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.
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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Laurie Metcalf, Tony Award Nominee, “Hillary and Clinton”June 04, 2019
Rachel Hauck, Tony Award Nominee, “Hadestown”June 04, 2019
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