As a first-year student, Audrey Visscher ’22 knew she wanted to try on as many hats in theatre as possible.
Now a senior theatre and film media major, Visscher has done exactly that. She has worked as crew, costume crew, painter, light board and sound board operator, sound designer, house manager, assistant director, and director—to name a few. “I really like being a part of every show we put on here at URI,” said Visscher. “I’m working to have as many different roles on productions as I can before I graduate.”
In URI Theatre’s first production of 2021-22, Lauren Gunderson’s “Silent Sky,” Visscher was selected as lighting designer.
The role of lighting design is in a way simple—illuminate the actors, convey the mood, set the time and place of the scene. But the job is far more demanding, Visscher says, requiring numerous readings of the script, breaking down and understanding the lighting needs of each scene, creating keys for the color and direction of the lights, creating a draft of where the lights will hang, and ensuring that the design works.
As a design and directing student in theatre, Visscher knew she wanted to add lighting to her jack-of-all-trades approach. “I had never light designed and it seemed extremely daunting, but I was also excited they were offering me this position,” she said.
Visscher had taken a lighting design class with Assistant Professor James Horban, and he served as her mentor in her first foray into lighting design. “I was impressed by Audrey’s ability and determination to stay focused throughout the entire process,” said Horban. “Creating a lighting design takes a lot of mental stamina, as one must quickly switch between an artistic eye and technical prowess, and Audrey was able to rise to that challenge.”
‘I had to break everything’
“Silent Sky” is a true story about women astronomers who made breakthroughs charting the stars. One of Visscher’s proudest moments came when the story’s lead character, Henrietta Leavitt, and her love interest, Peter, begin to envision a future together. In a dream sequence, they are sailing on an ocean liner under the stars. But the daydream is broken when Henrietta’s sister bursts in to tell her their father has had a stroke.
“At that moment I had to break everything. I had to break their dream. I had to break their secrets and bring the scene back to reality, but harshly,” said Visscher. “I had all of the main lights go dark immediately. And we had little chandeliers hanging everywhere—we called them planets—and each of them went out split seconds apart, which made the scene shattering.”
Unlike most conservatory programs, URI encourages and even requires students to experience something outside of their chosen concentration in order to fully understand and appreciate theatre. It’s such a great push to find a niche you never would have considered.Audrey Visscher '22