Campus News

UB students help keep the ‘lights on’ despite the pandemic


Published February 17, 2021

“I think it’s a great piece to have, especially during the pandemic, when normal theater isn’t happening, I used my skills to create art in this way when traditional ways weren’t available. ”
Becca Stock, senior design and technology theatre major
Department of Theatre and Dance

“Everyone Buffalonian loves Buffalo,” UB student Nicholas J. Taboni said of the inspiration behind the window display he and his fellow theatre and dance students designed and built for the “Lights On!” event held over Valentine’s Day weekend in Buffalo’s Theatre District.

The event, a series of free audio/visual installations by local designers, artists, musicians and stagehands, was held in the 700 block of Main Street. It was sponsored by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 10 Women’s Committee in collaboration with Buffalo Place, Shea’s Buffalo and the Western New York arts community.

The students’ design for the event was inspired by the city itself, as well as Buffalo Place, the organization in whose Main Street window the display was housed, Taboni said.

Taboni and his colleagues from the department’s Design and Technology program and the UB student chapter of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology — Francisca Losada Hernandez, Becca Stock, Isabella Fortunato and Timothy Swenson — say they were part of a team effort, encompassing many discussions, drawings and evolutions of the design. Among the challenges they had to solve was working in a limited space with a narrow access point.

Buffalo City Hall stands tall in the middle of the students’ display, which also features a heart-accented sunset backdrop. Parchment paper helps diffuse the colored lights.  

“Theater is really special in that it’s everywhere, and we have that ability to use our skills and implement them on different, non-traditional spaces and environments, which is really nice,” said Losada Hernandez.

“I think it’s a great piece to have, especially during the pandemic, when normal theater isn’t happening, I used my skills to create art in this way when traditional ways weren’t available,” Stock said.

“They are exhibiting their set design talents, their lighting design talents and what is means to put together an installation that is site specific,” said Lynne Koscielniak, professor of scenography.

Koscielniak helped connect the students to the industry professionals and served as an adviser and consultant on the project, which included offering some timely suggestions on Friday evening when the window needed a few tweaks, as the tape wasn’t holding well on the parchment paper.

Buffalo theaters have been closed since last March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Koscielniak said that in previous years students had more opportunities to work on different professional productions in Buffalo, as well as connect with industry professionals including IATSE members.

Among those opportunities not available to students this year was the Lumagination light show at the Buffalo Botanical Gardens. For the past four years, students had designed a built a light show and display for the annual event, which also was cancelled this year due to the pandemic.

Koscielniak said she was pleased that students had the opportunity to work with Lights on Main Street organizers such as Katie Ludwig, chief electrician for Shea’s 710 and a UB alumna. “I am proud that our students contributed to bringing some joy to our theatre district this past weekend,” she said.

Stock seconded that value of having these experiences outside the classroom.

“We have so many mentors who are resident designers that help us get involved and that is great experience that we do on the side,” she said. “[It] is really, really beneficial to do.”