Section: Arts

Artist Profile: inside the illuminations of a lighting designer

Emily Blanquera ’20 sees the world as a series of light, shadows and angles. A director, actor, set designer and lighting designer, Blanquera finds that her creative perspective has made its way into her daily life. “After doing so much lighting design work,” she said, “I see the sunrise in a different way.”

It was Blanquera’s sister who initially persuaded her to become involved with theater. “I really hated theater when I started doing it,” she said.

However, Blanquera continued to participate in theater, since it was convenient for her and her sister to do the same activity. It wasn’t until forming a strong bond with her theater community in high school that she was able to fall in love with drama.

In high school, Blanquera mainly focused on the acting side of theater. Since coming to Kenyon, she has expanded her involvement, taking on the roles of director, set designer and lighting designer. Though she is also passionate about directing, Blanquera said, “Design in general … is where I feel most comfortable and challenged in the same way.”

Blanquera studied off-campus at the National Theater Institute in Connecticut last semester, where she focused on developing her skills as a director. The program she attended helped shape her approach to directing Late, a Cowboy Song, which was performed on Oct. 25 and 26. Blanquera is thankful that the first full-length play she directed is one that has long been dear to her.

“If I was ever mad or upset,” she said, “I could read [Late, a Cowboy Song] and it would make me feel better.”

As a director, Blanquera believes it is important to treat each character sympathetically. Approaching the script as if every character is a good person, even if it is untrue, allows her to care equally for each role. For Late, a Cowboy Song, Blanquera led the actors in speaking activities and spatial exercises, such as manipulating their voice and exaggerating physical actions. These methods helped her observe and plan out the physical aspects of performance and become more familiar with her actors’ techniques. She also believes that the exercises gave her actors the confidence to make decisions about their speech and movement.

Blanquera worked as both the director and the lighting designer for Late, a Cowboy Song, roles she felt especially prepared for because of her knowledge of the play.

The role of light in a performance varies depending on the tone of the play and the decisions of the director. Sometimes lighting is strictly for visibility, but light can also establish setting or emotionally support the plot. A self-described “goon for spectacle,” she loves playing with angles, silhouettes and colors in her designs.

Theater has taught Blanquera to view all human connections as a type of performance. “Maybe the thing I love the most about theater is the perspective that it gives you,” she said. “You think so critically about the things people do on stage that you cannot stop thinking about … the way things look in the everyday.”

Blanquera, who serves as the technical director for StageFemmes, will be working on the lighting design for StageFemmes’ upcoming production  of Hookman and the upcoming senior thesis show, Five Flights. This spring, she will also direct Athena and design the lighting for her senior thesis, The Glass Menagerie.



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