Michael Oesch

Michael Oesch

Normal Native, IWU Alum is Visiting Lighting Director for Measure for Measure

November 8, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Michael Oesch, a 1999 graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University’s School of Theatre Arts, spent three weeks in July touring with the Smuin Ballet Company of San Francisco, fulfilling his role as the company’s resident lighting designer/director while the dancers performed outdoors in ancient stone amphitheatres.

This week, he’s taking advantage of a break in the company’s touring schedule to return to his alma mater as visiting lighting director for the IWU production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Performances are Nov. 8-13 at McPherson Theatre, (2 Ames Plaza East, Bloomington).

A native of Normal and graduate of Normal Community High School, Oesch started out at Illinois Wesleyan as an acting student, but found his interests quickly turned to the more technical aspects of theatre work and lighting design in particular.

“I find it’s kind of like painting with light,” he explains. “And there’s a lot of problem solving and a lot of variety in what you do. Rarely are you doing the same thing twice, so there’s never a dull moment.

“I think of lighting design in two parts. You have to conceive the idea and how to create the look and the angles, the color. The second part is actually doing it--creating the look--and the timing. The flow and movement of the piece is actually more like (being) a director in that aspect; you help guide the flow and focus. I like it. It keeps me engaged.”

After graduating from Illinois Wesleyan, Oesch started work as a carpenter in the scene shop at the Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington, Del. As he continued to gain experience, he was able to progress steadily toward his interest in lighting design. Before earning his master’s degree at the University of California--Davis, Oesch also worked with the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Mass., the Virginia Stage Company in Norfolk, Va., and the Toledo Repertoire in Toledo, Ohio. Along the way, Oesch has seen the value of the preparation he gained at Illinois Wesleyan.

“I really appreciate the fact this was a smaller institution, because there was more opportunity. What I learned at Illinois Wesleyan was how to look at the bigger picture, and principles and elements of design and composition. I had a very solid base from which to draw on and add layers to.”

He realizes most people probably don’t understand how much work is involved behind the scenes of a theatre production.

Yet, “that’s one of the things that drew me to theatre,” he says. “The collaborative process. The playwright ultimately has the idea with the script, but the director takes that in a direction, the set designer gives it a location, the costume designer creates the world that the people live in--so there’s this whole synthesis of creative ideas going on, and then the give and take. That’s what I really enjoy about the design process: how everything comes together. Someone can mention something, and that sparks an idea in my head, so it creates this energy.”

With Measure for Measure, Oesch said, Scenic Designer Curtis Trout conceived a world of “light and shadow,” echoing the ambiguity of moral questions raised in the play. “So the light is very controlled and isolated to create separate, isolated worlds, until at the end when everything becomes revealed, in kind of a grand illumination.”

Contact: Ann Aubry, (309)556-3181