OGDEN — William Peterson got hooked on theater in high school, and he hasn’t looked back.
But the roles he has taken have changed, and he has honed his skills in lighting design — so much so that he just took home a big prize: the Barbizon Award for Excellence in Lighting Design through the National Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.
He received a $500 cash prize, a weeklong trip to Washington D.C. for the competition and awards ceremony, and an all-expense paid design week with the Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas team.
Peterson will graduate in May from Weber State University. His entry for lighting design came from his work on Weber State’s “9 Circles,” which was staged earlier this year.
His professor and acting dean of the college of the arts and humanities, Catherine Zublin, said Peterson’s work was “amazingly beautiful.”
“It helped set the mood and tell the story for the show,” Zublin said.
Zublin said the road toward winning the award was long and complex. Peterson was nominated regionally and competed in Hawaii, where he vied against 80 design students. At that competition, he had to show his work for “9 Circles” in a 4-by-4-foot box, which Zublin said isn’t easy.
He then advanced to the national contest the third week of April in Washington D.C.
As part of the process, Peterson had the chance to work with professional lighting designers and other students, from whom he learned a great deal.
“Yes, it’s a competition, but it’s also a chance to make connections, learn from and be inspired by my colleagues in this field and working theater professionals,” Peterson said. “To have the opportunity to discuss my lighting design and the choices I made with prestigious lighting designers, to get their feedback and then to be selected as the winner of that talented group of designers is a tremendous honor.”
Peterson is the first WSU student to receive the prestigious award. He feels it shows the caring and skill of the WSU professors and theater staff, who help him see the best in himself and what he can do. Peterson admitted he has worked hard the last few years, and to be recognized and while representing WSU was especially gratifying.
Peterson plans to pursue a master of fine arts in lighting design after he graduates. Between now and then, he will be shopping graduate schools and expanding his horizons with freelance work to build his resume.
Peterson said he has tried all aspects of theater since his first high school gig, but once he settled on lighting design, he knew it was the perfect fit for him.
“On stage, I get to paint the story with lighting that enhances the action and direction of the production and evokes real emotion in the audience,” Peterson said.