Allen Moyer, Set Director for The Minister’s Wife, playing at Lincoln Center through June 12, 2011, knew that for this late-19th century play he needed not just a period-appropriate light, but one that had real stage presence. The Syracuse, part of our Neo-Grec family of fixtures, fit the bill.
MK: As a Set Designer, you obviously know a lot about interior design through the ages. Did you become interested in period lighting through your work in the theater?
AM: Actually, I first got really interested in 19th -century period lighting after my partner and I bought our 1859 Neo-Grec brick townhouse in Brooklyn. We decided that we would do our best to respect the period details that were intact, and to try to find appropriate, antique gasoliers, at least for the first floor parlors. After much study, searching and shopping we ended up with amazing stuff and enough knowledge about what is right and wrong. That gave me the confidence for me to ask for the impossible when I am designing a period interior.
MK: How did you come to choose the Syracuse for A Minister’s Wife?
AM: Actually, using the Syracuse is ever so slight of a cheat because the play takes place in London. There are certain periods when there’s a big difference between American and English lights, but this isn’t really one of them. The scale of this fixture was right for a stage, because a smaller chandelier wouldn’t have been noticeable enough. The lines are very Gothic, which was right for this play.
We adjusted the fixture a little bit – even though it’s big it needed to be bigger so it would really show up on stage. We put spacers in the center to space the arms — that added a total of 6 or 7 inches.
MK: We haven’t carried the Neo-Grec line for very long. A lot of people don’t really know about it, and they’re such cool fixtures.
AM: I was so surprised to see it when it came in the Rejuvenation catalogue. You just can’t find these anywhere. The finish on your Neo Grec family is so beautiful. Occasionally you’ll find them in antiques stores, but usually they’ve been stripped of their finish. Who wants to buy a 10,000 dollar light fixture that’s basically just white metal?
MK: Was the light actually used at all in the play, or was it just part of the set?
AM: We actually incorporated it into the play. In one scene the minister’s wife, Candida, spending the evening at home with the young poet while her husband is out. They sit in by the firelight the chandelier is on but not really glowing. It makes sense that when the husband comes home he would throw on the light, or in this case, turn up the gas. When we did the show in a theater outside of Chicago we had a kind of dimmer. I told the director that wasn’t historically accurate – there wouldn’t have been a wall switch. So we rewired the Syracuse so that each light lit separately.
Now the scene is just great. The husband walks in, gets a tool like one that would have been used to turn up the gas, and goes to each arm one at a time and turns up the gas. Dramatically speaking, it ended up being a great moment — the master of the house takes all this time to turn on the light. It makes the scene so tense.
MK: What will happen to the Syracuse after The Minister’s Wife closes?
AM: Lincoln Center will put it in with their stock. That way future set designers working on a show can use it.
MK: What about Rejuvenation lighting at home?
AM: Actually, it’s part of my mission to get rid of bad period lighting. I’m always amazed — we live in this row of beautiful old townhouses with historically accurate everything and if you look inside they have the worst lights. But once people learn about period-authentic lighting they totally get it – you just have to show them.