A Prolific and Award-winning Lighting Designer Offers Some 'Sayeg' Advice


Jared A Sayeg-2

Theatrical Lighting Designer, Jared A. Sayeg. Photo courtesy of Jared A. Sayeg.

It is no exaggeration to say that multi-award-winning theatrical and Broadway Lighting Designer, Jared A. Sayeg, has a résumé containing a body of work listing over 400-plus shows, spanning from 1999 to the present. Although his work has largely been in musicals, ballet, traveling productions, and awards shows such as the LA Stage Alliance's Ovation Awards, Sayeg has worked repeatedly with many notable and award-winning directors such as Sheldon Epps, Glenn Casale, Sally Struthers, Jules Aaron, Stephanie Vlahos, and now, Richard J. Hinds, just to name a few.

Sayeg’s career began in theatrical lighting at the age of 14 in ballet, when his sister, dancer Jean Michelle Sayeg, was performing. It was then he would meet his mentor, late Lighting Designer Liz Stillwell. Sayeg said he learned from Stillwell lighting aesthetics “from art books like Goya and Rembrandt” where she encouraged the replication of such light and color with the theatre stage as canvas. Critic, Rob Stevens, said of his work that “Sayeg’s painterly lighting design makes you almost feel like you can smell the freshly mown grass, taste the freshly baked cake.

Since then, he has done several productions for 5-Star Theatricals where he hopes that theatre can only continue to grow and thrive.


So when it comes to working on a musical like "Newsies" and with companies like 5-Star Theatricals, please walk our Better Lemons readers through your creative process—from paper to implementation—when providing a working design for the show.

The process for me is always to start with a clean slate. And, you know, it's all a collaboration. 5-Star Theatricals obviously specializes in musicals. And really rather iconic, well-known, Broadway musicals is what they typically program. When they staff their creative teams, from the directors to the designers, we all have several meetings and it all, of course, starts with the Director's vision.

We kind of springboard from that as to what we really want the end product to be and how we can support their vision and what we can bring to the table. Collectively, sometimes we have a touring set. Sometimes we have a set from scratch. In this case, [for "Newsies"] it is an existing set from one of the tours and our Director, Ricky Hinds, was part of the original Broadway production. So he knows the show very well and brings that wealth of knowledge of this production. But we're not just reproducing how it was done on Broadway, we're making it our own production. Everyone's bringing their own talents to the table.

Disney's "Newsies: The Broadway Musical" by 5-Star Theatricals at the Fred Kavli Theatre at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center Thousand Oaks. Lighting design by Jared A. Sayeg. Photo by Jeff Ditto, courtesy of 5-Star Theatricals.

Once we kind of establish our general aesthetic for the show, which was already a month ago, we have several more meetings, and it takes me probably three to four weeks of pre-production before we're in tech rehearsal. And that's from reading the script, having meetings, seeing rehearsals, and reviewing rehearsals again to really be familiar with the material and the staging and the scenery.

And then, from there, I start to generate a light plot, draw it all out, and generate an equipment list of everything that the show needs. And all that then gets delivered to the electricians—to our head electrician and their staff—who install it. That's just from the lighting end of things. Of course, other departments have very similar processes. So all that kind of happens right up until we load it into the theater. And then, once we're fully installed, I will show up to the theater and we'll have a focus session where we focus all the lights, putting them where I want them and adjusting both their softness and the direction.

Then we enter tech rehearsals and that's about a week in the theater.  So that's kind of a nutshell version of the process.

When it comes to a Disney-related production, have you done “Newsies” with other production companies before? How much different are other musicals from a Disney production?

I have not done “Newsies” before. I have done Disney productions before, but they're all so different. I couldn't compare it. I mean, “Newsies” is so iconic just because of the original film, and then of course, the musical—and the songs are just fantastic—it's such a high-energy show with the dancing. It's a huge ensemble. And it requires a very athletic cast of young 'Newsies' and so it's very entertaining, but I couldn't really compare it to other Disney shows.

In my experience in seeing live Disney musical productions, the vibrant color of the animated films seems to be mirrored in such productions. Would you say that is the case with your approach to lighting this show?

I would say it's actually rather unique in that there's a lot of grit to this show. And so there is a real absence of color in a way, because so much of the piece is showing the real world these Newsies are living and working in. So there's a coldness and a harshness, which is really the environment that we live in throughout much of this show. But there are variations or other scenes that take us out of the street and out of the hustle of the city and just the weather of it all. And, then we do go into vignettes scenes where we are more colorful and lush and vibrant.

But the production numbers of course have a lot of energy to them, so the lighting really does sculpt those numbers and supports it with movement, with energy through light. But generally, the aesthetic and color palette of the show is really quite cold and raw because there's a real grit to the whole physical world that they're in. So to compare it to other Disney shows, like I said, it's not lush and vibrant like "Beauty and the Beast" or "Lion King" or any shows like that. There's definitely a sharper look.

Disney's "Newsies: The Broadway Musical" by 5-Star Theatricals at the Fred Kavli Theatre at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center Thousand Oaks. Lighting design by Jared A. Sayeg. Photo by Jeff Ditto, courtesy of 5-Star Theatricals.

