine my art on my own since then.  I've worked on about 100 shows in various capacities, about 80 of those as lighting designer. My wife attended Purchase and is a Stage Manager, Director, and Set Designer, so there is a lot of experience to draw on in the family.


What has been your favorite show to work on?
Man of La Mancha, Pippin a close second.

What motivates you to keep doing what you're doing?
My Muse gets on me, and keeps me itching every so often.

How do you feel about pre-casting?
Pre-cast concrete has revolutionized the building industry,
but has little application in the theater industry. :-)

What was your worst theater experience?
Working with a Director who thought that she was the goddess of the theater, and attempted to call every cue to the stage manager, and tweak the tech every performance, but then did not bother to show up for the last performance,
strike, and party.

What was your best theater experience?
A production of "You Can't Take it With You." My wife directed.  Getting a part required a "real theater pro, leave the ego at home" attitude, and there were no less than 3 other directors in the cast. Everyone had a blast, and 2 of the cast ended up getting married.

If you could give one message to ALL of the actors out there, what would it be?
The light comes on in the same place, the one the director wants, every time.

If you could give one message to ALL the producers out there, what would it be?
You get what you pay for.

If you could give one message to ALL the directors out there, what would it be?
If I could make light bend in free air, I would be rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

If you could give one message to ALL the other techies out there, what would it be?
Do whatever it takes to make your show the best it can be. There is no such thing as "that's not my job!" But know your limitations, it's OK to say, "I'm not real good at that."

Why do you work at the theatres that you do?
A great artistic environment.


Do you think Long Island Theater will continue to grow?
LI is growing, so will its theater. Groups will come and go and re-form, but that is natural.

What brings you greatest joy?
My daughter's smile!

What irks you?
Board ops that second-guess the designer and people whose egos are not proportional to their talents. People who want to help, but have to be tracked down every time you actually need them to do something.

If you won lotto tomorrow you would...
Buy my own lights, board, etc.

Is it true you would rather be rich than good looking?
This question became invalid with the advent of plastic surgery. :-)

What's your favorite word?

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
"Free BEER!" :-)


Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like the readers to know about?
I recently relocated to Suffolk from Nassau, and am working on re-establishing myself closer to home.

What is your dream theatrical project?
A Long Island Performing Arts Center where community companies can mount shows on a rep or rotational basis.