His fifth Tony, received this year for lighting “The Book of Mormon,” remains at his Bethesda home, waiting to be engraved. He has lighted nearly 60 shows on Broadway since 1994.
MacDevitt and his wife, actress and dancer Nancy Bannon, moved here from New York two years ago so MacDevitt could become an associate professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies. Now he does about four Broadway shows a year — down from the seven or eight he used to juggle — while he guides Maryland grad students to their MFAs and helps Bannon at home with their two young boys.
Despite the computerized bells and whistles that lighting designers have at their disposal, MacDevitt tries to impart a love of simplicity to his students.
“What I believe and what I was taught and what I try to pass on is that every project has the potential for you to have a personal point of view about it, and that you should come up with an idea based on your feelings about it, as a way to support the piece,” MacDevitt says.
In “The Book of Mormon,” the designer explains, the action takes place in two distinct worlds. At home in Utah, the missionary protagonists live in an atmosphere that’s “shadowless and bright and perfect,” MacDevitt says, but with pink gels on the lights, “which make it a little fake.”
When the young men get to Africa, they find the opposite. “It’s a gritty place where initially there’s no real sunlight. . . . All the comedy in the show comes from those two worlds colliding,” he adds.
In February, MacDevitt will jump into the Washington theater scene, designing the lighting for “Sucker Punch” at Studio Theatre.
New musical, new company
Joe Calarco lives and works in New York, but the director-playwright has been Amtraking down to Washington for more than a decade to direct here. He’s currently staging the new musical “The Boy Detective Fails,” now in previews at Signature Theatre in Arlington.
His direction there of the musicals “Side Show” (2000), “Urinetown” (2005) and “Assassins” (2006) garnered 16 Helen Hayes Awards among them and three outstanding-director nods for Calarco.
Calarco mounted his own piece, “Shakespeare’s R&J,” at the Folger Theatre in 2000 after its success off-Broadway, and Signature has presented his “. . . In the Absence of Spring . . .” and “Walter Cronkite Is Dead.”
Now he and colleagues from New York, Ithaca and Philadelphia have founded Breaking Bread Theatre, which will be based in New York. They intend to do workshops and full productions of new works that appeal to them, no matter how odd their concepts or impossibly large their casts.
Breaking Bread’s first production, in fall 2012, will be a musical adaptation by writer-composer-lyricist Daniel Zaitchik of the Joan Lindsay novel “Picnic at Hanging Rock.”