I was fresh out of school when I got a phone call from an unknown number. A small group of theater makers who called themselves Corpus Ca were in the process of creating a new act and needed someone to develop light and sound along with it. Their technician at the time was about to start a full-time day job so he couldn’t make it.
And so, I went to pay them a visit while they were still in the painstaking process of doing research and doing countless hours of improv to see what worked- nervous as fuck and not too convinced I’d make a good enough impression to actually get the job.
But I did.
The performance was called ‘Lee’ and is about Lee Krasner, wife of Jackson Pollock the action painter. Doing a quick Google image search, you’ll find hundreds of images of themselves and their art, that the actors studied for countless hours in order to nail her character and relation to her husband. She sacrificed much of her career and life to support him, despite his habit of cheating on her and planting cars into trees, killing him instantly but not his mistress, who was with him.
Corpus Ca stands for the connection between the two brain halves, linking both sides of a person, the creative with the logic. It’s in relation with the way they play, very much from the gut without sugar-coating it.
This set the bar high for me. The actors are all over the place but at the same time, need moody, saturated lighting. Bear in mind, I had never designed a light scheme before. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.
I was there through the whole process of creation. I observed as the actors gave it their all, building up the trust in the director and the play. Weeks turned into months of hard work, literal blood, sweat and tears, submerging me in the painstaking trials and errors. I lost count on how many times I had to change the set, sometimes fundamentally. That, and the input from my colleague who was still there at the time, proved to be a very fertile environment. With everything going on, I can’t even remember when the decisions were made that I ended up using on tour, they just… happened.
They also did me a huge favor by implementing “the box,” a 3 meter high, 5 meter wide construction of pallets, giving me a surface of rough wood to play with. I put light on that thing from every direction, including the back. Using a hazer, I turned the stripes shining through into impressive beams of light, orange shining through the dark blue atmosphere.
Side light would bring out the grain of the wood and allowed me to make it light up warmly without involving the actors in front of it, who were going completely batshit in this particular scene.
The result was beyond anything I thought myself capable of. Like a boss, I started working out ideas in my head before trying them, making the actors’ jaws drop by pushing a fader. One of the greatest compliments they gave me was that the light was becoming an extra player onstage, complimenting and adding to the things they did. I never knew I could do that.
All that is now about 2 and a half years ago. Working with 3 actors, a director and the designer/book keeper/awesome person, I made it further into my career than I ever genuinely thought I would. Being part of Corpus Ca eventually gave me the confidence to decide, this is what I want to do, and what I would pursue for the rest of my life. Though I don’t think I’ll get many jobs in the future that will give me the satisfaction “Lee” did.
After two years, the tour has come to an end.
I’ll miss it terribly. This was my baby, and I feel a little hollow now that it’s gone. With everything we’ve been through together, the places we’ve been, the difficulties we’ve faced, the end couldn’t have been anything but anticlimactic as we all went home and I sat down with nothing left.
Time to find me a new job.
I tend to take my work personal. When I first started this gig, I knew that in the perfect circumstances, I’d be able to give them something that would impress actors, audience and critics alike, turning something already impressive into pure magic. I just didn’t expect the circumstances to be perfect.
But they were.
No matter what the future brings, or what jobs I get, they’ll never give me what “Lee” did. I guess that somehow makes me the baby of Corpus Ca, too.
“As a painter, I never thought of myself as anything but Lee Krasner. But I’m always going to be Mrs. Jackson Pollock. That’s a matter of fact.”