May 26, 2016 Stephanie Roberts

Lighting design has come a long way in the theatre since Ancient Greek times when artists relied on the sun to illuminate the stage for their theatrical productions. This would evolve over time to the use of burning torches and candles to enhance the play’s mood. Lighting set the tone, supported the scenes, and gave the audience a desired visual into the intensity and emotional center of the piece. Lighting brings together all of the elements (actors, set, costumes, props, etc.) of the play into a cohesive look. The ever-growing field in computers and digital technology has given birth to the next evolution of this powerful medium  projection design. The lighting designer now has the ability to catapult this field into new frontiers on stage with digital animation and automated moving projectors, and give the audience a spectacular experience.

“I am thankful that I can look back to UMKC and remember where my artistic identity was born. Without the program at UMKC, I would not be the designer, teacher, or mentor for my students that I have now become.”    David Hardy (MFA Lighting 2002)

A projection design program has not yet been established at UMKC but that has not stopped student lighting designers from learning about the medium and incorporating projections into their own designs. A big help has been from previous UMKC lighting alums, like Jeffrey Cady (MFA Lighting 1996) and Adam Dunaway (MFA Lighting 1998), mentoring student designers through master classes and residencies.   

The University of Missouri-Kansas City has unleashed a plethora of stellar lighting designers, tattooing their fiercely dedicated work ethic and powerful artistry in lighting and projections design onto the theatre world.

Temishia Johnson (MFA Lighting 2006) made her Broadway debut in 2008 assisting lighting designer William H. Grant III on Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, and Terrance Howard. “UMKC’s MFA Theatre Training Program really prepares you for the industry, and how to build your reputation in the industry. I am living proof that listening to your professors will get you further than you ever dreamed.”

Jeff Cady (MFA Lighting 1996) works mainly in projections, but still designs lighting. His latest work was seen in the Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. Cady spent the summer with Jennifer Lopez as the projections programmer for her AKA tour and with Jason Aldean for his Burn it Down tour. 

Rocco DiSanti (MFA Lighting 2008) primarily works as a projections designer in New York City. He is assisted by fellow UMKC lighting alums Doug Macur (2014) and Devorah Kengmana (2015). DiSanti is also the projections director for the Shen Wei Dance Arts Company, best known for their performance at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics opening ceremony. DiSanti conquered Broadway in less than two years to design shows at the Manhattan Theatre Club.  Those include The Snow Geese, starring Mary-Louise Parker and directed by Daniel Sullivan; The Columnist, starring John Lithgow; and Wit, starring Cynthia Nixon.   

  By David Ruis 



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