House/Home Lighting Designer Carmen Hung writes about HIVE

Carmen Hung is designing lights for our upcoming production of House/Home at HIVE as part of our Prime Placements Program. Here's what she has to say about the show:

There is a reason why a theatre piece is called a “play.” In the end, isn’t the theatre just like a playground for us to enjoy and explore?

The creation process of HIVE 3 with Pi Theatre is very novel to me. I couldn’t agree with Jacqueline more: it is like an adventure. Most of my previous theatre productions have a very similar production schedule - 1-2 months of rehearsal, 1-2 weeks for load-in and tech, and 1-2 weeks run — and the text of the production is usually decided long before the rehearsal process. Yet for HIVE 3 we have condensed the whole creation, rehearsal, and technical process into a total of a week and a half, where everything starts from scratch. As a lighting designer, such production timeline is fascinating but also immensely challenging.

The stress comes from the uncertainty and the evolving nature of the piece. Many theatre companies like to hire lighting designers at the very last stage for similar reasons: it is difficult, though not impossible, for one to make lighting decisions without knowing what the final piece would look like. Say, noting where the performers would pause, or stand, or sit on stage, I could put a couple lighting instruments for that area to highlight the dramatic moment. But without knowing where the performers would be, or what they would do, a lighting designer needs to adapt to any new changes of the piece very quickly in order to achieve similar lighting effects.

But these are all about conventions; and for HIVE 3, there are none. This is where the fun and play comes in.

As much as I admit that this is a challenging process, HIVE 3 is also one of the most fun productions I have collaborated in. It is very rare for a lighting designer to be able to participate in the creation process from Day 1, and I enjoyed it so much that I would much prefer spending more time in rehearsals then simply lighting a show without being able to witness the progression of the piece. True, this requires a lot more human resources and time investment — for the crew, technical director, and the designers. But this also makes me realize how fluid and experimental theatre could be and, perhaps, should be.

I love how Colin Thomas from Georgia Straight sums up The Draw for HIVE 3:

"The companies give themselves permission to fail, which is exhilarating for all of us."

Permission to fail — what a great way to put it. This is about process and this is about exploration. What is intriguing about live theatre is the fact that it is not static; no two performances could be the same. But what I also found interesting is that the process of HIVE 3 is very similar to what Robert Lepage proposes as theatre without picture lock. HIVE 3 is a living experiment of what creativity and theatre could be. We have the space and the resources — now just play and see what comes out in a week and a half. Looking at the creation process of HIVE 3, where there have been moments when we thought we have nailed down the piece but then we went back to the beginning and reinvented the piece, this is incredibly fascinating to see how much fun we could have just by taking risks and embracing opportunities and new ideas. All of us in the Pi team are like riding a roller coaster that we know not where the end-point would be. But one thing is for sure: all of us are having fun, and this is what a “play” should be.

Carmen's Prime Placement is sponsored by Alan Brodie.

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