James Horban on Bringing URI to the Forefront of Lighting Technologies in Theatre

Our faculty engage in cutting-edge research and innovative creative work every day as they bring new ideas to our students and communities locally and globally. We’re pleased to continue this monthly spotlight series featuring our faculty’s work through a question-and-answer style article published every month during the academic year.

Featured creative work: Lighting and design work by James Horban, Assistant Professor in Theatre

Q: Can you tell us about the Champlin grant Theatrical and Live-Entertainment Technologies: LED Ellipsoidals and Moving Lights you were recently awarded for new equipment/lights?
A. This grant was developed to bring URI to the forefront of lighting technologies utilized in today’s live productions. Within the past decade, advancements in LED technologies have revolutionized the manner in which shows are lit, and as a result, the power and data distribution infrastructure of modern lighting systems have grown exponentially complex. URI has recently made substantial investments to update this infrastructure within our on-campus production spaces, but acquiring the lighting instruments themselves required a substantial investment as a large production utilizes hundreds of lighting fixtures. Our awarded grant will add a large quantity of cutting-edge lighting instruments to our inventory, opening new interfaces between live performance, technical mastery, and community outreach.

Q: How specifically will this grant enhance your creative work and teaching at URI?
There is a symbiotic relationship between technology and creativity; as new tools rise to meet the demands of the lighting designer, the designer finds new ways to use the tools in their works. These advanced lighting instruments will unlock new design possibilities for our students and guest designers, and I cannot wait to see what they will bring to our stages with these expanded possibilities. As each show has unique lighting requirements, the system must be engineered and installed differently for each production. While it is possible to theorize this process in classroom labs and paper projects, the true challenges in the realization of this work lie in the realized productions we mount each season. This grant allows us to do just that.

Q: Can you describe some of your current work/projects in lighting and design?
In order to bring one-on-one assistantships to our design students, much of my recent design work has been within the theatre department’s season that we produce for our campus and South County communities. Last fall I designed both the sets and lighting for our production of Clue: On Stage, which focused heavily on utilizing core design elements and principles to create the illusion that our characters were ‘playing pieces’ within Mr. Boddy’s game of blackmail. A grey-scaled set allowed lighting and costumes to focus on utilizing color for their storytelling, bringing a unique environment to our production. Having recently resumed production work due to pandemic restrictions, it was exciting to bring to our students the experience of building and performing within a massive set.

Q: What have been some highlights of your time at URI so far?
I have always been passionate about incorporating advanced production technologies into my curriculum, and my greatest highlight thus far has been working with the University to modernize our technical offerings. Having spent my pre-URI years designing and working within the live entertainment industry, I find great joy in demonstrating the vast array of avenues that a career in technical design and production can open to our graduates.