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November 11, 1994 - Image 97

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-11-11

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Into The Spotlight

A professional
consortium is



Mark Berg

ark Allen Berg really can light up
a stage.
A professionally-trained and ex-
perienced lighting designer, he is
doing just that throughout the '94-
'95 season of the Jewish Ensemble
Theatre (JET) and currently is
preparing for its second production,
Death and the Maiden.
The drama, set in an unnamed
country emerging from a totali-
tarian dictatorship, will be per-
formed Nov. 23 - Dec. 18 at the
Maple- Drake Jewish Community
Center. The plot explores the per-
sonal effects of oppression and re-
"The play is quite a suspenseful
thriller — cerebral on one level and
very emotional
and sensual on
another level,"
said Mr. Berg, 34,
who plans lighting
to accent what he
considers the piv-
otal moments in a
"With the help
of my collabora-
tors, especially the
director and the
set and costume
designers, I plan
how to support the
Throughout the
season, Mr. Berg
is working with
scenic designer
Melinda Pacha,
properties design-
er Dorothy Smith
and costume de-
signer Edie Book-
Their continu-
ing collaboration
made JET eligible
to receive a $4,000
grant from the
Arts Foundation
of Michigan.
"We came up
with a repertory
theater design
plan so we could
get more mileage
for each design
dollar than if we
were working
piecemeal," said
JET artistic direc-
tor Evelyn Orbach. "If we get a bet-
ter artistic product, it will be a
blueprint for other small theaters
with similar financial limitations."
Mr. Berg has put previous JET

productions into the spotlight,
working with some of the same
people. His premiere piece was Ex-
ile in Jerusalem. Others included
Isn't It Romantic?, The Price and
Sight Unseen.
"The thing that really attracted
me to JET is the quality plays that
they do," Mr. Berg said. "Ws almost
a family environment, and it's be-
come quite a joyous experience for
Mr. Berg also feels fortunate to

He worked eight
years at the
Birmingham Theater.

have a full-time job assisting with
the lighting at the University of
Michigan theaters, including the
Power Center.
"I attended Doane College in
Crete, Neb., and during the first
year I realized I was more inter-
ested in the arts than the sciences,
which were to be my major," re-
called Mr. Berg, who was raised on
a farm in Nebraska.
Soon after graduating with a
theater/English/history major, he
got an offer from the Omaha Com-
munity Playhouse to go on a na-
tional tour for nine months.
On the road rotating as a stage
manager, actor and lighting de-
signer, he worked on three plays,
often presented in one day, de-
pending on the city where the
troupe was performing.
"We'd usually land at an ele-
mentary school in the morning and
do Treasure Island," he said. 'Then
we'd do an afternoon performance
of The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail
for a high-school group. In the
evening, at a civic or community
theater, there would be a perfor-
mance of Strider, a musical about
the world seen through a horse's
"It was a wonderful experience
and great education for me because
I did all aspects."
Interested in getting a master's
degree in fine arts, Mr. Berg en-
tered a program at Wayne State
University, where he designed
lighting at the Hilberry and Bon-
stelle theaters.
At the end of his schooling,
he joined a Hilberry reper-
tory company that took three

shows to a theater festival in Scot-
His next move, accepting a job
as lighting director at the Birm-
ingham Theatre, lasted eight years,
until the facility recently closed. He
then sought the U-M job.
To supplement his income
throughout his career, Mr. Berg es-
tablished MAB Lights, designing
illumination for industrial clients
such as sponsors of auto and fash-
ion shows.
"I have a small inventory of
equipment that I use to augment
my work," he explained. "When the
Birmingham Theatre was selling
a lot of its equipment, I was able to
purchase some.
"Sometimes a theater can't pro-
vide all that I need for what I'm
asked to do, and I can bring my
own equipment to help me serve
the play. I'm also able to lend some
of my inventory to help my wife put
on her plays."
Michelle Berg, who met her hus-
band while they were both work-
ing at the Wayne State theaters,
teaches dramatic arts in Sterling
Heights and was selected Michi-
gan Theater Teacher of the Year
in 1992 and 1994.
When the combination of his
equipment and a theater's equip-
ment is not enough for the effects
needed in one show, he turns to
rental organizations.
"The technology of lighting de-
sign is changing so fast that it's
even hard for universities to keep
pace," Mr. Berg said. "Lighting
equipment, lighting boards and
lighting fixtures bought now are
easily obsolete in four years.
"I think the American public is
a movie-oriented society, wanting
the visual spectacle to be over-
whelming and spill over into the
theater. Once audiences see a play
like Phantom of the Opera, they
want to get bigger surprises."
A surprise is what Mr. Berg is
dreaming up for the end of Death
and the Maiden, when one char-
acter makes what may be an after-
death appearance.
Will the stage be light or dark or
both at the same time?
There's no telling — yet. CI




la Death and the Maiden will
run Nov. 23-Dec. 18 at the
Maple-Drake Jewish Communi-
ty Center. For information, call
JET, 788-2900.




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