Daniel Valencia/Courier Jared A. Sayeg won the award for Lighting Design (intimate theatre) at the 2015 Ovation Awards, held at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, November 9, 2015. Jared a long time lighting designer for the Pasadena Play house has designed up to 400 different productions throughout his career.
Daniel Valencia/Courier
Jared A. Sayeg won the award for Lighting Design (intimate theatre) at the 2015 Ovation Awards, held at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles on Monday, November 9, 2015. A lighting designer for shows at the Pasadena Playhouse, Sayeg has designed up to 300 different productions throughout his career.

Gossamer drapes tinged with blue, lavender and gold framed the bandstand center stage. The 2014 Ovation Awards circular sequined logo splashed on the screen above, while stage dressers, technicians and set crew performed that unique dance that is a show tech rehearsal.

With only one day to “tech” or perform all things technical for the annual LA STAGE Alliance awards ceremony at the Ahmanson Theatre, nominee and the event’s lighting designer Jared A. Sayeg set off, all the while unaware that later in the evening he would be accepting his first ever Ovation Award on that very stage.

Sayeg, who had just completed the lighting design for the Pasadena Playhouse premiere musical production of “Breaking Through,” was amidst a whirlwind of jobs taking him to three different states during the week prior to the awards ceremony.

In a bit of irony, it was in that very place where his love of theater began when his parents brought him to see his first musical at the Ahmanson.

“He was so in love with Phantom of the Opera,” said Laurie Sayeg, his mother. “He built a little opera house in our back yard when he was nine.”

“Later he started buying lighting equipment with his allowance. And that’s what he would ask for Christmas would be lights,” she said. Jared would briefly come to be a rental source for local events and smaller theatre.

With an average of about 20 shows per year over period of nearly 18 years, Sayeg figures he’s done at least 300 union shows during his professional career. This year, his travel requirements increased in frequency, with more recent trips to New York for the upcoming Broadway magic show “The Illusionists” that opened Thursday, Nov. 19.

While longtime associate and Pasadena resident Chris Osborne programs the light control board, Sayeg directs from the house. Having met 15 years prior on the show “The Who’s Tommy,” the two have developed a synergistic working relationship that mimics mind reading.

“I’m laying in presets and positions with the automation, so that when we actually light [cue] the show we can call it up quickly and easily,” said Osborne. “I have the basics of what he’ll want.”

As Osborne works, colored and patterned light dance on the drapes and stage, and occasionally Sayeg himself as he stands in pools of light and directs technicians in the house and on stage.

Each production has a specific pre-planned design where details are outlined in a schematic plot plan that resembles blueprints. Examples of Sayeg’s lighting techniques, plan outlines and schematics have even been featured in books such as “Dance Production: Design and Technology” and “The Assistant Lighting Designer’s Toolkit.”

“[The drawing] reflects every single light in the physical space of the building, how we use it, where it’s focused, what color it gets, how we control it and its location in relation to everything else,” said Sayeg.

And the plans will reflect a feel or theme, where Sayeg was specific on what he hoped to achieve for the evening’s event.

“Elegance,” he said. “We actually kind of went for an aesthetic of simplicity. And we really wanted it to be more of an homage to theatrical opulence.”

Sayeg’s life-changing moment came while visiting the ballet where his sister Jean Michelle Sayeg, a ballet dancer, was performing. It was there that he would meet renowned lighting designer Liz Stillwell, would champion him as and begin working professional at the age of 14.

Stillwell taught Sayeg lighting aesthetics “from art books like Goya and Rembrandt” using mannequins and colored gels to learn to paint with light.

“What she taught me was, as we’d look at these art books, these iconic paintings, and she’d say ‘Let’s just create all the light in these paintings.’” Sayeg said. “The sunrise, the moonlight. We weren’t creating the literal paintings, but just the tone of it and the color. I always go back to that mindset—that thought process—every time I’m approaching a production.”

Although Stillwell did not live to see her protégé win his first Ovation Award, her legacy provided him with the tools and belief system that would take him to the position she also held as western region board trustee for the United Scenic Artists local USA-829 union.

His award was for his work on the show “Picnic,” where reviewer Rob Stevens said, “Sayeg’s painterly lighting design make you almost feel like you can smell the freshly mown grass, taste the freshly baked cake.” And David C. Nichols of the L.A. Times said “Sayeg’s lighting plot brings us from dawn to dusk and back without seams.”

In a business where personal time is rare, it is the need for the art itself that Sayeg says keeps the love of his craft alive. And he advises anyone considering the work that it has to begin with a passion, tenacity and eagerness for it.

“You can’t look at it like it’s just your day to day job. It has to really fuel your soul,” he said. “While that may just sound like a line, it’s ultimately what gives you longevity in this industry. It is a tough industry and without that passion for it and perseverance, you won’t last long. And if it’s inside of you, you’ll know that straight away.”

“And network. Network, network, network,” Sayeg continued. “Shake hands, meet the people. And showing up. Showing up always counts.”

A classic example of devotion to his craft, without one word yet about any potential win for him that night, was in his answer on his sincere hope for the night’s outcome.

“A smooth evening,” he said without a beat. “I’m not looking to achieve spectacle. I want an evening of elegance and for it to go off without a hitch … and hopefully the power stays on.”

UPDATE: “The Illusionists” is at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway now through Jan. 3, 2016 and the tour will bring it to The Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 23.

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