Amber Whatley’s Blackout Workshop


Amber Whatley, Post-MFA Fellow

Before the worldwide pandemic brought everyone to a halt, I wondered how I could contribute to diversifying the lighting design and technology fields. From this came “Blackout,” a free intro to lighting design and technology workshop for Black youth and minorities aged ten to eighteen. Blackout brings awareness of lighting design and technology to communities with little to no exposure to theatre education. I hope that participants with further interest in lighting will not enter their next level of education significantly behind students who received theatre training in secondary school.

Because of COVID-19, the workshop quickly shifted from in-person to virtual with a series of introductory lighting and technology videos. These videos were presented in classrooms with a focus on Black youth and marginalized communities across the United States. As a digital series, Blackout has now reached over 10,000 BIPOC youth and helped them to see what lighting design is and see a Black female designer, doing something that they can do too.

With the world slowly healing I was able to host the first ever in person Blackout workshop in Montgomery, Alabama, during the 2022 winter break. I promoted the event with Alabama News Network to promote the event and visited over 20 schools in the area to share the workshop with the faculty and staff. I had a great turn out and was able to give this workshop to the participants 100% FREE.

Participants who completed the workshop were able to successfully hang, focus, and strike professional lighting instrument. Equipped with the successful use of lightning terminology, obtaining a base understanding of color theory, and the ability to decipher different lighting instruments and their beam spreads. They also received t-shirts, bags, goodies, and a certificate of completion.

Blackout lends awareness of the lighting design field to Black youth and minority communities without theater education, shows the youth in those schools that lighting design and technology are possible career paths, and will hopefully diversify the lighting design and technology fields in the future.