BACKSTAGE PASS: Let there be light


BACKSTAGE PASS: Let there be light


Date: August 8, 2012
by: Mallory Gnaegy | A&E Editor



Michael Pasquini is light-headed.

“They say it’s important to have a hobby outside of theater, outside of lighting,” he says. But for Pasquini, a long day at the theater is best rewarded with more theater.

“I love going to see shows and seeing what else someone has done, how they achieved it, what they brought to the stage and the story they have to tell,” he says.

But when he sees a producion for the second time, he really gets to watch and enjoy what’s happening on stage. He has a hard time even watching the show the first time around because he’s too busy craning his neck to see what lights are being lit and when.

His work graces the sets and actors at Banyan Theater Company, where he is currently the resident lighting designer, and at Sarasota Opera, where he is the assistant master electrician and the assistant lighting designer. He also freelances, and, since May, has worked on shows for Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, The Players and The Manatee Players.

“I’m often times amazed, especially at a place like Banyan, with how much gets done in such a short amount of time (among) everyone involved,” he says.

When he worked on The Manatee Players production of “The Full Monty” in April, he spent two, 48-hour workdays in a row there — only leaving the theater to eat and shower.

“I don’t think people necessarily know how much time it takes,” he says. But that’s not a complaint — according to Pasquini the end result is well worth it.

“It’s a lot of fun when everyone comes together and has this shared experience,” he says. “Not only are you sharing it with the people you created it with, you’re sharing it now with a whole new audience, and I think that’s really the fun of it.”

Pasquini is an artist; the light board and electrics are his medium and, in essence, he paints with light. But such art requires complicated execution and takes a great deal of planning. He reads the script several times, has meetings with production, designs the lights, puts the lights in place, sets up the cues and more — hours can easily turn into full days. Also, unlike art or sculpture, the impression isn’t recorded on a canvas.

“The only thing people have are their memories of the show, and that’s kind of the fun for me in a way,” he says. His lights must make a lasting impression.

Pasquini’s love of light goes way back. In fact, he’s always had an affinity for light-up toys and shiny things. Starting with the Glo Worm and Lite-Brite he had when he was little.” Things that lit up always fascinated me,” he says.

But surprisingly, his interest in theater didn’t start with lights. It was his role in an adaptation of “A Christmas Carol,” written by his seventh-grade teacher, that gave him the spark. He continued to pursue theater in groups around Sarasota and on-stage at Booker High.

It was The Players production of “The Secret Garden,” that gave him the backstage bug. He was only in charge of pushing a button when the stage manager called for it, but that small behind-the-scene role made a huge impression on him.

“I was enthralled with the fact that you could change everything in a second,” he explains, “I just thought it was really beautiful.”

Pasquini doesn’t expect anyone to single out the lighting at a show. He explains: “People don’t necessarily say, ‘Oh, that was a great person who did the lighting.” Instead he says it’s the artful collaboration with those onstage and behind the scenes that make a production successful — many hands make light work.

“When it comes together, the lighting works for the show, people enjoy it and that’s how it needs to be,” he says.


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