Samford’s assistant professor of theatrical design, Christian Specht, maintains a busy schedule mentoring and preparing Samford students specifically in the areas of lighting and sound while working on numerous professional shows. Specht often connects his students with these opportunities so that they can benefit from the professional experience.
This spring, both Specht and senior lighting design student, Tollie Boone, are headed to New York City to design the lighting for the Off-Broadway return of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, presented by Ruth Stage and directed by Joe Rosario, at the Theatre at St. Clements, Feb. 24-March 31. The show announced that Courtney Henggeler, Amanda LaRusso from the Netflix series Cobra Kai, will be starring as Maggie. Other cast members include Matt de Rogatis as Brick and Frederick Weller as Big Daddy.
The opportunity came about through Specht’s connections in the industry. The set designer for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof had worked with Specht on previous shows and had recommended him to be the lighting designer. “I knew if I got the contract, that I wanted to figure out how to bring Tollie along as an assistant lighting designer,” said Specht. “This is such a great opportunity for Tollie to gain real world experience while accomplishing her senior capstone.”
Specht and Boone have already begun collaborating for the show and they plan to be on location February 10-March 7. This opportunity is allowing Boone to realize her goal to design lighting on Broadway. “When I was younger, I wanted to be on the stage but as I’ve grown in the technical world, my dream is to design lights for Broadway shows.” She is looking forward to “meeting people in the field and to feel the energy and excitement of the professional setting.”
As her professor, Specht thinks “seeing how fast paced the industry really can be,” will be beneficial to Boone. “I also hope she makes great contacts and gets her foot in the door,” said Specht. He praised her work, “Tollie has an eye for design. She can see what lighting ideas and moments can do to create an atmosphere.”
As a student in the Department of Theatre and Dance, Boone says that she has benefited from multiple learning experiences. “ Throughout my years at Samford, many opportunities have come my way. It might have been through labs where I had time between classes to learn the basics of lighting, or opportunities like working on big off-campus shows or National Broadway tours such as Escape to Margaritaville and Waitress. Thanks to Samford I was able to have those opportunities early in my college education,” said Boone. At Samford, she has designed the lighting for large mainstage productions as well as student-led plays. Her first play, Lungs, was her favorite as she felt she gained so much through her collaboration with other students.
She enjoys lighting design and notes, “Lighting has always been fascinating to me. I am also an artist and I enjoy painting. With lighting it’s very similar to painting but in more of an abstract sense. With lighting I am able to create a world with color through light and shadow to help encourage a story and its setting. I still get excited when I design in new spaces because it challenges my limits.”
For more information or tickets to the show visit www.ruthstage.org. Follow Tollie’s journey on Instagram: @samfordarts, @tollie123 or TikTok: @tollieboone2