Otterbein Theatre Chair Lights Up “Swan Lake” for Australian Ballet 

Posted Oct 05, 2023

Associate Professor T.J. Gerckens is using his sabbatical to further master his skills as a lighting designer halfway around the world. Gerckens, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance, designed the lighting for the Australian Ballet’s new production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. 

A recording of the production is available to stream through Oct. 13 for $19 USD per screen. During the second interval (intermission) of the stream, there is an interview with Gerckens about the lighting of the ballet. This is the first time Australian Ballet has featured a lighting designer on one of its streams. 

The multi-million-dollar production premiered with a sold-out run in Melbourne in September. The tour of Australian Ballet’s Swan Lake includes stops in Adelaide, Brisbane, and Sydney, including shows at the world-famous Sydney Opera House. 

Gerckens said he was honored and humbled to have the opportunity to work on the production. “The Australian Ballet is one of the top ballet companies in the world, and David Hallberg, the artistic director and director of this production, is internationally renowned in the ballet world. The dancing is amazing, and the choreography is iconic. It is an amazing, beautiful piece,” he said. 

When taking on a project off campus, Gerckens is always focused on learning something new that he can bring back to his students. “Throughout my professional projects, I share the processes with our students, highlighting what I am learning, what I am doing well, and sometimes what mistakes I make and how I fixed them,” Gerckens said.  

“I bring every experience back to Otterbein and help keep us current and ahead of the curve,” he added.  

During this production, he took on the unique challenge of designing lighting for both live theatre and livestream. “Livestreams are always tricky for lighting, because I design for the human eye, and the camera sees differently than we do,” he said.  

Gerckens was especially determined to design lighting that highlighted the artistry of the other production designers. “Mara Blumenfeld’s costume designs are stunning. There are approximately 300 costumes, and more than $1 million was spent on costumes along. The set is designed by my friend and colleague, the twice Tony-nominated Daniel Ostling. The scenery is beautiful and huge; the production went over its budget of $1.25 million.” 

Gerckens will spend the second half of his sabbatical in New York City lighting Florencia en el Amazonas at the Met Opera

Florencia en el Amazonas is a Spanish language opera from the 1990s. This is the first time The Met has produced it, and it will be in cinemas worldwide on Dec. 9, including cinemas in central Ohio.