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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | January 21, 2021

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On the set of RUINED, with Kelly Calder

Cathy Dee


The independent theatre group THAT Production Company are staging the Australian premiere of the Pulitzer Prize winning play RUINED by Lynn Nottage at Studio 188, as part of the 2013 Ipswich Festival. I got to talk with Kelly Calder, who is the on-set lighting designer.

So you work as a lighting designer, could you tell me a little bit
about that?

As a lighting designer I work with a couple of different production
companies designing the positions, colours and movement of lights, as
well as what each cue looks like and the atmosphere of each production.
I also teach lighting design at The Gold Coast Institute of Technology to
students in Technical Production, Sound and Music courses. Any artist
should learn about the basics of lighting design, as it is an integral part
of their performance.

You’ve worked on a variety of different of shows and sets, do you have
a favourite?

My favourite show I’ve worked on would have to be Hairspray in Melbourne
and Sydney. It was a big production set up and it was great to see it all
come together. I also made lots of industry connections and learned more
than I could have dreamed on a production that size. Although this was an
incredible show to work on as a lighting designer, my favourite show I
have designed was A Chorus Line, as this was my graduating piece at The
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. It was my first big
lighting design in the main theatre and musical theatre is my passion.
There were lots of challenges with the set and I worked with a director
who let me have free reign of the design concepts which made it my
original, uninfluenced work.

How did you find working on the set of RUINED?
THAT Production Company love to keep me on the tips of my toes with the
sets in their shows. The staging for Ruined is mostly performed on the
audience level rather than the actual stage. This means some creative
thinking lighting-wise as we no longer have a front of house lighting bar.
To compensate for this I have to think of different creative designs to
come up with the best result for looks, time and cost efficiency.
We work well as a team and keep communications flowing freely so for the
most part when the set goes up the lights don’t need much tweaking. THAT
Production Company are one of the best companies I’ve worked with and I
look forward to working with them in the future.

You started your lighting career in Western Australia, but have
since done a lot of work in Queensland. What made you want to move over here?

I am originally from Brisbane and moved to WA to study. Once I had
finished my studies the majority of my contacts regarding lighting were
located in Brisbane as well as the support of my family. I have slowly
built up my contacts over the last couple of years and I now work full
time in theatres across QLD.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to work in lighting design?
My advice for anyone wanting to work as a lighting designer is to either
study this craft further or to get some work experience. The theatre is
such a small industry and if you can get some experience with a designer
they can teach you what you need to learn and help you meet connections to
further your job opportunities.

Finally what is your favourite thing about working as a lighting designer?
My favourite thing about lighting design is that without lights the show
doesn’t go on and a bad design is memorable whilst a great design often
goes unnoticed. I love the colour and moods and technical challenges that
all need to be thought about in order to compliment a production. You have
a big part to play in helping the audience forget their surroundings and
to lead them into the alternate world of the show.

If you’re interested in seeing Kelly’s hard work on the set of RUINED (which you should be!) the play is opening tonight. To contact Kelly you can use this email


What? RUINED by THAT Production Company

When? 24 April – 4 May (no shows Sunday and Monday)

Where? Studio 188 (188 Brisbane St, Ipswich)

How much? $20 – $ 35 (please note this is a 15+ event)

Tickets? Online at