Alex Vasquez Dheming is an International Thespian Society alum who works her magic backstage. She works primarily as a lighting designer and production manager. She also works as a lighting programmer, master electrician, production coordinator and sometimes stage manager. Alex puts all her talents to work bringing the story on stage to life! 

She says each of these specialties has their own unique challenge and appeal. With lighting, she says, “I love …  enabling people to feel, be it euphoria or despair. I think a lot of people don’t allow themselves to feel enough.”

She embodies a healthy work/life balance and says, “I don’t believe in ‘the show must go on’ anymore, if physical or mental safety is at risk. A professor of mine used to say ‘we’re not curing cancer,’ and I still believe that! I constantly work on keeping a sense of perspective on the work that we do, while maintaining respect for the craft.” Read more below about Alex’s multifaceted career in theatre.

White young man standing on stage with a white and blue long winter scarf

SCAD Savannah – Spring 2016 – Performing Arts – Performances – “Rent” – Hamilton Hall – Photography by Justin Chan

Lighting Design: In the Designer’s Own Words

As a lighting designer, I create worlds and environments for stories to live in. We have so little control over what lighting does to us. For example, red light quickens our heartbeat. Blue light soothes us. The absence of light can make us afraid. A sudden blackout can take our breath away. I love creating art within this sensory and color theory knowledge.

Production management involves a lot of logistics: facilitating conversations, connections, communication, designs; creating schedules; arranging transportation; booking crew; creating riders for touring shows; maintaining budgets; working in tandem with both executive and artistic directors, and more! But the most important aspect of this job is setting the stage for how a production will run. It is non-negotiable for me to be in and to create a room where everyone feels empowered to ask for what they need, and to move with intention and care.

As a “younger” woman of color in this position, it brings me joy to bring together more diverse people with diverse points of views and lived experiences. I love working together to create art that speaks to historically underrepresented groups.

I also love having an impact on how sustainably we can create theatre. From small actions like limiting single-use plastics in the rehearsal room to reusing shipping materials. I believe that every action helps better the ways we create. Theater doesn’t need to be a wasteful art form.

Lighting Design: The Winding Road

My original plan was to study law in Nantes, France. Then I would get a Master’s in environmental law and practice law. But a few weeks before moving to France, I realized I really did not want to study law or become a lawyer!

white dancer with white cloth mask covering entire head with sheer dress

Photo by Richard Termine

So, I took a sabbatical year to find what I really wanted to do. I continued taking language classes (French and Italian) and began teaching visual arts and dance to kids. I also continued dancing. (I danced from the ages of 4-19 and ended up getting a minor in dance in college).

Then in December of that year, I got into a car accident that required minor surgery on my elbow. I was crushed realizing I couldn’t perform in the holiday performance I had been rehearsing for.

To stay near the production I hung out backstage and tried to help. I had never paid attention to the technical elements and the energy backstage. I felt quite at home in it!

A New Direction is Found

Around the same time, I was reapplying to colleges, and the production design major at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) caught my eye. It covered a lot: scenic design, costume design, lighting design, makeup design, film production, theatre production, themed entertainment, and more.

I honestly wasn’t 100-percent sure I understood what the career paths available were with a BFA in production design. But I had the support of my parents to do “whatever I wanted, as long as I gave it my all.”

Coming from a developing country where the arts aren’t really respected or valued because of the real threats of violence,  poverty, corruption, and hunger, I struggled with the decision. I wondered whether I was “wasting myself” or whether I was being selfish by not dedicating myself to becoming a social worker or doing something to help with climate change.

SCAD offered me a very good scholarship, and with the support and advice of many older artists and mentors, I went for it. After the first year, even though I LOVED being immersed in art and creation, I still felt guilty and considered transferring to pursue a “real career.” Ultimately, I’m happy that I didn’t, because I do feel like this is where I belong, and I do believe that being in the arts is a “real career” and is important. Art is what makes life worth living, and where we as humans find solace and are allowed to dream. 

See more of Alex’s work at her website.

Natalie Clare is a Cincinnati-based writer who composes original content for brands, organizations, and publications. As a storyteller, she writes fiction and nonfiction, and she directs and produces works of film. Visit her at

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