Call and Response: Allen Lee Hughes

by Dawn Chiang

in I AM THEATRE

Post image for Call and Response: Allen Lee Hughes

“One of the strengths of the regional theatre systems is that it does provide an artistic home for artists… That relationship builds stronger institutions and I know it builds stronger artists.” 
-Allen Lee Hughes, lighting designer, I AM THEATRE

Allen’s observations about strong relationships between artists and theaters got me thinking about what qualities do I find important to a strong relationship between all theater makers — playwrights, managing directors, designers, actors, directors, artistic directors and the many others who make a production and a theater come to life.

This led me to the idea Molly Metzler’s idea of soaking:

“’Buy a hot tub [Lee Blessing] said, ‘The hardest thing about being a playwright isn’t the writing, it’s the thinking.’  Well, I’m still not a hot tub owner, but I have found that a metaphorical ‘soak’ is an invaluable thing for a writer to have.’” -Molly Metzler, playwright

In making theater, there is the deeply felt joy and power that comes from soaking together.

In the best collaborations, in the most rewarding long term relationships with a theater, in any satisfying production, we soak together

We probe, explore, push, poke and discover the play together as we gather to put our production onstage.  We collectively arrive at a place that none of us could have wholly imagined by ourselves alone.  The magic of those collective discoveries is the core connection that we nurture between us and share with our audiences.

We clarify and strengthen our vision of the power of a play — and the power of the theater — as we find the time to soak together.  There are no shortcuts.

How can we stimulate and nurture more soaking together?

What favorite examples do you have of soaking together?

What “hot tubs” would you like to create to feed our opportunities to think and explore together?

Let us know, or better yet, don’t just tell, show.


Call and Response extends the conversation surrounding the I AM THEATRE videos (and hopefully inspires you to make your own video). You can watch Allen’s video and catch up on I AM THEATRE here.


Dawn Chiang  has designed the lighting at numerous regional theatres including Denver Center Theatre Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Arizona Theatre Company, Alliance Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Guthrie Theater, Syracuse Stage, San Jose Repertory Theatre and Portland Center Stage.  On Broadway, Ms. Chiang designed the lighting for Zoot Suit, was co-designer for Tango Pasion, and associate lighting designer for Show BoatThe Life and the original production of La Cage Aux Folles.  Off-Broadway, she has designed for the Roundabout Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, and co-designed the first two seasons of the Encores! concert musical series at City Center.  Chiang was resident lighting designer for New York City Opera, where her designs includedA Little Night Music and Fanciulla del West.  She is the lighting designer for the award winning FDNY Fire Zone at Rockefeller Center in New York, which teaches visitors about fire prevention through an immersive environment using video, lighting, sound, show control and special effects.  At the Whitney Museum of American Art, she created a lighting performance piece, delights: Art on 5 Outlets.  She has worked on the concert tours of Paul Anka, The Carpenters, Diana Ross and Loggins and Messina; and authored the operation manual for one of the first major computer lighting control consoles, the Strand Light Palette 1.  Awards include two Dramalogue awards, an American Theatre Wing nomination, a Los Angeles Drama Critics’ nomination and a THEA Award (Themed Entertainment Association).  She is a member of United Scenic Artists, an Eastern Division board member of the Themed Entertainment Association and an associate consultant with Theatre Projects Consultants.