2015 Young Designer To Watch: Conor Mulligan, Lighting Designer

Write By: lilongzhou Published In: Designer lighting Created Date: 2015-12-09 Hits: 1503 Comment: 0

Meet Conor Mulligan, lighting designer and one of the recently named Live Design's 2015 Young Designers To Watch.

Current Project: I am the current Hemsley Lighting Intern. My current projects with the internship are lighting design assistant for The Magic Flute and projection assistant for Lucia di Lammermoor at the San Francisco Opera.

Most notable achievements: One of my proudest achievements is completing my MFA. I was the first in my family to go to college, so getting a college education was important to me. Outside of educational achievements, I was selected as the current Hemsley Lighting Intern, which is an opportunity I am honored to receive and grateful to be experiencing.

When I started in the industry: I officially started in 2010, when I began freelancing in the Baltimore area. I was designing for a number of theatres while also finishing my undergraduate work at Towson University.

How I got started in this industry: I spent a year working for a local theatre as a production assistant before going back to school to finish my Bachelor’s degree. I had started in school as a performer, but after working in tech for a year, I began to find interest in design. Near the end of my time as a production assistant, I was working with the lighting more and eventually had opportunities to design. I quickly fell in love with design and wanted to finish my education and pursue a career in lighting.


Lesson 443. Photo by Conor Mulligan.

Influences: My influences range from the people I’ve worked for as well as those I hope to work for in the future, to great artists and cinematographers. I find I am influenced the most by those I have either worked with, studied with, or have had the opportunity to observe during tech. Craig Wolf, my graduate school advisor and design professor, has greatly influenced how I think about light and its role in the storytelling of a production. While we only had a year together in grad school, Anne McMills has also had an influence on my work. Other influences include: Ken Billington, Japhy Weideman, Kevin Adams, Paule Constable, Max Keller, Robert Wilson, Anne Bogart, Janusz Kaminski, Ashley Wood, Mark Rothko, Leif Podhajsky, James Turrell, Alexander McQueen, and Philip K. Dick.


Worst advice I’ve ever heard: “Have a backup plan.”

Best advice I’ve ever heard: “Look at the shadows.” “If you want to be a designer, be a designer and design. Take the work that you want to be hired for in the future, but also pay the bills.”

My favorite thing about the production industry: The people: I love being in the room with a group of fellow artists and creating something, whatever that thing might be. Designing is problem-solving with aesthetics, and working with others to figure it all out is the best.


Alice: Curiouser And Curiouser! Photo by Conor Mulligan.


Favorite design/programming/technical TRICK: Pre-­warming a filament: It’s a simple and classic trick but still one of my favorites. Cue timing is such a sensitive thing and building a smoother up-­fade by warming the filament can create a really beautiful, slow build, especially when the look on stage is pretty dark. I’ve found that bringing light into a scene can be tricky in some moments that need to be subtle. Intruding a scene with too much light too quickly can be jarring and disrupt the action. Warming a filament helps make that more gradual.

Plans for the future: When I get back to New York at the end of November, I will be working with New York City Ballet on The Nutcracker and then later on the spring season. I will also be working with Al Crawford for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s winter season. After I finish with the Hemsley Lighting Internship at the end of February, I am hoping to connect with some designers and start assisting in the New York market as well as get out there and get some design work of my own. I am definitely itching to design something.

Other interests/side gigs: When I’m not in a theatre, I try to get out into the sun as much as possible. I love to hike and run, specifically trail running if I can. Running is something that brings balance to my life. I get a lot of thinking done while I’m out running, and I find it helps me keep my mind in the moment.


Photo by Amanda B.


A side project I’m working on is a new collaboration with the Independent Puppet People, a Baltimore-based duo of animators and designers working on independent stop-motion shorts. My sister is one of the animators, and we are planning some small projects we will be working on in the spring.

Awards, honors: Hemsley Lighting Intern; San Diego Critics Choice nomination for Best Lighting Design for Cygnet Theatre’s True Love

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