Two lighting designers chosen for prestigious New York portfolio review

Two lighting designers in the School of Design and Production at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts have been chosen to participate in the prestigious 13th annual Hemsley Lighting Portfolio Review in New York. Abby May from Riverview, Fla., and Joseph Naftal, from Long Island, N.Y., will participate this weekend in one-on-one and panel interviews with professional designers, Broadway production electricians, scenic and costume designers, directors, and other theatre professionals.

“This is a terrific opportunity for Joseph and Abby, and we are very proud that they were chosen,” said Michael J. Kelley, Dean of the School of Design and Production. “It is a capstone achievement for their undergraduate career here at UNCSA, where they have done excellent work.”

Last Days of Judas Iscariot

Abby May was lighting designer for "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot" in November 2016

Hemsley Lighting Programs’ portfolio review is designed to give students a chance to meet with professional designers so that they can improve their portfolios and get answers and advice from those already working in the industry. The program is named for Gilbert Hemsley, who created lighting for New York City Opera; Martha Graham Dance Company; Broadway plays and musicals; The Metropolitan Opera; American Ballet Theatre; Bolshoi Ballet; Stuttgart Ballet; National Ballet of Cuba; and numerous regional ballet, opera, and theatre companies.

May and Naftal, who will receive B.F.A.s in May, are designers for the Winston-Salem Lighting Project (WSLP), an annual outdoor project that combines lighting and projection to transform urban architecture and landscape. The WSLP is April 4-8 at Merschel Plaza in downtown Winston-Salem.

Abby May

Abby May

Norman Coates, director of UNCSA’s lighting design program and executive director of WSLP, said feedback provided by the Helmsley review will be invaluable in the students’ careers. “Joseph and Abby already have amassed resumes of top-quality design. The critique provided by New York theatre professionals will help them build on what they have learned here in the School of Design and Production,” Coates said. 

May is lighting director for Alexei Kremnev’s Carnival of the Animals, Fokine’s Les Sylphides, and Martha Graham’s Panorama, components of UNCSA’s upcoming Spring Dance Concert (April 20-23). She was lighting director for Balanchine’s Serenade, Merce Cunningham’s Change of Address, and Paul Taylor’s Esplanade for Winter Dance in February 2017. She was lighting designer for the November 2016 Studio III production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, the 2015 Emerging Choreographers Concert, and the 2015 production of A Bright Room Called Day.

Winston-Salem Light Project image

A rendering of Abby May's design for the Winston-Salem Light Project, April 4-8 at Merschel Plaza

Professionally, May has worked as a draftsman and lighting apprentice for Arc3design in New York City, as a lighting intern for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, as lighting assistant for the second national tour of Cinderella, and as lighting designer for Black Magic at New York’s Fringe Festival in 2016. She was an assistant lighting designer for the White House Halloween event in 2016.

Joseph Naftal

Joseph Naftal

Naftal is assistant lighting designer for UNCSA’s upcoming A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute production of Ariadne auf Naxos (April 19-23). Other lighting design credits at UNCSA include Fletcher Opera’s Florencia el Amazonas in February 2017 and Black Watch in 2016, a Studio III production of the School of Drama. In 2016, he was assistant lighting designer for The Nutcracker and Spring Dance.

Winston-Salem Light project image

Rendering of Joseph Naftal's design for the Winston-Salem Light Project, April 4-8 at Merschel Plaza

Professionally he has worked with Piedmont Opera as associate lighting designer for Tosca and assistant lighting designer for A Little Night Music in 2016 and Rigoletto in 2015. In New York, he has worked with Cherry Lane Theatre, American Ballet Theatre, Shakespeare in the Park, New York International Fringe Festival and Theaterlab.

by Lauren Whitaker 

March 30, 2017