We had the good fortune of connecting with Omar Madkour and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Omar, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I feel like we live in a world where we are trained to follow a set of doctrines and rules. We are taught what is right & what is wrong before we get a chance to think and evaluate.
I think art has the capacity to challenge these “norms”
I am interested in being a part of work that raises questions & triggers us to think – as opposed to giving us answers and confirmations. I am not drawn to moral stories where the protagonist wins and the antagonist rots, but rather I appreciate my career in the arts because it can be provocative and disruptive to the mind-numbing routine.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a lighting designer – I have mostly done theatre, but I have some modest experience in opera, dance, architectural (museum) lighting and concert lighting.
Lighting Design for me is a visual art – it is like painting or drawing, but you use photons from the visible spectrum instead of paint or graphite. Light is magical it is not tangible, you cannot touch it or hold it, but it is what allows your eyes to see. It is very present with you, but most of the time you aren’t aware of its existence; and more importantly you aren’t thinking about how it is affecting your perception of your surrounding.
I have been interested in lighting design since I started my undergrad in theatre in 2006; but I honestly never thought it would become my career. Eventually I became more & more involved, and I was good at it. When I started touring internationally with theatre shows, this is when I realized lighting is becoming a serious part of my professional life. I was gladly prioritizing my work in lighting over anything else. Touring was a great eyeopener for me too, because I was introduced to different technologies, larger design scales and a more thorough sophistication in the design process.
Working in the arts is often a challenging & exciting journey. A lot of the times you are freelancing, which is financially challenging and might be full of instability – however, there is great excitement every-time you start a new project. Every project is different and I need to find the keys to unpack the story visually and discover the best way to share it with the audience. Sometimes it works out great, while others not so much, but this is also part of creating art. There is no formula or equation that you follow to get the “correct” answer. Every project is it’s own thing… and for me, there is nothing more rewarding than hearing the audience after a show taking about how touched they are by it. It can be happiness or sadness or a mix of emotions. Everyone reacts differently to the story you are sharing, and this in itself is so great.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Ironically my parents are visiting LA for the first time soon and they are indeed here for one week. I am yet to look into COVID admission rules at different places, but if there was no pandemic, the itinerary would have looked something like this
– Museums – The Broad, LACMA, MOCA, The Getty Villa, The Getty, Marciano Art Foundation
– Food – I would make sure they try a few Asian & Hispanic cuisines that are not available (at least not authentically available) in Egypt due to the smaller communities from these cultures back home
– Touristy attractions – Hollywood sign & Griffith Observatory, Walk of Fame, Disneyland, Santa Monica Pier, Universal Studios, Urban Lights, etc
– I would also take them for a day to one of the national forests
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am from Egypt, and back home everyone aspires to be an engineer or a doctor. If you don’t make it to one of those schools, you’re often looked at as a failure. I actually come from a family of engineers, but I am grateful for my mom (an architect) who did not see my interest in the arts and lack of interest in engineering & medicine as a disappointment. She has been my biggest supporter throughout. I also have to give a shout out to my lighting professors, mentors & supervisors across the years – Stancil Campbell, Anne Militello, Lap Chi Chu, Chris Kuhl, Roya Abab, John McKernon, Azra King-Abadi & Aria Grosvenor.
– Hao Feng (photographer) – Gary Leonard (photographer) – Rush Varela (photographer) – Ebtihal Shedid (photographer) – Photo Courtesy of CalArts Center for New Performance