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Ode to Duffie

“Can you make this less interesting?”

This was the note Adam gave Lauren Duffie on Friday morning a few hours before we opened. We were in the theatre making sure I knew my blocking, but we were cleaning up moments along the way. Lauren is our lighting designer, and had created a look that was actually too beautiful too early in the show.

“I know what you mean,” Lauren said from her table in the back of the theatre.

“Yeah it’s too beautiful too fast. It just needs to be less interesting.”

I’ve never heard a single note better sum somebody up.


We just finished our opening week end. If the first three shows are any indication, it’s going to be a great three weeks here in Iowa City.

The press has been tremendous. I’m really happy that they’ve focused on the twelve year collaboration between me and Adam Knight. It’s not often you get to work with someone over such a long period of time. Much less someone you grew up with. Much less someone who is one of your closest friends in the world. To any of my students reading this, it’s just further proof that the most important people you meet in school aren’t your teachers, it’s your classmates. They are the ones you’ll be drinking with at the bar, coming up with the crazy ideas that will turn into the next trends in American theatre. Theatre that will reflect the world in which you live. The air you breathe. Theatre that will show the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.

But Adam and I don’t collaborate alone. There is an extensive list of people who have added their thoughts and voices to what we do. But Lauren has been with us from the very beginning. Through everything. She is integral to the aesthetic we’ve been creating all these years.

Just how does she do that?

First of all, she’s one of the best lighting designers in the world. That helps. She’s worked with everyone. Her resume is a Who’s Who list of awesome people. From Billy Idol to Madonna to Chris Rock, who liked to call her sweetie. Or honey. Or something like that. She is a true artist. An auteur with lights. She can make a blank stage look beautiful and complex. She can take the simplest moment and with a change so subtle you don’t even know it’s happening, add and reveal layers of depth and meaning at the very same time.

She’s also the coolest person you’ll ever meet. When our friend Margo Moskowitz, one of our first producers, met Lauren, she said, “She’s exactly what I pictured someone from New York to be!”

From her calf belts, to her American Spirits, to her jeans that are way too expensive, she has style and taste dripping from her pores. She makes Fonts, fucking Fonts, you know, the shapes of the letters we type with, she makes those fun and interesting!

And she’s just great to have around. From trying to sneak a C Wrench through security, to Adam discovering her sick and scaring children at an airport hours after her flight was supposed to leave, from seeing the worst show in the world at Edinburgh, things are just more fun when Lauren is around. And while there are lots of reasons to do what we do, fun is high on that list.

So as we finish up an opening weekend that felt like a celebration of friendship and collaboration, I want to raise a giant glass to Lauren Duffie.

The Third leg of the stool.

Our hip sister.

The one who sheds the light on what it is we do.

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