I first met Rebecca Bonebrake while we were both working at a nonprofit theatre camp a couple hours outside of L.A. I was wary when we were paired up as counselors, but I soon found that my concerns were unfounded. Beyond having the best name ever, she was fun and entertaining, and I’d never been friends with a lighting designer. When I found out she worked at Caltech, I was confused — why would such an artistic woman be working at such a scientific school? It turns out that she works for the public events department, which gives her the opportunity to light the beautiful retro-chic Beckman Auditorium. She has lit lectures, theatrical productions and even a question and answer panel for “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”
Unfortunately, we are soon losing Bonebrake to the wilds of graduate school, where she will work toward her MFA in lighting design. I sat down with her before her departure to ask her about her time well spent in Pasadena.
How did you find that lighting design was your calling?
I’ve always loved to be involved in theatre, on stage and off, but it wasn’t until college that I discovered lighting design. Thanks to a job I had working as a stage hand, I was able to work with many brilliant lighting designers. Watching them use light to add shape, color and life to productions inspired me to sign up for a design course.
Does working in an environment so focused on science and technology change your work?
Many of the science events I light don’t really require my design skills. I have, however, made good use of star, galaxy and fusion gobos….
I know Caltech doesn’t have many summer shows, so how are your lighting muscles toned? Do you have another show you’re working on?
I’m the executive producer of a short play festival called Hurricane Season. I work with the Eclectic Company Theatre in North Hollywood. I know it’s not quite in your geographic range, but I do recommend it. We run through August 25th.
You grew up in that other Valley west of us. What differences do you find living in our San Gabriel Valley?
The San Fernando Valley sure is a lot hotter! It’s also a lot more spread out, with no true center. Pasadena has areas like Old Town and the shops on Lake that are central and excellent places to meet up with friends. And although I may have been on the other side of the city, I still hung out in Old Town in high school. Who didn’t?
What is your favorite thing to do in Pasadena?
I love browsing the PCC Flea Market! Even if I go without anything specific in mind to buy, I always find something I have to have.
What is your best Flea Market find?
Probably my favorite find was my most recent one: a vintage brown leather bowling bag that I use as a laptop case.
You can find out more about Rebecca Bonebrake, as well as see examples of her work, on her web site, rebeccabonebrake.com