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Louise Guinand: Lighting Designer For Pride And Prejudice

March 15, 2013

Without them, audiences would be left quite literally in the dark. And yet, too often we take these people for granted. “No one comes out of the theatre humming the lights,” Louise Guinand says with a smile.

She isn’t complaining, you understand. She is merely telling it like it is. And in her three decades as a lighting designer she has grown comfortable in the role of the unsung hero.Louise Guinand

“The audience wouldn’t notice it is, nor should the audience notice it,” Guinand says of lighting design in general. “But a show that is underlit or overlit, that could kill even the finest performance.”

Along with Emma Williams (costumes) and Charlotte Dean (sets and props), Guinand is part of the design team for the Globe’s presentation of Pride And Prejudice. She and director Marti Maraden have worked on 20 productions, and they benefit from “a shared vocabulary” which, for Guinand, makes the most complicated tasks “less of a bother” and enhances the enjoyment.

Guinand, who makes her home in southwestern Ontario, has designed some 500 shows since she launched her career in the early 1980s. Her credits include productions at the Stratford and Shaw festivals, and also the National Arts Centre. She has worked at major theatres across the country, on plays that run the gamut from two-handers to a cast of 30.

“You get so deeply entrenched in it for two or three weeks, and when it’s over and time to move on, you carry the energy of the good shows with you, and the ones that aren’t so good, you try to leave behind,” she says. “A large part of the magic of theatre is the ‘live’ aspect. You don’t have total control, and so you never know for sure what’s going to happen. But I love the challenge. It’s never the same show twice, even when it’s the same play.”

For this production of Pride And Prejudice, with its numerous and frequent scene changes, Guinand created a design that has 220 lighting cues. “The structure of the play is such that we are constantly needing to redefine the stage,” she says. Since this is theatre in-the-round, there is also the fact that the show must be lit from four sides. Between them, the two factors have made this particular assignment more intricate than is normally the case.

Guinand did not go into lighting by design, if you’ll excuse the pun. As a student at Queen’s University, in Kingston, her major was mathematics and her future appear to be in teaching. However, she also happened to be taking theatre classes as a sideline, and in her third year she was hastily recruited to design the lighting for a production of Happy End, the surreal three-act musical by Kurt Weill, Elisabeth Hauptmann and Bertolt Brecht.

I say “hastily recruited” because the original lighting designer abruptly resigned. “I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I jumped into the deep end,” Guinand says. “I loved it so much, I wanted to learn more about it.”

Recommended by a professor at Queen’s, Guinand was accepted into the National Theatre School in Montreal. She graduated in 1980, worked as a technician for a couple of years, and then embraced her first assignment as a designer. She has been lighting the way for actors and audiences alike ever since.

Pride and Prejudice runs from March 6 – 24, 2013. Visit the Globe Theatre website for more details, cast information, and to purchase tickets.

Nick Miliokas is a freelance writer and editor based in Regina. You can reach him by email at rozenstern@rocketmail.com.

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