Spotlighting the History of Women Lighting Designers!

March is Women’s History Month and boy do women have a great history in the theatre as lighting designers!  In fact, it is widely recognized that a woman is considered to be a pioneer where theatrical lighting design is concerned.  That woman is Jean Rosenthal, born 1912 in New York City.  In the early 1900’s, the set designer and electricians handled the production’s lighting.  There was no lighting designer at the time.  Rosenthal believed that lighting a show “was a career in itself” and was a force in making it be the standard to have a lighting designer.

Jean Rosenthal

Jean Rosenthal
Photo Courtesy of

JeanRosenthal Martha Graham Dance Company
Jean Rosenthal lighting of a Martha Graham Dance Company production.
Photo courtesy of


In addition to designing lights for hundreds of shows, including the New York City Ballet, West Side Story and The Sound of Music, she contributed to the way shows were lit by other designers. Rosenthal is credited with the elimination of shadows by using floods of upstage lighting and controlling angles and mass of illumination to create contrasts without shadows.  Her lighting for Martha Graham, featuring a diagonal shaft of light, is now a standard for lighting used by dance companies.

In 1982, Tony Award winner Beverly Emmons was asked by Martha Graham to light her repertory in continuing the tradition set by Rosenthal.  “It’s not my lighting as much as a continuation of lighting designs done by Jean Rosenthal, the original lighting designer who worked with Graham from 1936-1969. I’m making the lighting modern for now, but keeping it within the vocabulary of the period because Graham is period work,” says Emmons.

Beverly Emmons Martha Graham

Beverly Emmons lighting for Martha Graham Dance Compnay
photo courtesy of

In addition to a Tony for her lighting for Broadways’s 1980 production of Amadeus, Emmons has seven Tony Award nominations and was awarded, along with Robert Wilson, the Lumen Award for Einstein On The Beach.

Emmons 2photos

With over 150 Broadway shows under her belt, Tharon Musser is another widely respected lighting designer.  Musser was born in 1925.  She is best known for her work on A Chorus Line and Dreamgirls.  In fact, A Chorus Line was the first Broadway production to use a fully computerized lighting board instead of the industry standard piano board with was manually operated.

Musser is a three time Tony winner as well as was nominated for an additional six productions!

musser headshot

Tharon Musser photo courtesy of

musser production

Dreamgirls image courtesy of (left).
A Chorus Line image courtesy of (right)


Notable women lighting designers don’t end with Rosenthal and Musser and Emmons.  Shining stars on the scene today are Natasha Katz, Pat Collins, Paule Constable, Jennifer Tipton and Peggy Eisenhower creating beautiful and widely recognized lighting design.   I guess you could say the future for women in theatre is bright!

women of theatre





Robert Dickinson Lights the 2014 Oscars

Robert (Bob) Dickinson returned to lighting the Oscars this year, and he did an AMAZING job!

Dickinson has a lot of experience under his belt.  He’s been lighting since the 1980’s and has won 18 Primetime Emmys. Since 2013, he’s lit the NAACP Image Awards, the 2013 Grammy Awards, the 2013 Oscars, the 2013 Tony Awards, the 2013 Emmy Awards, the 2014 Golden Globe Awards and the 2014 Grammy Awards!  Are you as exhausted as we are after that list?

When someone has designed 26 Oscar broadcasts (now 27!) and the Olympic ceremonies, we love to watch their technique in action.  In the office, we’ve watched “Let it Go” about 25 times now, and it’s a striking visual event event.

Dickinson has an amazing ability to transform environments in a colorful and sparkling way.  One of the most incredible aspects of his work is the combination of lighting for video and stage at the same time. He keeps the camera and the audience equally happy.

"Let it Go" is instantly ice-y.

“Let it Go” is instantly ice-y.

"Happy" just makes you smile

“Happy” just makes you smile

"Moon Song" is intimate and romantic

“Moon Song” is intimate and romantic





Hats off to a genuinely skilled lighting designer and a fabulous show.  We can’t wait to see his future work!

Happy Oscars!