Owning the Spotlight
Recent graduate Mary Shabatura is very familiar with the spotlight, but not in the way that you might think. Mary’s expertise with theatre is in lighting design through which she has had the opportunity to work on multiple productions both at the University of Minnesota and in theatres all across the Twin Cities. Mary has worked in various positions with these productions ranging from lighting designer, master electrician, and lighting console programmer.
"A lighting designer has a hand in anything that lights up on stage," Shabatura says. “From lamps to general stage lighting, the lighting emphasizes the time, place, and mood of the story being told on stage. It’s my job to ensure that I choose the right equipment and make the right color and texture choices that will bring the show’s world to life.”
In addition to working with productions on campus and in the Twin Cities, Shabatura has worked in lighting at both the Cincinnati Opera and the Santa Fe Opera during her college summers. Aside from learning from new people and increasing her professional network, Shabatura appreciated acquiring a broader variety of experience from these positions which she encourages all students to pursue.
Shabatura is now the resident lighting designer at Dark & Stormy productions, but continues to do freelance lighting design and has worked on shows such as Gypsy with Theatre Latté Da. However, her career as a lighting designer began far before this position. “I started doing lighting design for after-school plays in middle school which carried on into high school as well. Even though it started as a hobby, I knew this was something that I eventually wanted to make a career out of,” Shabatura says. “But it wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I had the opportunity to start doing freelance work on my own to gain experience.”
Shabatura plans to continue her freelance work for local productions, but remains completely open to whatever opportunities come her way, even if it involves relocating from the Twin Cities. “I love freelancing because it provides the opportunity to meet new people and build my network. The best part is being able to work within different disciplines with each project that I take on,” she says. “Freelancing allows me to be flexible and explore the wide variety of opportunities that the industry has to offer.”
Shabatura credits her success as a recent graduate to the academic foundation she created through the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, her experiences gained from theatres outside of the University, and the opportunities she gained from making connections in the community. Her advice to current students eager to begin their professional journeys is to pursue as many opportunities as they can—even if they are outside of the University. Every opportunity may not be the specific “dream job” that you are pining for, Shabatura says, “but you never know who you’ll meet or even end up developing an artistic relationship with which could potentially lead you to that dream.”