Michael Maag is the lighting and projection department manager at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Maag has been fascinated with theatrical lighting and design since high school. After achieving a bachelor’s degree in technical theater, he traveled as an actor, a stunt man and fight coordinator, designed lights for theaters and planetariums, and then came to OSF to pursue the love of his life. We chatted in his office behind the stage of the Elizabethan theater.
EH: How do you design lighting for a play?
MM: When reading a play, the first thing that you start with is time, place, motion, where we are, when we are, how we’re moving from place to place. Then there is the overall idea — what is the piece about? What is the underlying meaning of this piece? Why are we doing this play? It’s not only what the playwright has as the underlying meaning of the work, why they wrote the play, but why this director is doing it, what their concept is, and why is it that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival chose to do this play at this time. All of that gets layered in. Then the job is to take the concept and to find a way with light to reinforce and to help tell the story. If we’re doing the “Scottish play” (“Macbeth”), and the play is all about blood, we want to establish lighting that helps make that blood stand out. So, we’ll have stark white, cool light that is in stark contrast to the deep red that is on the other side of the color spectrum, until we need the bloody scenes, and then we light it with red to emphasize it. So that we’re always getting your eye ready for what is going to happen.