I have seen the dramatic power that you do in your work—specifically, as an example, a moving opening scene where light replicates the menacing approach of a very famous train towards the audience. For this particular production of “Newsies”, what are you most looking forward to seeing come to fruition as you have imagined it through your lighting? Are there any particular scenes that you're excited to see when everything comes together?

For me, it's the entire show. There isn't a particular moment, no. But I will say that the end of act one is my favorite. It's a really very high-energy number and the lighting is another character in the piece—rather, it's another part of the choreography and the choreography is so critical in “Newsies.” It's woven through every moment and that, I feel, is a great moment in the production where the syncopation of lighting, music, and movement all really just join together.

I'm looking forward to seeing it. It's my experience that 5-Star Theatricals doesn't skimp when it comes to their high-quality productions.

No, they really don't. We have a great cast and a great creative team. Our director and choreographer are from New York and they cast this from all over and we're excited... You know, it sounds cheesy, but we're all just so glad to have reopened the doors to the theater—to be producing live theatre again and creating. Creating theatre and creating art and creating moments and memories [again] is tremendous. So I'm just thrilled. Live theatre is back and we are all doing it again and thriving.

What were you able to do with your time, or what did you choose to do with your time, when things were quiet during the Pandemic?

I've never really not worked. I should rephrase that: It was really a shock to my system because I've always worked and when the global industry shutdown happened and we were all living in fear, and in the Pandemic, it was an eye-opener. The rest [from work] was great, initially, and to be able to shut [myself] down. But then, after a while, I just tried to make the best use of the time. I did a lot at home and did a lot of cooking, and spent as much time with the family as possible—tried to stay safe and remain positive when we were just kind of in this endless limbo of, “Will the industry come back?

I'm glad we did after a lot of perseverance and COVID compliance and, really, discipline. Which is why we're able to do this show... And that's what I've learned from these last two years—to find a better balance. We're always on the go in this industry and it is important for ourselves to just have that little incubation period in between projects to kind of recharge.

Has anything changed in terms of your methods or approach to a project because of COVID?

It hasn't changed my process. But what has changed for many, many productions, the full company will—and it's different everywhere you go—remain masked all through tech rehearsals up until, let's say, final dress rehearsal or the first preview or something. It's not always the case everywhere, but that's been my experience on several productions. I can't imagine how difficult it is for the sound department, because [actors' voices are often muffled.]

But to have a mask covering the actor's face really does change how I balance lighting and skin tones and in really featuring the performer. So that's just been a new element in through this COVID chaos we've been living through, so that's been a new adjustment on my end.

Lead photo by Jeff Ditto, courtesy of 5-Star Theatricals. Disney's "Newsies: The Broadway Musical" by 5-Star Theatricals at the Fred Kavli Theatre at the Bank of America Performing Arts Center Thousand Oaks. Lighting design by Jared A. Sayeg. 

5-Star Theatricals' "Newsies: The Broadway Musical," directed by Richard J. Hinds, book by Harvey Fierstein, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Jack Feldman, is now playing at the Fred Kavli Theatre Bank of America Performing Arts Center Thousand Oaks until Sunday, July 24, 2024.

 


Ashton's Audio Interview: The cast of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” at La Mirada Theatre

Be our guest! Step into the enchanted world of Broadway’s modern classic, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, an international sensation that continues to amaze and delight with its captivating story of soaring romance, bright humor and thrilling adventure.*

Enjoy this interview with the cast of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” at La Mirada Theatre, playing through June 23rd. You can listen to this interview while commuting, while waiting in line at the grocery store or at an audition, backstage and even front of the stage. For tickets and more info Click here.

*taken from the website


Lin-Manuel Miranda to Get a 'Star' on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the Hollywood Pantages

Multi-Tony Award®-winning "Hamilton" and "In The Heights" writer, composer, and actor, Lin-Manuel Miranda, in then-Secretary Jack Lew's office—or as Miranda writes—, "the room where it happens," on March 14, 2016. Photo credit Public Domain.

Multi-Tony Award® winning Lin-Manuel Miranda, the lyricist, composer, singer and actor who cultivated a signature rap and musical story-telling style in his shows “In the Heights” and “Hamilton”, is to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, on Friday, November 30, 2018, at 11:30 a.m.
Satirist singer-songwriter "Weird Al" Yankovic and Renée Elise Goldsberry, the latter whose role as Angelica Schuyler in “Hamilton” won her a Tony Award® for Best Actress in a Featured Role–Musical, will be guest speakers.
The presentation will be live-streamed on WalkofFame.com.
The Hollywood Pantages Theatre is across from the Metro Red Line Station near Hollywood and Vine and there is metered street parking and paid lot parking in the area as well.

