Professional Lighting & Production - Summer 2017 - Page 35

IN FOCUS Clare Mathison By Megan Beam G rowing up along Canada’s west coast, Clare Mathison was brought up in a family that put a strong emphasis on a good education and plenty of outdoor activity. It was actually the former that led her into the theatre world and, eventually, lighting design. Residing in Richmond, BC for much of her childhood before moving to Victoria, Mathison spent her summers between the ranch where her family boarded their horses and her father’s sailboat with her two sisters. She first discovered her passion for stage lighting after immersing herself in her school’s theatre program. After graduating, she attended the University of Victoria to earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts, focusing primarily on theatre production and design. She says it was a something of a compromise – maintaining a focus on education and earning her Bachelor’s degree but also staying involved with the type of creative work she enjoyed. Her last semester at the university left Mathison with quite the unique experience. Heading to Bangkok University in Thailand, she completed her final credits there by designing the sets and lighting for Thai theatre students and their thesis projects. After formally completing her schooling, Mathison decided to take a trip through the U.S. She eventually ended up in Nashville, and decided to explore some work opportunities in live music. Though she remained passionate about theatre, she figured it would be nice to work on shows that were more dynamic and paid a bit better. “I met with as many people in the industry as would tolerate me until I got really lucky one afternoon with a gig over coffee,” she recalls. As with nearly any job these days, it boils down to who you know or just being in the right place at the right time. The stars aligned for Mathison when two friends-of-a-friend happened to be looking for a lighting director for an up-and-coming country-pop act they’d recently signed as a client. That turned out to be none other than breakout star Kelsea Ballerini. Mathison has been working behind the console with Ballerini as her main gig ever since. That’s afforded her the opportunity to work on shows alongside the likes of Rascal Flatts and Thomas Rhett, and soon, Ballerini and her crew will be heading out as direct support on Lady Antebellum’s world tour through much of 2017. Being able to consistently ramp up the scale of the production with new gear and larger venues on the back of Ballerini’s swelling success, Mathison says it’s been a great opportunity for her and her crew mates to develop their skills. “A growing crew provides constant learning opportunities and chances to shake things up,” she offers. “We do a lot of direct support for larger acts, so with every tour, we get to work with and learn from a different crew. In this way, we’ve been lucky to work alongside some of the very best in the industry.” Getting the chance to work in parallel with other, more established designers is a prime opportunity to add to her palette of tricks, and constantly incorporate new ideas into her work. “Touring with Rascal Flatts last summer was a great example. They have a very talented and kind crew who sort of took us under their wing,” she says. The upcoming Lady Antebellum trek is particularly thrilling for her as she’s had the chance to collaborate with one of her personal heroes, production designer Sooner Routhier of SRae Productions. Mathison says she’s also excited to get her hands on some new gear and to work closely with Lady Antebellum’s LD and crew. Working in what’s very much a male-dominated industry can present some challenges, she says, but adds that it also carries some benefits. She’s learned about her own strengths and limitations and adjusted her workflow and personal routine accordingly to keep in shape and work safely. That was partly informed by a scare that came after damaging one of the disks in her