A LIFE IN THE THEATRE: Lighting Designer Kenneth Posner Talks About 30 Years in the Business

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14 Jul 2013

Kenneth Posner
Kenneth Posner

Kenneth Posner, the prolific lighting designer who received three Tony nominations for the 2012-13 season, talks about 30 years in the industry.


"I discovered theatre at a young age, as a mechanism, frankly, to escape," Posner said. He was seven years old. His parents, who were immersing him in theatre, had just divorced. His mother created costumes for community stage groups in Westchester County, New York, where he grew up.

"She brought me and my brother along to the warmth and safety of these companies. I became involved in this world of storytelling, of creativity and expression. I never chose to leave it. I developed a passion for theatre, for telling stories in a proscenium arch."

That passion has led to 30 years in theatre, with 49 Broadway shows under his belt, along with many more Off-Broadway and on summer and regional stages.

Posner, 47, has received ten Tony Award nominations for Lighting Design, including for Hairspray and Wicked — and an unprecedented three this year in the same category, for the musicals Pippin, Cinderella and Kinky Boots. He won in 2007 for Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia.

Posner's fervor didn't initially focus on lighting. "I thought I might be a costume designer. In college I discovered light as an artistic medium, as a device to paint and sculpt with. I enjoyed the lighting designer's job of creating environments and mood. I completely pursued it."

He started working in summer theatre at the age of 17. "I've done summer stock every year since." He was at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Massachusetts when two colleagues introduced him to Billy Mintzer, who taught lighting at Purchase College School of the Arts and who, Posner said, became "my mentor."


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