Miranda is due in movie theatres during this holiday season with Disney's "Mary Poppins Returns," alongside Emily Blunt, on December 19, 2018.
Hamilton won a total of 11 Tony Awards®, including awards for Best Musical, with Best Original Musical Score and Best Book (Musical) to Miranda, as well as receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in 2016.
Both of Miranda's shows, “In the Heights” in 2010 and “Hamilton” in 2017, made their way to the landmark Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles after their stints on Broadway.
The ceremony will be in front of the Hollywood Pantages, located at 6243 Hollywood Blvd., and Miranda's new Star will be unveiled and installed in a designated spot, just adjacent to the theater at 6231 Hollywood Blvd., in front of Starline Tours.


Broadway to the Rescue Continues to Battle Homelessness in Los Angeles

The Yearly Benefit for Hope of the Valley
Is Bigger and Better Than Ever with the Help of a Little Pixie Dust!

At The Montalbán
Saturday, October 13, 2018

HOLLYWOOD, CA - August 9, 2018 - Broadway to the Rescue returns to the historic Montalban Theatre on Saturday, October 13, 2018 after last year's triumphant, sold-out, star-studded night. Broadway's hottest, award-winning performers will once again come together for this spectacular benefit to help the homeless in the Los Angeles area with ALL proceeds going to Hope of the Valley, a mission that does extraordinary work for those in need. Tickets range from $25 to $1,000 and can be purchased online here: BroadwayToTheRescue.com/tickets.
Last year, legendary Broadway talent ignited the stage recreating performances from such shows as Wicked, Hamilton, Hairspray, Cats, Hair, Rent, Les Miserables and Little Shop of Horrors. This year, Broadway to the Rescue (BTTR) goes DISNEY with incredible performers creating show-stopping numbers from your favorite Walt Disney musicals including The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins, Frozen, Hercules, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Princess and the Frog and more.
Created by Broadway/TV and film actor Michael-Leon Wooley (Grace and Frankie, The Princess and the Frog) in memoriam of a friend who was a devoted advocate of the homeless, BTTR began in a small club in North Hollywood and has raised over $100,000 for Hope of the Valley (HOTV). “I served lunches at HOTV and saw their dedication to the homeless in LA”, said Wooley, Creator and Producer of of the show. “The mayor has declared a state of emergency and LA is now the unsheltered homeless capitol in the country. Given the long-standing tradition of Broadway giving back, I asked performers to step up and raise awareness (and MONEY) for the cause and THEY DID”.
For almost ten years, HOTV has operated nine facilities including cold weather shelters and transitional youth facilities that provide crucial services to those in need. "We are incredibly honored and grateful that Michael and his colleagues are once again joining the fight against poverty and homelessness in Los Angeles”, said Ken Craft, Founder and CEO of Hope of the Valley. “For the past four years, Broadway to the Rescue has put on a world class show in LA and generated much needed awareness and resources in the fight against homelessness.”
About Hope of the Valley:
Hope of the Valley changes lives! We do all we can for the hungry, homeless and hurting of the greater Los Angeles area by offering hope, hot meals, housing, health services and healing to those in need. Annually, the Mission provides 200,000 hot nutritious meals, 60,000 nights of shelter and places hundreds of homeless men, women and children into permanent supportive housing and this year, we are preparing to open a new facility in the west San Fernando Valley area! For more information about Hope of the Valley please visit our website at HopeOfTheValley.org.
For more information on Broadway to the Rescue please visit BroadwaytotheRescue.com.
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Media Contacts:
Shanda Williamson
shanda.williamson@yahoo.com
818-388-8886
Christopher Belcher
Chris.A.Belcher@Disney.com
323-337-6642


PODCASTS - The Belle's of 'Disney's Beauty and the Beast': Interviews with Susan Egan and Yvette Lawrence

5-STAR THEATRICALS production of “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST" (Courtesy of 5 Star Theatricals)

5 Star Theatrical's production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast is playing at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza until July 29, 2018 and Better Lemons recorded two podcasts, one with Susan Egan and one with Yvette Lawrence-Bishop.

In the first podcast Egan talks about the joys of returning to the role of “Belle” while embracing the new elements brought to the production by director Yvette Lawrence-Bishop. She also discusses the similarities and differences from the original Broadway touring production.

Anime, Comic-Con, and cosplay fans will enjoy hearing Egan chat about her voice acting characters, including her work at The Broadway Princess Party with Club Kraftland at That's From Disneyland.

Egan is a BTVA (Behind The Voice Actors) Television Voice Acting Award-winner and has been nominated for Tony and Drama Desk awards.

In the second Podcast, Lawrence-Bishop talks about her working relationship with Egan and the elements that make this production a unique, educational, family affair.

Lawrence-Bishop also discusses her work as a teacher and as a director with 5 Star Theatricals.

Yvette Lawrence-Bishop is an award-winning multi-faceted director, producer, and performer. She also teaches a Master Class in acting and serves as director of Performing Arts and director of Drama at Chaminade College Preparatory.

Lawrence-Bishop has directed productions such as Guys and Dolls, Godspell, Once Upon a Mattress, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and Romeo and Juliet. She also has credits as a performer on Broadway and on television.

5 Star Theatricals production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast is currently playing at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza until July 29, 2018.

Visit the site for showtimes and ticket information.

For more podcasts like these, go to our Better Lemons Soundcloud channel.