Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Interview with Leigh A. Mumford, lighting designer for SoMoS

SoMos is a Branch Dance performance spectacle bridging nature and the urban landscape, to be presented in a parking lot in the North Philadelphia barrio on October 12, 2012, at 8pm as part of Taller Puertorriqueño’s performance series, Café Under the Stars: Spotlighting the Arts in El Barrio. In contrast to the urban landscape, the parking lot at 5th and Huntingdon Streets will be transformed into a quiet carnival of nature images, sounds, and movement invoking the four seasons. This is a free event. See links on the right for more information. 

Photos of Leigh Mumford's lighting for Postcards From the Woods by Cylla von Tiedeman

Interview with Leigh A. Mumford, lighting designer for SoMoS

Q: Please describe your work for SoMoS . How does the scale of SoMoS affect your approach to lighting?

Leigh A. Mumford: The scale of this project is large and small. It is delicate in every way because the movement is so slow and melodic, one gets lost within it. So when approaching the geodesic tents, which are huge on the outside but quite intimate on the inside, I have to keep in mind the complete simplicity of this world so as not to upstage it with my design. The space outside the tents is vast and will include texture and breakups in light to emulate the light between leaves and trees and the overall feeling that fall brings to our souls and our senses. Inside the tents Merián’s projections serve as the light, which in itself is beautiful and holds incredible texture. So my lights inside will only cut in from the sides so the projections appear three-dimensional.

Jumatatu Poe
I cannot simply approach this project thinking it is large—each area is so incredibly intimate and important that it needs to be broken down using isolation and complete and utter emotion. On the equipment end of things the scale is HUGE; it has taken months for us to get here. I'm so excited and blessed.

Q: What is the set up like for the show, and what are some of the challenges?

Leigh A. Mumford: Setup is very much like arena lighting slash dance lighting. Audiences will be viewing the work from every direction but they too will also be lit because they must experience this work. There is no brightness in lighting like stage theater, the lighting will be broken up and quite shadowy, carving out the bodies like the sun or moon sliding through the trees, blanketing itself, and wrapping around, giving life and energy to our nightly tree dancer nymphs.

Noemí Segarra
Challenges will be plentiful as I won't really know what this will look like until the day before, which is nerve wracking. I have all the confidence in my design approach and implementation of the design—however, as an artist, the greatest challenge is perfection within one’s own mind, knowing that I can always do better and hoping to have the time to perfect the design. The challenge at that point lies within my dual job as technical director. The technical aspects have to be constantly monitored and properly installed. That is the biggest job and then the design comes into being.

Q: Merián has talked how SoMoS is like a culmination of her branch dance work. How long have you been working with Merián on branch dances, and how do you see this evolution of her work?

Olive Prince
Leigh A. Mumford: I first worked with Merián for Postcards from the Woods back in 2009 for the Live Arts Festival. It was an incredible experience. My light moved organically in and out of the projections, I became a part of the piece literally by manually fading in and out the lights based on instinct and feeling. SoMoS will be my second experience with Merián. Merián's evolution is taking her slow melodic movement to another level, not only incorporating more lighting but doubling all the projection images and adding the scenic elements for the first time. Instead of just watching the video, Merián and Christine Darch have created a world to step inside of and experience in the round in a neighborhood where not all are able to travel and see these beautiful places. "We are nature"—to quote Merián—and we are bringing four worlds, four seasons to concrete land.

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