Eminent theatrical lighting designer, Michael Taylor-Broderick, recently presented a two-day workshop at DWR Distribution’s offices in Johannesburg. The course, held annually for the past three years, aims to provide attendees with an introduction to lighting design for stage or musical productions.

Taylor-Broderick points out that in the information age if somebody is interested in a topic, there is no lack of opportunities to research it online to gain new skills. However, the workshop format provides Taylor-Broderick with an opportunity to share his vast experience in lighting design, which spans more than two decades, and to develop a personal connection with attendees.

“I am really passionate about what I do, and engaging with young technicians who are new to the field provides the opportunity to share my experience, knowledge and passion for lighting design first-hand. Passion is contagious – and I really believe that those who have been privileged to work in the field can ignite it in the next generation of lighting designers by sharing their knowledge and experience.” –
Michael Taylor-Broderick

DWR’s Theatre Lighting Workshop draws candidates from a diverse range of sectors and caters for those who are accomplished programmers as well as those who are new to the field. “The participants are quite diverse, with some coming from houses of worship, others from rental and staging companies as well as from industry experts, such as Splitbeam who specialise in theatre technology,” says Taylor-Broderick. “The level of skill that the participants bring is also varied – with several experienced programmers and some who are completely new to lighting in attendance. I, therefore, start the workshop with some of the most basic elements of lighting for the stage and progress to some of the more intricate elements of design.”

Patrick Malele and Sivuyile Mabhengu of Pristine Moods, a rental company in Johannesburg, were among the participants at this years’ iteration of the Theatre Lighting Workshop. “I started working at Pristine Moods in the sound department, but have since developed an interest in lighting,” says Malele. “Michael’s workshop has broadened my understanding of lighting for the stage. I have always thought of professional lighting as being a lot of beams and effects to go with the music at events. This experience has taught me that there is a lot more to lighting than I could have imagined – and I am looking forward to using this knowledge in the future.” Mabhengu, who also started his career in the audio department at Pristine Moods, concurs. “As a technician in South Africa, the more skills that I have, the greater my value to my company and our clients. Now that I have a better understanding of lighting, I am a more well-rounded technician.”

Cameron Squires of Splitbeam, part of the Gearhouse Group of Companies, works as a lighting operator. “The Theatre Lighting Workshop has provided a valuable opportunity to concretise my understanding of theatre lighting and revisit some of the basics that I have already learnt,” says Squires. His colleague, Mfanafuthi Njokweni, adds: “For me, the most valuable aspect of the workshop has been drawing on Michael’s years of experience as a lighting designer. It is really encouraging to hear him reflect on some of the challenges that he has faced, and the problem-solving skills that he has used to overcome them. I am sure that I will find myself at Front of House facing similar challenges and using what he has shared in the years to come.” 

Reflecting on his involvement with training at DWR, Taylor-Broderick says: “It is very encouraging to see young people showing an interest in theatrical lighting design. We have amazing lighting designers in South Africa, but it is tantamount to the future of theatre in the country that we pass on the torch and invest in the next generation of technicians.”