Film director and writer Aaron Rose once said “In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary,” which rings true for Amarante Lucero, who has made a living of shining just the right light on stage to create the most artistic and moving pieces in performing arts.
To be part of Lucero’s world, you need to have a great desire to learn about the use of new technologies in the performing arts, which is a passion for the award-winning lighting designer and theatre consultant who holds the Marialice Shary Shivers Endowed Chair in Fine Arts at The University of Texas-Pan American.
Lucero, who prefers to be out of the spotlight and in the background controlling the lights from his console, said he was invited by the University as a visiting professor for the Department of Communication to expose its students to digital and automated lighting, and the latest in visual technology in entertainment.
“You can be victimized by the power of light, positively or negatively, whether you like it or not. It is just an experience,” Lucero said.
His research focuses on automated lighting, cyberspace, digital lighting and using the digital world in design and production, and it has taken him across the globe – France, Indonesia, and Central and South America.
“All things are experimental and all these things are why I get up in the morning because we want to touch people and do it through new ways,” he said. “The world students are going to inherit is going to be digital and international so those are the areas that I am trying to reach into.”
Lucero, whose career spans 25 years, developed and headed the only university automated lighting program/lab in the nation dedicated to the instruction of this new technology and its use in design in the Department of Theatre and Dance at The University of Texas at Austin.
For Lucero, his ultimate goal is to build the next automated lighting program at UTPA, which would make it the third of its kind in the world. Programs currently in existence are located in UT Austin and Liverpool, England.
“The third program would be here at UTPA. What I am here to do is to get the program started. Obviously if I stay here I will continue with the program. If I don’t, we will have to find somebody who can come in with the expertise and continue doing it. The program will enrich in ways that people can’t even imagine,” he said.
At UTPA Lucero instructs more than 20 students, who come from various majors including computer science, theatre, English and sociology, as well as a Concurrent Enrollment high school student. Lucero said he teaches his courses at a graduate level, and accepts all classifications and majors because there are no boundaries when teaching students this new medium.
“Give me a student who is focused, disciplined, motivated and I will teach them the rest,” Lucero said. “I don’t care if you are a graduate student or a freshmen.”
Lucero said on the first day of class he often tells his students to “drop the class now.”
“I tell them I am a demanding professor and I expect excellence from them. They sometimes confuse that with perfection, but I am not asking for perfection, I am asking for effort. You put in the effort, the rest is my job.”
One student who has been mesmerized by Lucero’s expertise is Emily Ruby Fierros, a master’s degree student in theatre, who never imagined she would be creating her own light show during the spring semester.
“I didn't know this type of educational program existed, but I am so glad that UTPA has become a part of this. I would love to learn more and broaden my education in this area,” Fierros said.
Fierros said taking Lucero’s lighting classes were extremely challenging, but worth the 12 hours per week she put into creating her end-of-the-year lighting masterpiece, which was choreographed to the song of “El Tango de Roxanne” from “Moulin Rouge.”
“I admire Professor Lucero because he demands we give our maximum potential. He wants to strengthen our weaknesses so we can be prepared for the real world not only in this field, but in any other field,” she added.
John Paul Cantu, a Concurrent Enrollment senior from Nikki Rowe High School in McAllen, said he is privileged to be taking Lucero’s courses at the level he teaches.
“It is not easy. He is very strict and expects us to be prepared for class and serious about our work. He treats us as if we were working in the real world,” Cantu said. “He cares about us and wants us to be prepared for when we graduate from college. I feel lucky to be taking this class because his expectations for us are very high.”
Cantu, who already has 30 college credit hours and will graduate from high school in May, said he has been interested in theatre since he was 11 years old, and enrolling in Lucero’s courses took him to another level he did not realize existed in the performing arts.
“I like the fact that I am learning more about the technical aspects of the performing arts. I have always been an actor in plays, and this class has taught me the art of using lights to enhance musical pieces and live performances,” Cantu said. “Having been able to learn the basics of programming lights so quickly, I am not afraid to keep learning more, and I want to get more experience in this art.”
This semester, Cantu and Fierros along with their classmates toured their light show locally and presented it at FESTIBA 2009 in March, which is all part of Lucero’s real-world experience. Many of Lucero’s lighting design students have gone on to work in the lighting and entertainment industry.
This summer, Lucero will be heading to Costa Rica and plans to take four lucky students with him to the Institute for Digital Performing Arts, which he co-founded and where he conducts research in the use of new technologies in the performing arts. For this trip, he will explore the area of animatronics, which is the use of electronics and robotics to make puppets come to life. Animatronics is used in the film and entertainment industry, but is untapped in the performing arts Lucero said.
“This summer I will work with animatronics and hopefully take students and faculty from UTPA to work on it, kind of like the Muppet Show. I have done it before but this time I want to push the envelope a little further,” he said.
For Lucero there is still much to learn in his field and he can’t believe he gets paid to do what he loves. Nationally, he has designed for the Old Globe Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre and the Lincoln Center in New York City, and many other venues, and was the winner of the Critics Circle Award for Best Lighting Design for “The Yellow Boat.”
“It is an art form, a technology, and an expression. What I love about it is that it touches people. It touches them visually and deeply,” he said. “We have people, that after a piece, will cry or will stand up and are joyous. When done correctly, it is an incredibly powerful medium.”
To learn more about the UTPA Department of Communication, call 956/381-3583.