For lighting designers and lighting production students, the theatre is the studio. There is a direct link between the experience of learning about light in the classroom and the development of skill sets during production. BU’s BFA lighting design program provides high-level conservatory-style training with an emphasis on theatre, storytelling, collaboration, and finding a unique voice as an artist.
Lighting design students work collaboratively on every aspect of a production from planning to creating the design ideas, hanging lights, programming, cueing, and executing the design in performance. Working with light in production provides a unique opportunity for a young student designer to discover how light can support stories, themes, text, music, and movement. It is the place where all the elements of theatre come together.
Get a sense of McKenna’s lighting design style
It’s not only graduate-level students who get to design shows. Meet McKenna Ebert (CFA’22), a lighting design and English major. She designed The Infinite Energy of Ada Lovelace, a BU Opera Institute production at BU’s state-of-the-art Joan & Edgar Booth Theatre, and a punk rock musical retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders in the School of Theatre’s intimate Studio ONE venue.
“I’m really interested in the way lighting shapes how we interact with or perceive a story; what do changes in lighting do to our emotional and visceral connections to a piece? How do our cultural and historical expectations of lighting change the way we interpret a story? These are the central questions I am trying to answer with my thesis work.” -McKenna Ebert
Program of Study
Before officially declaring a BFA Design & Production major, each first year student entering the BU School of Theatre is admitted into the First Year Design & Production Core. The First Year Core experience establishes a base vocabulary that serves as the foundation for a student’s progression into their chosen BFA degree program. In addition, the First Year Core is designed to provide an appropriate context for faculty evaluation of each student’s strengths, interests, and potential for success in the upper years of training. At the end of the first year, each student will declare a BFA major; these decisions are reviewed and mentored by members of the School of Theatre faculty before a student is officially enrolled in their BFA program.
Lighting design majors critically analyze a wide range of texts, music, movement, and design. They create and interpret visual, conceptual, and emotional responses. They communicate through light and design these responses to an audience in support of the theatrical experience by learning to provide mood, visibility, composition, and environment, and create a unified stylistic vocabulary within the production.
Students also acquire the essential technical understanding of the equipment and tools used in contemporary theatre design as well as geometry, physics, color, electrical theory, software, hardware, and organizational paperwork, along with leadership, communication, and collaborative work skills. Average class size ranges from five to eight students, in state-of-the-art facilities exposing students to an advanced tool kit for the study and creation of lighting design.
Situated within a large, top-tier research institution, students pursue coursework in the University Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the undergraduate student experience. This provides students with the chance to dive into other topics, from other colleges and schools, to enhance their studies.
Be mentored by successful lighting designers
Like Resident Lighting Designer Kelly Martin (CFA’16)
In 2022, BU School of Theatre students worked with award-winning director Ain Gordon and resident lighting designer Kelly Martin on a week and a half-long workshop, bringing together theatre, design, dramaturgy, arts admin, LGBTQ+ studies, and medical students.
The students prepared for two public staged readings of Gordon’s play, which reflects on an often-buried moment in history: the beginning of AIDS.
Lighting design students had the opportunity to work with Martin, a lighting designer and associate based in New York City who’s lit productions with numerous arts organizations including New York Theatre Ballet and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
“As a graduating senior, it’s really fun to work with a School of Theatre alum who has already established himself in the industry. I’m learning a lot from him about how to approach workshops and new works like this one,” says McKenna Ebert.
“Putting on this workshop is remarkably useful because it has given me the capacity to throw a whole pile of design ideas at the play and see what sticks. Having the students around is what makes that possible. It’s also exciting to bring in a style of theatre-making rooted in the professional world and see how it differs from plays in the educational setting,” says Martin.
Explore your creative process through supervised production assignments and hands-on workshops, working with professional faculty members who are leaders in their fields. Enjoy exposure to the current practice and philosophy of design and production through associations with professional theatre organizations and the vibrant arts community in Boston.
Develop professional skills through production work, internships, and mentored work and design that will serve as a basis for your transition from the academic world to the larger community of theatre professionals.
Meet with professional guests from all areas of lighting design and production who come to BU to host workshops or complete a residency, allowing students to network and learn about all the facets of professional lighting careers.
Meet BU’s Lighting Design Program Head
Having designed more than 200 premieres for New York City Ballet’s repertory, Mark Stanley, Professor of Lighting Design at BU and NYC Ballet’s Resident Lighting Designer, is a leader in lighting design and shares his wealth of knowledge with current theatre students.
In CFA’s Faculty Feature series, Stanley shares with CFA what makes him excited to teach lighting design at BU, his mission in helping students find their artistic voice, and what he looks for in a prospective student interested in BU’s lighting design programs.
“I look for people who are passionate about theater and about lighting. A lot of people love lighting but maybe don’t love theater as much. They need to be passionate about theater as an art form. Second, they need to be passionate, curious, and also open-minded about what the possibilities are. They need to be willing to take criticism and try something new. I won’t dictate what they should try. I am going to encourage them to try something different from what they’ve done in the past.”
Assistant Professor, Lighting Design; Co-Chair of Design and Production
Aja M. Jackson
Lecturer, Lighting; BULX Production Mentor
Lighting and Sound Shop Manager
Professor, Lighting Design
- Mark Stanley: Among the nation’s leading designers of lighting for theater and dance, having worked on over 225 world premiere productions over the last four decades with top choreographers, artists, and performers, including Peter Martins, Paul McCartney, and Santiago Calatrava. He has been the resident lighting designer for the New York City Ballet for 35 years.
- Jorge Arroyo: Freelance lighting designer for over 20 years who’s work has been seen at venues such as the Apollo Theater and Carnegie Hall. He has created designs for over 50 shows at both the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Jazz at Lincoln Center for artists such as Alicia Keys, Gabriel Iglesias, The Wayans Brothers, and more.
We are an exciting community of diverse artists dedicated to telling stories that provoke and impact the world around us through a theatrical experience. BU’s Lighting Design programs stand apart from other programs because of their focus on individual development, professional faculty, extensive design opportunities, and broad-based rigorous curriculum.
- Chris Akerlind (CFA’85), Broadway Lighting Designer
- Harrison Burke (CFA’15), Assistant Lighting Designer, Boston Ballet
- Matthew Guminski (CFA’03), Freelance Lighting Designer
- Nicholas Houfek (CFA’07), Freelance Lighting Designer
- Dan Keenan (CFA’14), Freelance Production Electrician, New York
- Eric Larson (CFA’05), Lighting Designer, Los Angeles
- Kelly Martin (CFA’16), Freelance Lighting Designer, New York
- Jackson Miller (CFA’14), Freelance Lighting Designer, New York
- Ben Pearcy (CFA’93), Broadway Lighting and Projection Designer
- Rui Rita (CFA’90), Broadway Lighting Designer
- Scott Zielinski (CFA’87), Freelance Lighting Designer
Next Steps for Applicants
The best way to determine if BU is right for you is to explore our admission requirements, financial tools, and resources.
Reach out to our Director of Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions along the way. We are happy to discuss your educational interests and career goals.