A beautiful light: remembering Jen DeGolier

If you’re at a performance tonight at a Twin Cities theater, you may notice something different at curtain call. The lights will go down, while the performers all gaze up at the sky.

They will all be remembering Jen DeGolier, a 36-year-old lighting designer who died too soon. Cause of death is as of yet unknown, but her family suspects it may have been severe asthma, which took her father’s life at the age of 27. Update: Jen DeGolier died of cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease), which also took the lives of two of her uncles, according to a family member.

jendegolier.jpg

Jen DeGolier

Photo: John Autey

DeGolier has put shows in their best light all over the Twin Cities, and done so with with enthusiasm and charm. Here are some remembrances from her friends:

From Craig Johnson, actor and director:

The Twin Cities theater community is a sprawling, loose-knit family, as we constantly regroup for each show. Jen DeGolier really was a bright light in our midst. She joyfully and tirelessly moved from professional theaters to community theaters to school shows, large and small, in the Twin Cities and across the state. Her work often kept her up all night on ladders hanging and focusing lighting equipment in her trademark skirts and ever-changing hair color.

I was blessed as an actor to have been lit by Jen in so many shows. She made us all look good. But I’m especially remembering three shows I directed recently that Jen designed: “Dangerous Liaisons” for Torch Theater, “The Full Monty” for Paul Bunyan Playhouse, and “Street Scene” for Girl Friday Productions.

I remember for “Street Scene” walking into a Saturday tech rehearsal and having Jen flop down next to me and say, “Well, it’s rough right now, but don’t worry, Craig, it’ll be art by Thursday.” And it was.

Walking-Shadow-Amazons-and-.jpg

A Walking Shadow production, lit by Jen DeGolier

Image courtesy Amy Rummenie

From Amy Rummenie of Walking Shadow Theatre Company:

Jen was in every way cooler than I ever could be. My immediate image of her is perched atop a ladder, mismatched pigtails of brilliantly bright hair, in a skirt, barefoot, laughing. She could see through to the heart of any problem with a minimum of BS. On our shows she always slipped out the door before the first read-through– preferring to do her dreaming alone and come in later when things had pulled together a bit. And then she would work… magic. Full of bold colors or a subtle sunset, we went to Jen when we wanted something that took an immense amount of hard work, but looked effortlessly beautiful. I know we’re all going to miss that level of trust and imagination and bold zest for fun in the world.

From her friend Cheryl Willis:

Jen is kindness and loveliness.

JenDeGolierlighting.jpg

“The Juliet Letters,” a production lit by Jen DeGolier

Photo courtesy Jake Endres

From Southern Theater’s Damon Runnals and his wife Meg DiSciorio:

Jen was a staple of the Twin Cities Theatre Community. Having worked with her for both the Southern Theater and Swandive Theatre, I have many fond memories of late nights and early mornings dealing with lighting looks. Jen used to say that she was creating “sexy lights” and we all knew that it was her beautiful use of color on stage that made a DeGolier design complete. She was an avid Twins fan and would often have a radio in the space with the game on when doing afternoon lighting notes. She will be greatly missed by my wife and I.

JenwithSammy.jpg

Jen DeGolier with her niece Samantha Mae. Jen’s brother Jeff writes that Sammie, who is now four, refers to her pink-haired Barbie as “Aunt Jenny.”

Image courtesy Jeff DeGolier

From actor Paul Reyburn:

She was one of the most free spirits I have ever met. Rooms were always brighter when she was in them. Her designs were among the best I have had the privilege of performing under. She was always ready with a smile, hug, or snack. It was a joy to see her run up and down ladders in her bare feet, not worrying what might be on the floor. This is a stunning loss to our community. A wonderful soul gone far too soon.

From Kirby Bennett of Girl Friday Productions:

An exceptional artist and loving collaborator, Jen’s evocative designs graced our productions of “Our Town,” “The Skin of Our Teeth” and “Street Scene.” Gone too soon, she is deeply missed. We love you Jen and know that you will continue to light our way.

  • Vera Mariner

    To be illuminated by Jen in a show was like being the subject of a great master of painting. She was like Vermeer. And during a tech week, when others were yawning and fading, I was forever impressed by Jen’s tenacious but quiet work ethic. She’d climb a ladder and hang on it for what seemed like hours or days at a time, metal objects clenched between her teeth, serving as another hand or two. Her demeanor was always consistent, cheerful, impish, committed. If you looked up, Jen would be up there in her air laboratory causing miracles. I consider her one to be one of the great lighting designers of this community and the region and she will be missed so very much. My condolences to her family.

  • Sarah Gioia

    I haven’t worked with Jen in years but remember her fondly as makin’ it work and having fun and being funny and also being really,really talented. I’ve seen tons of her designs since and to a one, always found them remarkable. Hard to work in space with no budget? No problem, still beautiful. It’s still not registering I won’t see her amazing lighting or amazing self ever again. Very,very sad for everyone in TC theater personally and professionally.

  • Callan S

    I’ve had the privilege of working with Jenny the past two years during school productions. In between hanging lights and writing cues during tech rehearsals until ten at night, she’d somehow manage to find time to answer all my questions about the light board and trade photos of our dogs. We’ll miss your beautiful designs, Jenny. Our theater won’t be the same without you.

  • Ann Garvey

    Prayers to the family from the Augsburg College community.