Beverly Emmons

Tony Award® winning lighting designer Beverly Emmons was an undergraduate when her dance studies took her to the American Dance Festival at Connecticut College. There, she encountered lighting designers Tom Skelton and Jean Rosenthal and became fascinated by their profession, finding herself far more excited about supporting and illuminating productions than performing in them. Emmons studied at Sarah Lawrence College and in her junior year attended a Saturday lighting class at the Lester Polakov Studio taught by Jean Rosenthal, Thomas Skelton, Tharon Musser, and Chuck Levy, some of the brightest stars in the business. Early in her senior year, Emmons was offered her first lighting design job with the legendary Merce Cunningham Dance Company. During the three and a half years touring with his company, she also assisted Broadway lighting designer and producer Jules Fisher, who has won a record eight Tony Awards for lighting design. Over the years, Emmons has lit Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, regional theater, dance, opera, and even a Disney World show. She says, “It’s a privilege to work with many different artists and all kinds of theatrical styles.”

Her lighting won a Tony Award for the 1980 Broadway production of Amadeus, and she has received seven Tony nominations for her work on other productions. She also earned a Lumen Award, shared with Robert Wilson for Einstein on the Beach, an Obie for Distinguished Lighting, two Bessie Awards, and five American Theater Wing Design Awards. She has worked with many interesting directors over the years, from Graciela Daniele, Tommy Tune, and James Lapine on Broadway, to the prominent Romanian directors Lucian Pintilie and Liviu Cuilei at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC. “In dance I worked with both Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham [the innovators of modern dance],” remarks Emmons. “They were wonderful.”

A freelancer, Emmons brings in assistants and associates with specific skills for each project. She teaches her own workshops and has also lectured at Columbia University, Pratt Institute, New York University, Yale, and other institutions. Her philosophy is simple. “I like to call lighting design a secondary art form,” she says. “We support and reveal the work that somebody else is making. What’s important is the work on the stage—the dancers, the actors, the vision of the director, playwright, choreographer and how this play or this dance should be seen. It is the work that is important and our role is to reveal and reinforce it. It’s an honor to be useful in that area.”

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Available Light

Lucinda Childs Dance