ARTIST PROFILE: Ray Oppenheimer, Lighting Designer for Much Ado

Meet Ray Oppenheimer, the primary lighting designer for Much Ado About Nothing in the 2015 Santa Cruz Shakespeare Summer Festival.

Where are you from originally? Where do you call home now?

I was born in San Francisco and grew up in the Bay Area. I went to school at UCSC and bounced around a bit before landing in Oakland, CA where I live in a historic firehouse with my fiance Victoria, our cat, two chinchillas, and six chickens.

How did you come to be a part of Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s 2015 festival? Do you have a history with us, or is this your first time?

I was contacted by Kurt Landisman about being the primary lighting designer for Much Ado About Nothing as he had conflicts with the shows’ load in dates. I was happy to be invited to work with Kurt and even more excited to be back working at Santa Cruz Shakespeare. When I was in college at UCSC, I worked as an electrician for what was then Shakespeare Santa Cruz  learning from the professional lighting designers they brought in. It feels really good to have come full circle and to be able to help the next generation of students.

What has your experience been like working with Santa Cruz Shakespeare this season?

This season has been a challenge. This is the first year that there have been three shows out in the Glen. To do this while staying on budget and within the technical constraints of the Glen took a lot of careful planning and collaboration. That being said, the creative team and artistic staff at SCS have been a pleasure to work with.

Santa Cruz Shakespeare Much Ado

The cast of Much Ado About Nothing. Photo by rr jones.

 How did you approach your lighting design work? What inspired your choices?  Was there anything you discovered during your process that surprised you?

Much Ado About Nothing was to be set in a working vineyard during harvest time. Talking with the director about how the set never shifted to change locations led me to the idea of shifting times. I worked to shift the time out in the courtyard of the vineyard. These time shifts became the central focus of the design.

What have been some of your favorite things to do in the Santa Cruz area when you weren’t rehearsing/working?

I love the farmers markets. Tuesdays and Fridays I grab fresh fruits and veggies at the base of the UCSC campus. Wednesdays I pop over to the downtown market. All this fresh produce is great. The other thing I have been enjoying is how bike friendly Santa Cruz is. I brought my bike with me and have been enjoying biking around.

What is your favorite Shakespeare play? Why?

I like them all the same.

Why should people come to see Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s plays this summer?

This is the last season in the Glen and while I am sure the new venue will have a magic all its own there is something truly special about this venue that should not be missed.

Tickets on sale now for the 2015 season, which features three outdoor productions, starting with the wickedly romantic Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing, opening July 3; followed by David Ives’s modern adaptation of the wickedly hilarious 17th century farce, The Liar, opening July 24; and Shakespeare’s wicked tragedy, Macbeth, opening August 7. Plus, SCS continues the tradition of its intern-showcasing Fringe production with four performances of the wickedly festive comedy The Rover, starting August 18.


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