LIGHT WALKERS © *

I am standing in two feet deep tranquil waters of the gulf coast. The distant ocean blue and the prevalent westerly light wind bringing a light curl to the infinite landscape. But here, by my feet, all is calm. The water, like a piece of flat glass is meant to let light pass through without major deflection, without major distortion. There are, on the other hand, occasions when the need arises for a lack of transparency. Sometimes, light needs to be deflected, blocked, reflected, needs to cast a shadow, at that point, a Light Walker is needed.

We often take for granted that very little we see is natural: most of the time what we perceive has been altered or influenced by human diligence. A restaurant does not simply serve food, it does so within an ambiance designed specifically to accomplish certain goals, for example, an old English pub décor, or a Chinese décor, or a romantic atmosphere. Often, the intensity of the lights and even the hue is manipulated to the advantage of the advertised product. Meat must look red and fresh at the butcher’s shop, vegetables need to look green and crisp and fruits fresh and full of color at the fruit market. When John proposes to Jane at the restaurant, it does not occur under blaring lights, but under subdued lighting conditions that make the scene romantic.

In other words, although light is important, it is the lighting of the subject matter that matters when it comes to our daily and constant confrontation with daily life, be it in the real world or in the world of the imagination, what some people call the stage, the boards, life theater, opera, the movies; in other words any event where we purposively check off our reality checking system and willingly submit to the altered reality imposed by an artistic mind’s creative impulse.

Objects that do not reflect the light, but let it pass through freely, become transparent. How strongly we perceive a subject matter, an object suspended in mid space, depends on how strongly that object deflects or reflects the light shown upon it. A large vertical rock seen at mid day may look quite different than when seen at twilight or at midnight, or amidst a moonless night: it is a rock, no it is a sculpture, no it is a ghost.

Look around. What do you see? You see doctors, architects, grass cutters, gardeners, policemen, you see bus drivers and passengers, you see people walking on the sidewalk, people moving from point A to point B, people eating, chatting, people smiling. I, when I look into the mirror, I see shadows and shades, I see too much pink or not enough blue, I see the lights heating my skin, I am blinded by the reflectors. But if you ask who I am, I can not say exactly, I am no one, I am nobody, I am the object that is meant to reflect the light that someone else will eventually reflect and deflect. I am that person that you never see at the theater, or at the opera, or at the movies. I am a Light Walker.

Someone once said that we are all Light Walkers: You, I, your friend, the butcher, and the pharmacist, all of us simply Light Walkers. But how is it possible? I get paid to be a Light Walker. I come to rehearsals, entering through the back door, the stage door. They know me there. And even so, I have to sign in every time.

“Good morning John”. “Good morning Alice”. “Don’t forget to sign the sheet!”.

I don’t have to get dressed in any particular way. Comfortable attire, you may say; that’s my uniform. Then, I just do as I am told.

“John, move to stage left and stand about two feet from the head of the table”.

“Yes, ma’m”, and I do it, and then the director gets involved with someone else, or something else, or so I think. Twenty minutes later, she is back to me.

“John, a little bit to your left… that’s it”. “Silvano, shine that reflector on him and give me about 50 percent filter. Thanks”.

And there I stand all the time doing nothing, just thinking what would have happened if I had not broken my leg the week before the trials and if I had finished high school. I had a cousin that used to say that the chin-bone is connected to the knee-bone, or the other way around. As you can see it does not matter which way goes first. The fact is that perhaps I would not be standing here, waiting to see if 50 percent filter is enough before they add a blue tint to it.
Perhaps I would be directing this opera, or writing one, or conducting it; who knows!

I have been standing here for four hours. May leg is hurting a little bit, not too much, more like I am aware of it, you know. Like one is not aware of some body part until someone calls your attention to it, or something is wrong with it, then, all of a sudden, there it is, right inside your brain clamoring for your attention. That’s how I feel now about my leg. I could have been someone! But I broke it, my leg, just at the wrong time. Not that breaking a leg has a right time.

“Silvano, add a little bit of blue, will you?”

There are many ways of looking at life. I don’t mean “looking” in the sense of seeing, but rather in the sense of thinking about it. One day, standing still on the stage, after Silvano had made some changes to a spot light that was shining on me, my eye caught a music sheet that one of the singers had left on a table close by. I was looking at it, in the usual way, trying to see what it said, when my eye caught a single note, it was a full quarter note, a black ovoid with a vertical tail, the black ovoid occupying the center of two lines in the musical staff. Here is the amazing thing. Normally I would have determined that it was an A or a C, but on this occasion, what called my attention was not the note itself, but the space between the lines. I realized that although the space across the lines was about a sixteenth of an inch in height, its length was, well, infinite. Do you see what I mean? It was as if the whole world opened up to me. No, I was not confined to stand between two lines; I could actually glide along that space, what would I encounter ahead was unknown to me, but there it was, all that open space glaring at me, daring me, calling me.

This will be my last season as a Light Walker. Someone other than me should occupy that space. If you were to ask I would tell you that I had already cast enough shadows and reflect enough lights. Now it was time to move on, to be my own director, to propose a goal and see if I can accomplish it. To set my own scenes and if lucky, using my experiences as light walker, to be able to actualize my self imposed tasks. I guess what I am saying is that sooner or later, whether we want it or not, we were or are or will be a Light Walker. It is, after all, not such a lonely profession. There, I said it.

* After hang and focus, there may be a period of time allowed for pre-lighting or “pre-cueing”, a practice that is performed by people known as Light Walkers who stand in for performers so the lighting director can see what the light looks like on human bodies without bothering or tiring the actors or singers themselves.

Saúl Balagura 2013