Volunteering at DreamWrights is contagiously fun. Take Tony Fogle, for example. One night, he was bored so he agreed to lend a hand striking a show in which his aunt had been involved. Three and a half years and 26 shows later, Tony is a pillar of the DreamWrights family, as the “go-to” Lighting Designer. “I came to help with strike one night because I had nothing else to do. A bunch of people asked if I was trying out for next show but theatre really isn’t my thing. But sure, I’ll come help with something backstage,” Tony explained.
Tony did return, thinking that he would be able to participate behind the scenes, where he would be more comfortable. “They threw me onstage as Little John in Robin Hood,” Tony winces. “That was a little overwhelming for me.” He describes it as tough but fun. Admittedly, he did enjoy it but he did not look forward to getting back on stage.
“The people here were awesome.” They kept him coming back. The next show was Gentleman from Indiana and Tony did props for that show. At that time, a talented college student was doing lights. Tony was impressed with him. It probably was due to Tony’s height (he’s 6 feet 6 inches tall) that he was asked to lend a hand. “I helped him out. As he was adjusting the lights, he started explaining to me what he was doing. Before he left, he gave me a quick run through of how the lighting system worked. Two shows later I was doing lights and I’ve done just about every one since.”
Not originally educated for his technical career at a micro electronics company or in lighting, technical is where Tony’s interests lie. He says the best part of being the Lighting Designer is that it keeps him off stage. “If it weren’t lights, it would be props or set. I’m not a big social person.” He likes that everyone greets him on his way in but he quickly finds his place in the shadows, where he’s comfortable behind the control panel. He says he likes how all the jobs are connected. “I’m here doing my own thing but I’m part of the bigger picture. I like having my own little piece of the larger puzzle.”
When asked what his secret to making the actors on stage look so good, Tony responds, “Make sure you can see them all. If somebody is in the dark, it is glaringly obvious to me. If there is part of the set that the lighting isn’t nice on, I notice. When I’m doing it I try to hit everything and make it look nice.” His best advice is to simply make sure everyone is lit.
Tony considers Seussical to be his toughest show to light. “I stressed a lot about it but Seussical was my favorite because it was more of a challenge. It pushed me to learn things [about programming lights] that I didn’t know previously.” He anticipates The Wizard of Oz to be equally challenging. He says an option could be to go with “plain Jane” lights. Tony explains, “Just like Suessical and some of the other shows I’ve been involved with, I feel lights can make a big difference in how the audience connects with the show. I have to make sure I compliment, and hopefully add to, the mood of the show.”
When Tony counted up the number of shows in which he’s been involved, he surprised himself. “This is show number 26 I’ve been involved with… which is ridiculous! But it is fun so I keep coming back. And they keep asking me to.”