Peggy Eisenhauer Visits Elmwood

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For those of you who missed our latest Tech Event…

Broadway lighting designer, Peggy Eisenhauer graciously shared her time with us at Elmwood Playhouse. I was struck by how much she remembered about our place – including the nickname given her by Bob Olson – “girlie”. Peggy was a teenager when she worked at Elmwood and what she learned from us helped to launch her interest in lighting design.

This past Monday night, Peggy spoke to an Elmwood audience of over 60 people about her career on Broadway, in film, and her partnership with Jules Fisher. One of the things that struck me most though, was what she said backstage before the event. “This was much more of a calling than I thought. This is my only freedom, the freedom to give it all.” And by this she meant to give herself over to her passion for using light to create mood and emotion in theatre.

Lighting, she said brings a dramaturgical reality; “there’s truth in that light”. No one who attended this talk, followed by a Q & A, will ever see lighting design in the same way. She spoke of the harsh side of the business, getting people to trust you, and how hard it is to explain to directors what the light will do. Unlike a set or costumes, light cannot be “previewed” in the same way. It is organic and directors often “have to talk to us as if we are the actors.” So when a director says “it should be lonely”, it’s up to the lighting designer to paint that “lonely” with light.

Many of us who do theatre often take the technical aspects of a production for granted. But a lot goes into each piece that makes a production happen and last Monday, Peggy inspired in all of us a greater appreciation of this fact.

At the end of the evening, we asked her to autograph the program from the first show she ever designed lights for at Elmwood, American Hurrah. She did so with a big smile and to great applause.

Peggy Eisenhauer is a Tony Award winning lighting designer who has worked all over the world. We at Elmwood were most fortunate to hear her story.

A special thank you goes to Jennie Marino, who arranged this event.

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