Lighting the Way at Baltimore’s ‘Disney Live!’

(Courtesy of Feld Entertainment)
(Courtesy of Feld Entertainment)

As families arrive at the Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric for “Disney Live! Mickey and Minnie’s Doorway to Magic” on Dec. 9 and 10, few will think of the enormous time and effort that goes into creating such an interactive show. A number of elements must come together cohesively to create a finished product that keeps the crowd in suspense and engages families to join in the adventure.

“It really is a magic show; there are several illusions that go on,” said Taylor Knight, who serves as an electrician for the production. Knight has been working with Disney as a lighting specialist on tour for nearly two years.

Knight, who attended Hebrew school and was bat mitzvahed in her hometown of Dallas, first got involved with theater in high school as a scenic artist.

“Lighting is just scenic art with a different medium,” she said. After receiving her degree in theatrical design and production with emphasis on lighting from Oklahoma City University, Knight lived in Israel for a year doing production.

As a part of an internship program, she learned more about Judaism and served as the assistant stage manager for a production of “Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat” that traveled around to different cities in Israel.

“‘Doorway to Magic’ is all about the audience experience,” Knight explained. “It is very interactive, the way that we have lights going, especially when Tinkerbell is teaching the magic words at the start of the show. Tinkerbell comes on and teaches a magic word. The audience will have to shout that word as a part of the show to help characters ask questions and overcome obstacles.”

Knight’s role in the production is to help set the mood for specific scenes with lighting and focus the audience on particular elements of what is happening onstage.

“I typically get to the production seven or eight hours before the first show,” she explained. “It is just the crew; the performers don’t come in until two or three hours before the first show starts. We generally do two or three performances a day. I help unload trucks, I put together lights, props, carpentry and wardrobe — every one works together to get the production ready. After the show, we also have to disassemble the stage.”

According to Knight, setup typically takes seven hours, and tearing the set down takes three hours.

During the show, Knight serves as a programmer for the lighting and sits in the middle of the audience at the lighting console.

“I have general looks for each of the scenes as far as lighting,” she said. “They are different for each scene. For example, it is much brighter lighting for Cinderella and much darker for the evil queen. It just depends on the tone of the scene. I direct each of the moving lights to the point of focus for the scene. There are two on-deck electricians who are on stage that I coordinate with via radio to do things such as fix a broken light or cue a fog machine.”

Knight manages about 50 lights per show.

While the production can keep her out on the road for weeks at a time, seeing the enthusiasm of the audiences makes the time away from home worth it.

“I love seeing the audience members dressed up,” said Knight. “Parents will dress up with their kids, spouses will dress up as Minnie and Mickey. It’s just so touching to be able to see that. It’s very active and high energy. Parents and kids alike come up to me after the shows and say how much they loved it. There really is something for everyone.”

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