I didn’t imagine one of my final moments of 2016 would entail being mocked by a jar of gummy bears. Alas, here I am, hole up in a hotel room in downtown Atlanta (on the road once more lighting R&B singer Anthony Hamilton) where a decidedly tempting mini bar spread has been left for my perusal. Of course, there are the usual confections – Snickers, pretzels, Pringles, and just about every beverage that might quench a thirsty desire. At the forefront, however, is a jar filled to the brim with colorful gummy bears (the jar itself shaped like – what else – a bear). Try as I might, I just cannot justify parting with $7 of my per diem to conquer these viciously flavorful critters, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t tempting.
Compounding this culinary conundrum is the fact that, as of just about two hours ago, I officially turned 35. I keep glancing at the clock on my laptop menu bar, ever-aware of the fact that I am aging by the minute. I also just glanced at the deadbolt on my hotel room door, making sure it was soundly latched – lest the Grim Reaper have easier access when he arrives to reclaim my withered soul. I kid, I kid!
David Sudler of Chicago works to fill the gaps between blocks of ice on the igloo he constructed on a median on Wacker Dr. at Columbus Dr. in downtown Chicago, early Thursday, January 7, 2016. Sudler, who resides in a high-rise near the intersection, is a retired boilermaker. Sudler constructed to igloo to bring awareness to a lack of snow removal by the city at the intersection.
Edward Morrison poses outside his home in Hammond, Ind., Wednesday, March 9, 2016. Morrison, 22, was working Monday for the Fidei Group security firm at the Chicago Auto Pound at 10301 S. Doty Ave. when he was stabbed by someone Morrison recognized as an employee of the facility. Morrison is also a campus police officer for the Indiana University Northwest Police Department.
Having my birthday so close to the end of the year often leaves me in an interesting head space. Not only am I left to contemplate what transpired over the past year in the world and society, but I’m also left with the added mental load of considering how I grew and evolved both professionally and personally as another complete year of my life has ticked by. It’s a lot to consider and absorb at once, and it’s even more of a challenge to begin to outline things succinctly here in text form. Throw these gummy bears in the mix, and you’ve got the recipe a long night of writing!
All jokes aside, 2016 on the professional front was my best year yet. My goal when I left high school in 2000 was to continue growing and doing better and better each year in the freelance market. Through hard work and holding true to my artistic standards, that is exactly what continues to happen. I lost count of the number of hotel rooms I stayed in this year, and I can only guess the number of miles that I flew (I earned gold status with American, and I’m almost to silver with Delta). Seeing the world is a fringe benefit of my career that I didn’t expect initially, and 2016 unveiled so many new places that I got to experience while either behind the lighting board or the camera.
After several shows and shoots at the beginning of the year for regular clients at home, I hit the road with R&B singers Anthony Hamilton and Fantasia in May and June for an 8-week-long national tour as Anthony’s lighting designer. Being on the road with Anthony once again was fantastic, as the entire band and crew are like a family on the road. While the grind of a tour can take its toll with lack of sleep and an overall erratic schedule, having your tour family along for the ride and all the experiences that come with it can’t be beat.
Anthony Hamilton band and crew bus driver Ricky Tyner drives through downtown Jacksonville, Fla., following a concert at the Times Union-Moran Theatre, early Saturday, October 29, 2016. The bus was en route to Columbia, S.C., for the group’s next concert.
July saw me traveling to London twice in the same week to light concerts for hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar and, once again, Anthony Hamilton. Both trips afforded at least one full off-day for sight-seeing, perfect for a new destination on my list. Less than a month later, I was thrown head-first into the decidedly caustic environment of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where I covered my first Summer Olympic games for USA Today Sports Images. I saw some disturbing things in Rio that will likely stick with me for years to come, but on the flip side, I have many fond memories of the games, the people I met there, and textbook sportsmanship that will all live on just the same.
Aug 6, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Colombia forward Isabel Cristina Romero Benitez (6) gets a hand to her face by USA forward Nana Faavesi (9) as Faavesi runs the ball during a rugby sevens match between the USA and Colombia at Deodoro Stadium in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
Aug 11, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Jun Mizutani (JPN) in action against Vladimir Samsonov (BLR) men’s singles table tennis bronze medal match in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Riocentro – Pavilion 3.
Work throttled up considerably in the months of October through December, with another four week tour for Anthony Hamilton preceding four more shows at home. One of those shows, The Polar Express, took place entirely on a moving Amtrak train! It was one of the most difficult lighting designs I’ve ever pulled off, but it was extremely rewarding seeing so many joyful kids and their families enjoying the production when it was all said and done.
On the personal end, 2016 was filled with equal parts upset, realization, and growth. I finally realized that, most of the time, our deepest disappointments come when the expectations we cook up about a person or a situation don’t come to fruition. I’ve learned to have less of these expectations, and to “roll with the punches” a bit more, as it were. I’ve learned to accept discomfort as a positive notion, for it ushers in growth. This Capricorn has also become more comfortable with the idea of change not being a bad thing! Imagine that?
Still, some of that change was hard to swallow. In November, I found out (while sitting at a lighting console ready to run a rehearsal) that my good friend Jeff Grafton had passed away unexpectedly. I lit several shows for Jeff in the early 2000’s that he directed and designed / built the sets for, and we became close in the years that followed. Jeff’s passing marks the second time I have found out about the death of someone close to me while behind a lighting console (the first was my grandfather in 2013).
I can’t tell you how difficult it is in those moments to bottle up your emotions and continue plowing through work, yet, this is the reality of the career that I have chosen. “The show must go on!” isn’t just some cute saying that theatre kids get silk screened onto the backs of their show t-shirts. At least with the death of both of those folks, I knew in that moment that there’s nowhere they’d rather me be than right there in the theatre doing what I loved, so at least that brought some comfort.
My aunt Marion Kay DeRosa (better known to me as “Auntie Kay”) lost her battle with several health complications at the end of January, and a super-cool sound engineer I’ve worked with for years, Ron White, lost his battle with lung cancer while I was on the road in October. Whether blood family or theatre, it’s always difficult when someone special departs this life unexpectedly. Ron’s death hit especially close to home, since Ron and I ran several shows together (with he on sound and I on lights). I always feel a bond with the sound engineers on shows that I light, because we’re kind of out there together “flying the plane,” so to speak.
MILWAUKEE, WIS. – SEP. 5, 2016: Angela Scavone, 19, of Downers Grove, Ill., holds a traditional Cubs “win flag” alongside her roommate Kayla Purcell, 19, of Waunakee, Wis., while in line for concessions during a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee. Scavone and Purcell are both students at nearby Marquette University. While Scavone is a Cubs fan, Purcell prefers the Brewers.
A home owned by Rick Tuttle and Barbara Presti stands on Three Oaks Rd. in Three Oaks, Mich., Thursday, September 8, 2016. The home, pictured here in an 8×10 wet plate collodion image, was constructed by a land developer from Chicago and was finished in 1877.
Despite the Grim Reaper wise-crack I made at the beginning of this entry, the deaths I experienced personally in 2016 reminded me that the time clicking away on our laptop menu bars isn’t guaranteed, nor are the people in our lives. Life is temporary, and while we’re here, we have to make the most of every minute of it, and enjoy each person we love as much as well can while they’re with us. 2016 was a year in which I felt that I continued to work toward those ends. Similarly, I hope 2017 will give me the strength to resist the temptation of complacency, and to continue growing both professionally and personally in the new year.
Speaking of temptation, I’m happy to report that those gummy bears in my hotel mini bar are still sealed tightly in their jar!