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