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KC Newcomb : The Creator of Light at USCB’s Center for Performing Arts

story by Julie Hales     photos by Paul Nurnberg

Light has many forms…some as simple as the sun…others, more complicated and man-made. Sometimes light is simply used to help us see, to perform our jobs, to read, to see our loved ones. Sometimes, light is used to make us see things in a different way, to enhance, to beautify, to bring to life….to entertain.

    Entertain…that is what happens within the walls of the theatre at USCB’s Center for Performing Arts.  That entertainment comes in different forms…singers, actors, set designers, costume designers, stage hands, sound designers…and lighting.

          Lighting is a crucial part of the equation.  Without good lighting, even the best of the best may possibly not look their best.

   So, the role of the lighting designer is, by far, an important element.  And, USCB has one of the best, KC Newcomb.

   KC was born in Hampton, Connecticut., but moved to her mother, Cora Newcomb’s, hometown of Beaufort when she was only two years old. She has called Beaufort her home ever since.

    By definition, a theatre lighting designer works with the director, choreographer, set designer, costume designer, and sound designer to create the lighting, atmosphere, and time of day for the production in response to the text, while keeping in mind issues of visibility, safety, and cost. (Wikipedia)

     Lighting designers know how to make the best use of the subtle and powerful medium of light, creating effects that can be changed at will to match the mood of the action.

   KC Newcomb has been working at USCB since she graduated from Beaufort High School in 2005.  She says, “During high school I did technical theatre.  Shortly after graduating, Carol Knapp, a friend, asked me to volunteer to work back-stage with her with the Harbor Master’s Show. I agreed. Shortly after, I met with the Technical Director and was offered a job.”

   While working at USCB, KC attended Savannah College of Art and Design. She graduated from SCAD Cum Laude, with a BFA in Production Design and a concentration in Lighting Design.  “While working at USCB, I fell in love with theatre and lighting design. I decided this was the best career path for me,” she says.

   KC definitely chose the right career path for herself.  As they say, as long as you are doing something you enjoy, it never seems like work. Well, this young lady definitely enjoys her profession. “Lighting Design is my passion – I cannot imagine doing anything else. I love walking into the theatre. It gives me a sense of calm and I feel at home there. When I walk into the theatre, before the show begins, before the lights come on, I feel like I am walking into church and sometimes I get chill bumps up and down my arms,” she said.

   Many of the general public have no clue what a lighting designer does. We only know that we get to see the finished products that the designers have created. KC shares with us a little about what a lighting designer does, “My mom likes to say, ‘I turn the lights on and off in the theatre.’  It is a little more complicated than that:  I like to say I bring the show to life.  We can have the same set for the entire length of the show and it can look completely different depending on the lights.  I can invoke the mood of the scene, the time of day, and the general atmosphere.  I can make a sunset look romantic, scary or hazed over with fog. I can make a living room look cold and frigid…or homie and warm.

     KC says her most rewarding experience at USCB has been working with the children’s theatre. “I have been working at USCB long enough now that I have watched the children grow up and do great things with their lives – including working in theatres around the country.”

   She also shares that her most challenging experiences has been doing amazing lighting designs with outdated equipment. But, this is no longer a problem.  Recently, USCB received funding from both Beaufort County and the City of Beaufort to do some renovating at the theatre. The renovations have been a God-send to the staff at USCB and they are so thankful to the county and city for all their help.

   The entire renovation cost a little under a million dollars. Beaufort County contributed $500,000, the City of Beaufort contributed $125,000 and the University covered the remaining costs.

   The renovations included updating the rigging, the over-stage battens, including a moving electric batten, updating the sound system, adding surround sound, and (KC’s favorite part) a top-of-the-line full LED lighting plot — complete with brand-new light board.

   “These renovations have meant so much to me.  They have given me the ability to have more range and more creativity in my designs. The lights are brighter, cleaner and easier to work with,” she adds.

   She also points out that the renovations make the entire process a much easier one for everyone involved in the theatre. “I would not be able to make my lighting designs come to life without the rest of the production team at USCB – Set Designer, Greg Rawls; Set Painter, Mary Ann Ford; Costume Designer, Pat Willcox; Sound Designer, Uri Tinsley. We are a team,” she says.

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