Lighting designer snem DeSellier on their work for 20% Theatre Company’s upcoming world premiere production Unknown.
What work are you doing for this premiere of Unknown? And what inspired you to join the team?
I’m really excited to be light designing Unknown! The project was mentioned to me during tech [rehearsals] for Q-STAGE last spring, which had been my first real taste of the exciting work coming out of 20%. Within reading the first few pages I was ready to bring these sweet and complicated lesbians to lit life. A big factor was that I’m a journal person. I’ve been carrying one everywhere I go for years and years and often get fixated on the “what will become of these pages” and “how can I collaborate with my future archivist from today’s page”. The way those questions live within this play, combined with growing up closeted in my own family and with an Italian grandmother who shed so much of her Italian to fit into an American mold means that this story has its cords snaked in my heart. With its long love and new love and tricky love and recorded love—it’s full of things I love.
How did you become a designer? What sorts of stories are you most excited to design for?
My making has always been very webbed and organic and sticky. I’d say the core of my making is devising, often via dance, poetry, and design. Sometimes I think I’m more design-dancer, light-poet. I fell into design when all my directorial proposals were actually fully articulated set plans, and then again when I found out that you could paint mood and breath in light choreography. Light is such an in-between medium, and as an in-between maker it took my heart on impact. Since then I’ve spent a lot of time with creative teams and new scripts building a repertoire of light language. In my design, I’m drawn to stories that shift through time and place and proximity, stories that can believe in light, that can lean into it.
What are you bringing to Unknown with your designs?
Unknown exists in a split but tethered world. We have a clear tether in the overlapping of space, we can feel the whole story as layered and connected, but I think light can give us the tones we need to hold these worlds distinctly. Lights are a key part of the shift that demonstrates the two worlds are separated by physical distance, time and generational intimacy.
What have been some challenges or unique opportunities about designing for Unknown?
Well, it’s my first time designing at The Crane! Every new space brings a new world of possibles and also a host of learning curves. I’m figuring out how to still be in a learning process while also remembering how to trust myself and my ability within this craft.