About - michaelbanksdesign

Michael Banks

While much of my time has been spent doing lighting design and photography, I have had nearly as much experience in sound and music, and a little less in scenery and architecture. It is hard to say whether I am a lighting designer with a strong grasp of photography or a photographer who happens to also design light for the theatre. The disciplines are completely intertwined for me. Every breakthrough I make in lighting becomes a breakthrough in photography, and vice versa. I believe that mastery of any aspect of art is a step toward the mastery of all art. The unforgiving eye of the camera has taught me so much about contrast and composition. Music and sound have taught me that the timing of a cue is just as important as the content.

My mentor at the Ohio Light Opera, Erich Keil, takes an eastern view of art and theatre: according to him all we do is study the deeper nature of the universe through one lens or another. Whether that lens is lighting, sound, photography, or anything else is immaterial. This idea encompasses all aspects of theatre and life. There are simply stories and characters, and in theatre, each discipline exists to illustrate these core elements. The actors and director tell the story with word and movement, the scenic designer with the environment, the costume designer with external expression of the inner character, the sound designer with the auditory-emotional story, and the lighting designer with the visual-emotional story. Lighting has the additional responsibility of supporting and unifying all of the other elements. It must act with the actors, encompass with the scenery, reveal inner character with the costumes, and counterpoint the rhythm of the play with the sound. The deep relationship between all aspects of theatre makes it difficult for me to dedicate myself to a single theatrical discipline when I believe that all disciplines are one.

I have a great love for the work of other designers and a deep empathy for the story they are communicating. The collaborative process is very important to me because I believe that a good collaboration will result in a final product that far exceeds the capabilities of any of us on our own. The director and designers should work as harmoniously as a musical ensemble. When it goes well, I feel like I am playing in a tight knit jazz improv.
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