My True Passion

By Justin Lang ’01

Seth Peery

Alumnus Justin Lang '01 found his passion for theatrical lighting at RU.

In 2001 I graduated from Radford University with a degree in theatre. All throughout college, my family thought that I was chasing a pipe dream by deciding to make a living playing with lights and working in the theatre. “Yeah right,” they’d say. Even before I came to Radford in 1997, I knew what I wanted to do—I wanted to paint the stage with light. Light is a fascinating medium. But lighting design requires passion and a knack for detail. It means analyzing and evaluating the slightest differences in the temperature and color of light. It sounds boring when you have to put it into words, but it’s not. Onstage is where the magic happens: painting with light has the ability to change your mood and perception.

Before Radford, I had barely any skill with lighting. I thought it was fun making lights flicker and change colors, and chasing actors onstage also helped, but it wasn’t until Radford that I honed my skills and found my true passion for lighting. I took every lighting design class Radford had to offer by my junior year, yet I wanted more. Begging and pleading with my design professor, Carl Lefko, I was able to do an independent study the spring semester of my last year and allowed to design the first musical Radford had produced in 10 years. It was an amazing experience, one I will never forget.

Who would have guessed that the one thing I think about every single day came from my least favorite class at Radford? To graduate with a degree in theatre, you have to have your core education classes as well as those pesky classes within your college. I took Acting 101 with Chuck Hayes, and I’ll never forget it. I’ve always said that you will never catch me onstage with an audience in the house. I made that clear on the first day of class. “I am not an actor,” I said. “I just need to pass.” But Chuck instilled in me something that stuck with me and has served me well over the years: “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late ... and to be late is to be dead.” To this day, I can still see Chuck in front of class, giving this speech with such passion and force.

It has been 10 years since I graduated from Radford, and my love for light and theatre is still strong. While I don’t design much lately, I am still neck-deep in the industry I love as the editor of Projection, Lights & Staging News magazine, sharing with industry professionals a passion for lighting that I developed while in the heart of the Blue Ridge. I miss those steps in front of Pridemore.