An actor without a “techie,” the saying goes, is a person talking to themselves in the dark.
Clark University senior Alexander Rakovshik recognized the importance of the technical side of the theater when he was a child, and in high school focused on the crucial craft of lighting design. At Clark, he has implemented designs for the various performance groups on campus — and his design for the Clark University Players Society’s “Antigone” wowed the judges at this year’s Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival regional event, who recognized him with the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas Award.
The award comes with a scholarship for Rakovshik to spend three weeks training at the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas under the guidance of industry professionals.
“I’ve had an interest in theater since I was a kid, which ended up becoming more focused on lighting by the time I got into high school,” Rakovshik says. Since coming to Clark, he has worked as a designer on shows produced by the Visual and Performing Arts Department, Clark University Players Society, and Clark Musical Theatre.
A computer science major with minors in mathematics and physics, Rakovshik says the critical thinking skills he’s learned in the classroom have allowed him to think more analytically and systematically about lighting design. “This approach helps complement the creative side of theater,” he explains. “Whenever I create a design for a show, I always to try to keep track of which areas of the stage are most commonly used, as well as how the actors move from scene to scene. I build lighting around that to complement the performers. From this, I’m able to create unique effects to highlight the performance.”
Along with his engineering background, Rakovshik has enjoyed guidance from Clark’s Technical Director and Theater Designer Kevin McGerigle. “Kevin has played an instrumental role in the development of my creative design process and technical skills. His mentorship gave me the knowledge I needed to develop my own style, and helped me create more minimalist lighting designs,” he says. “I’ve started to favor contrasts and shadows in my work, while at the same time making make sure the lighting serves its function — that the actors and the set are visible, according to the needs of the specific scene.”
While Rakovshik expects that the Stagecraft Institute internship will provide him with the necessary experience needed to pursue a career in theatrical lighting, his immediate plans after graduation include forging a path as a software engineer. “It’s a passion of mine, and something I’ve been working toward with my computer science education,” he says.
He is not bringing the curtain down on the theater, however. “I still plan to try to find work in a community theater so I can continue my own personal development as a lighting designer,” he says.
Started in 1969, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival is a national theater program involving 20,000 students each year from colleges and universities nationwide.
The Stagecraft Institute was founded to offer a better, more efficient way to train practitioners in all areas of live entertainment. It has become a one-of-a-kind intensive training program for students from around the world to meet, learn from, and network with leading experts in live entertainment who are committed to sharing their experience with the next generation.