My name is Matthew Mitra; I was born and raised in New Jersey. I started working on theatre in high school and was inspired by the lighting designer who was hired for the productions. She mentored me and helped me realize that lighting was my passion. I decided to major in theatre design and technology. I went to Susquehanna University for my B.A. in Theatre: Design and Technology and graduated in 2011. I then went on for my masters at The University of Missouri-Kansas City; I graduated in 2014 with my M.F.A. in Lighting design and Technology. During the summers, I was a freelancer and worked in several different theatre settings. I was working primarily as an electrician but designed for community theatre as well. I have a passion for teaching and for mentoring and hope to one day inspire young adults to pursue the arts.
Philosophy on lighting design:
When we are born, we emerge from the womb, opening our eyes for the first time to light. Except when we sleep, we depend on light to perform our daily activities – daylight, electric light, candlelight, starlight, and even an occasional campfire or thunderstorm. How we see is a complex physiological and psychological process. The lack of light affects our psychology. “Cabin fever” is a well-known winter phenomenon in the Artic circle. Light changes our moods, our physical energy, and even our ability to hear. Did you know that scientists have proven it is harder to hear if you can’t see? Not only do we rely on reading lips and facial expressions when we talk, but without light, we lose a sense of physical orientation, which in turn affects our hearing.
Light sets mood. Our culture trains us to associate different light with different experiences and outcomes. Would you suggest candlelight for a business conference? How conducive is florescent light to a romantic dinner?
The same principles apply to lighting design in the theatre. Light is a powerful and often unconscious way of communicating with an audience. The difference between theatre and real life is control – the lighting designer can control what the audience sees, where the audience looks, and how much of the stage is seen. The audiences’ perception of the play, it’s mood, and even the speed of performance can be affected by the quality, intensity, color, and direction of light on the performers, scenery and costumes. The timing, speed, and placement of lighting cues also profoundly affect our impressions.
What else does light tell us about a situation? Time of day can be defined by light. Mood and emotion can be accentuated with light. Light can shift us, in an instant, from reality to fantasy. Flashbacks, fantasies, dreams, and nightmares can be created with light. And, like a magician’s sleight-of-hand, light can redirect an audience’s focus, creating stage magic.
Unlike costumes, sets, and props, all real things we touch and use in tangible ways, light is elusive. How truly ironic that the form which so profoundly affects how we view the world should be so indefinable, relying on principles of heat, optics and physics. And how beautiful that we have created an art of consummate power from the most technically scientific of disciplines!