Diaries of a Young Lighting Designer

By Zo Haynes
Jan 21, 2016, updated May 5, 2016
 Diaries of a Young Lighting Designer

Joining us in the Lighting Lounge this week is Zo Haynes, a recent college graduate who will be keeping us updated on her journey into the world of professional lighting design.  Without further ado, here’s Zo! 


My name is Zo Haynes. I am 22 years old. I like to be outside. I like high places and I play the violin. I just graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree in theatre and a Bachelor’s of Science in mathematics in June from Georgia Southern University. I’ve had some great opportunities in my life. As a junior, I received second place for my lighting design for The Clean House at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in region four. The design also received the Don Childs award, which allowed me to go and study at the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas during the next summer. I would not be where I am today without those amazing people and amazing experiences, which included an internship at 4Wall. I’ve been working with theatrical lighting for four years now and my goal is to be a lighting designer with the ability to program and electrician whatever shows come across my path.  I’m just taking each challenge  as it comes, and I’m learning from my mistakes and my triumphs.

                                 Picture from one of Zo's recent shows 

Right now, I live in Memphis, Tennessee. I moved here three days after my last exam in undergrad to work with Playhouse on the Square as their lighting intern. It’s been a wild ride so far, but I’m learning a lot and having a ton of fun. Granted, every day is not a picnic. It rains. I’ve been told it will snow, but most days are sunny, I love the jobs I’m doing, and the people I get to work with. My boss is John Horan, the resident lighting designer. He’s a goof ball, but I   think we work well together and I have learned so incredibly much from him. Normally, my job consists of two parts: I am an electrician for John’s shows, and I design, electrician, and program my own shows. Playhouse on the Square or POTS has three main stages. We refer to the big one as Playhouse, the medium one as Circuit, and the small one as Theatre Works. John’s shows are staged at Playhouse, so I work there a lot as an electrician and do general maintenance on the fixtures there.  My designs are mainly staged at Circuit, so I do pretty much everything in that space from maintenance to design work. Normally, I don’t have much to do with Theatre Works. They focus mainly on new works and work with new playwrights, BUT, about a month ago, I was asked to design for a show going up at Theatre Works in January, so I’m pretty excited to be working in a different space to see what new challenges this space brings.

 A normal day for an intern here starts at 10:00 am. We have a morning shift till 1:00, then an hour for lunch. Then we have an afternoon shift from 2:00 to 8:00.  If we’re working a show or need to work later, we can take a dinner break  at 5:00 and work till 10:00. It’s a lot of hours, but there’s plenty to do, so it’s rarely boring. I check in every morning with John to see what he needs for the day. Whenever he has a new show loading in, we’ll usually work together, but if he’s programming for his show or the show is up, often times, he’ll let me work on my own projects. He doesn’t tell me how to do my job, so in a lot of ways, I have a lot more freedom than some of the other interns, but I also have a lot more responsibility, because if something doesn’t work for one of my shows, it’s absolutely my problem. If I’m behind schedule, I have to figure out how to get back on track. Not to say that John doesn’t help me out if I can’t figure something out or need an extra set of hands, but he treats me like a professional in a lot of ways. There’s an expectation that I make sure that everything at Circuit runs smoothly. I’m doing pretty well so far. There are a lot of new things for me, but I’m taking one challenge at a time.



Currently both John and I have our shows up and running. A Tuna Christmas is at Circuit and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (ILY) runs in the evenings at Playhouse, and Peter Pan flies in the mornings for school children who get bused in for field trips. So currently, a typical day for me looks like this: In the mornings, I run a spot for Peter Pan. We have to be at work an hour earlier than normal to get everything prepped and ready, which isn’t my favorite, but the kids are the best audiences, so they make up for the early hour. Then, after the show, we change the set over for ILY. Then I get an hour for lunch, which is either home and Netflix, or Burger King and working on my online portfolio, or going to the Zoo for an hour. Home is about a five-minute drive away or a twenty-minute walk. It’s the perfect distance and a good place to live.

I’m using my afternoons now to work on Byhalia and The Other Place, which will go up in January. I’m putting some final tweaks on my plot for Byhalia and working on some research for The Other Place. I’m pretty excited for The Other Place. The director is giving me a lot of leeways to try some things and the set designer has given me a pretty cool canvas.

I’m going to try to write down what’s happening regularly so that one day I can see how I got to wherever I’m going. Always busy, but it’s a good life; until next time.













Zo Haynes recently graduated from Georgia Southern University with a Bachelors of Arts in Theatre and a Bachelors of Science in Mathematics. She has received an award for her lighting design for The Clean House at Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. The same design also received the Don Childs Award. Haynes is currently interning with Playhouse on the Square as a lighting intern to further her career.    



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