Theater Alum Hired as Lighting Director at Wells Fargo Center

November 25, 2019

Larry Barnes BFA ’19 (Theater Design & Technology), graduate of the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts, was recently hired as the new lighting director of Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia. We caught up with Larry to see what he’s up to.

UArts: Transition to post-grad life―what’s different and what’s the same?

Projection design for "Just Another Normal Conversation"

Barnes: It is surprisingly similar. I still work almost 90-hour weeks and free time is still a running joke in my friend group. The [Theater] Design Tech major at UArts did a fantastic job preparing me for post-grad. I am very grateful for the teachers I have had.

UArts: What does your day-to-day look like as lighting director of Wells Fargo Center?

Barnes: My day-to-day is actually surprisingly simple. After being exposed to the freelance design and tech side of the industry, it was and still is a huge adjustment to be going to the same place doing a very similar show day-in and day-out. On a game day for the Flyers, I come into the arena around 10 a.m., and I test everything. I make sure all of the lighting is working and that the projection system is online. 

New for me is, I am also responsible for checking the automation system to make sure there is not a fault in it. If there is an issue with any of these systems, I spend the rest of the day troubleshooting and calling companies to get things fixed. When there are new open videos or period rejoins, I will design a time-coded lighting show to accompany the video the team produces.

My favorite part of my everyday is that I need to go out onto the NHL ice to load cans of fuel into our pyrotechnics machines. Getting to shoot eight 40-foot flames has not gotten old, and I can not foresee it getting old anytime soon.

UArts: Have you worked on any cool events or projects there recently?

Lighting design for Brind School's "Rhinoceros"

Barnes: I work every single Flyers, 76ers, Villanova and Wings game so if you are into sports, then yes―every day!

UArts: What professional experience did you get as an undergrad?

Barnes: I worked around Philadelphia as an overhire electrician since day one of college. I also programmed and designed as many shows at school as I possibly could, which really helped. I interned once with Rosey Hay at Rev Theatre Company, where I did sound for Hamlet. I then interned with a design company called Fragment Nine on Keith Urban’s Graffiti U tour. I was the assistant video designer. Every Internship I had was paid.

UArts: What was your favorite class at UArts?

Barnes: Existential Philosophy or Lighting Practicum! Question everything! Then design.

UArts: You’re also a projection designer. What was your favorite project to work on?

Barnes: Right as I got hired at the arena full time, I was working on a Fringe piece called Manifest Destiny, which featured three projection screens for a rock opera. I made all of the content and designed lighting, set and projections. It definitely took a few years off my life but I was very happy with the process.

"Human Perspective," a Rose Bruford class project

UArts: You studied abroad in London. How was it?

Barnes: Plain and simple―I would not be prepared for the work I am doing now if I had not studied abroad. I could talk for hours about this but, simply put, UArts gave me all of the foundational design skills I could ever dream of. When I was looking to study abroad, I wanted a school that would fill in the gaps of my education so I went to a school (Rose Bruford College) specifically for lighting programming. I spent every day abroad soaking up as much information as I could. I left with an extremely robust training.

UArts: Why did you choose to stay in Philly?

Barnes: There is work here! Philadelphia is a beautiful city with a thriving theater and arts scene. I don’t know if I will ever leave!

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