And the Tony Nominees Are…


Peter Nigrini, “Ain’t Too Proud” and “Beetlejuice”

In this episode of “And the Tony Nominees Are…” Peter Nigrini, 2019 Tony Award Nominee, Best Lighting Design of a Musical (with Kenneth Posner), “Beetlejuice” and Best Scenic Design of a Musical (with Robert Brill) ,“Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations” recalls his early childhood experiences of being different from everyone around him.

AIRED: June 05, 2019 | 0:03:52

All through grade school

I didn't say the Pledge of Allegiance,

and every year at the beginning of school,

it was my job to explain to my teacher

why I wasn't going to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

But I realize now that's like --

it's a big thing to expend

your entire formative years going through

what for me was a ritual in which I was defined

as something separate from all the people around me.



My name is Peter Nigrini.

I'm a projection designer, and I was nominated with Robert Brill

for the Best Set Design for "Ain't Too Proud".

And I was also nominated with Ken Posner

for the Best Lighting Design for "Beetlejuice: The Musical".

You have to be someone who is willing

to step outside of the norm.

Making art by following the rules

is sort of the antithesis of making art.

I was a passable singer. I did once act in a play.

I acted in "Tartuffe".

The night that I missed two of my entrances

and I only had two entrances was the night I realized

maybe this wasn't what I should be doing with my life.

By the time I was in undergrad,

I was clear that I wanted to be a designer.

If I were to give advice to my younger self,

it would be to take fewer theater courses.

Ultimately, making theater is a craft,

and teaching it in an academic environment

is something that I'm not so sure is the best course.

And at Dartmouth, I had that opportunity.

By the time I left Dartmouth, I designed 22 productions.

It was because I was the only guy to do it,

but that experience, just that repetition

of making things is what's critical.

I started out as a lighting designer

and as a scenic designer.

Then, eventually, years and years later,

ten years after I left Dartmouth

sort of came onto the idea of projection design,

at a time when the field was still in its infancy.

I'm so fortunate that, like,

I started doing this right at this moment

when the whole field was sort of

in the process of coming into being.

All of a sudden, we could make things

at almost the same speed as performers.

One of the things that I think is so important

is we are making live theater.

The live performers must always be the beginning

and the end of what we're doing.

And so, when I come into the room

with several million dollars worth of computers

and God knows how many projectors,

that the goal is ultimately to make all of that equipment

subservient to the live performance and the actors,

and what projection allows us to do

is borrow all those things that have been developing

over the last 100 years in the movies

and bring them back into the theater.

And I think that there's an attraction

to live performance now that's new,

that people are, all of a sudden,

realizing that things that are pre-recorded

don't have that immediacy,

and what they desperately want is a real, live, sweating,

maybe nervously shivering human being on stage.

And then, we can build around them

something that is some sort of hybrid

between an old idea of live theater

and a modern idea of cinematic storytelling.




All through grade school


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