It’s not often, or perhaps not often enough, that “behind the scenes” takes “center stage” but thanks to the talents of the Firehouse’s own James Atkins that is just what is happening on Saturday, August 25th when the Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theaters (EMACT) holds their Annual Gala and DASH Awards (Distinguished Awards and Special Honors). Atkins has been nominated for the category “Best Lighting Design (Play)” for his lighting design employed in David Auburn's award-winning play Proof, directed by Suzanne Hitchcock Bryan at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport in March 2012.
Those of you fortunate enough to have attended a performance of Proof last spring in the Arakelian Theater will remember the set: a lovely design by David Stawasz that depicted the porch of a Midwestern house belonging to a recently deceased professor of mathematics (Click here to read previous posts and to see photos). The autumn light was integral to the tone of the production and Atkins caught it perfectly. The subtlety of the light shafts glimpsed through the windows of the porch set was memorable…and obviously caught the attention of the EMACT panel.
The warmth of a shaft of sunshine and the angle of the rays emanating from the artificial, unseen orb responsible for it are indispensable cues in letting the audience know the time of the year and the time of the day. The August glare of an overhead sun is very different than the rays reflected from the low arc of a late afternoon “magic-hour” sun. We humans know this even if only sub-consciously. The initial scene in Proof is set on the 3rd of September, and further in there are a few scenes where it is critical that the audience be aware that it is “the morning after” the previous scene…not the next afternoon or the next evening, but early the next day. Our brains pick up the subtle cues concerning light that Atkins is feeding us and instruct us that this is so. A light jean jacket worn over the shoulders of the actor adds to the illusion of a chilly early morning. Even on a cold, raw New England night in March, sitting in the Arakelian Theater it was more than believable that on stage it was a changing season and the waning light was giving rise to the crispness of the autumn that was fast coming upon the heels of summer warmth.
Director Suzanne Bryan (Proof, March 2012; and the upcoming production of Doubt: A Parable, October 2012) says “James Atkins is the unassuming, humble, enormously talented hidden gem at the Firehouse.”
It is true. Many of you may not even recognize him, as he is literally the “man behind the curtain” controlling all the bells and whistles that make any performance magical. Atkins has been the lighting director at the Firehouse Center for several years now but he is only occasionally seen sprinting up the stairs to the technical booth to be ready for his first cue in the performance that is about to unfold for us as we wait patiently in our seats.
Mr. Atkins: we respectfully request you come and take a well-deserved bow and we thank you for your years of dedication that have created many memorable theatrical experiences for all of us here in Newburyport! Well done. Encore.
Just what is EMACT/DASH? EMACT was founded in the late summer of 1985 to encourage and promote Community Theater in Eastern Massachusetts through educational programming, supportive services, and the recognition of excellence.
DASH is a year-end awards program sponsored by EMACT as a way of recognizing outstanding performance and production values as displayed by its member groups during the course of the theater season. EMACT member groups who wish to participate in the DASH program submit their shows for consideration to a panel of experienced theater consultants who view each participating production and score them in a number of performance and design categories based on standard scoring criteria. Scores are tabulated at season's end with the top six scores in each category receiving a DASH Award Nomination and the top score receiving the DASH Award at the annual EMACT DASH Gala. Visit the web site here for more information.
“And the nominees are…” There are six nominees for the Best Lighting category (play, other than musical) sponsored by Advanced Lighting & Production Services in this year’s annual EMACT/DASH Award lineup. They are:
- James Atkins for Proof (Firehouse Center for the Arts)
- Mike Condon for The Diary Of Anne Frank (Quannapowitt Players)
- Matthew Guminski for Doubt (Massasoit Theatre Company)
- Eric Jacobsen for Radium Girls (Burlington Players)
- Mike McTeague for Dracula (Quannapowitt Players)
- Susan Tucker for Amateurs (Concord Players)
Congratulations to all and James…break a leg!