Jules Fisher on Working with Derek DelGaudio

by Michael Eddy
Derek DelGaudio onstage
Derek DelGaudio onstage

Over his long and illustrious career, lighting designer and theater consultant Jules Fisher has lit many magicians, including all of Ricky Jay’s shows. A keen student of the art of magic himself, with a passion for the subject since his youth, Fisher enjoys working in and around magicians, especially ones who push boundaries. “Since I was eight-years old, I was interested in magic,” he says. “I went to see magic shows all the time. I saw Blackstone Sr. and then years later, I met his son Blackstone Jr. I even consulted to the lighting designer for Blackstone Jr.’s Broadway appearance. In fact, one of my first jobs in Las Vegas was at MGM lighting an unknown 8-minute act, Siegfried and Roy. Through one magician to the next, I got to know an awful lot of them.” It is that affinity to magic coupled with his expertise in theatrical production that made Fisher a natural fit to work with Derek DelGaudio. 

“A few years ago, Derek asked if I would be interested in lighting a two-man show he was doing, Nothing to Hide,” explains Fisher. “Unfortunately, my schedule at the time didn’t allow me to accept. I did however recommend lighting designer Adam Blumenthal. When Derek started working on In & Of Itself, he again asked me to light his show; again timing didn’t work and I deferred to Adam, who I have to say has done a really good job lighting this wonderful show. I have a lot of respect for Derek and his work, I said that I’d be very happy to help as a theatrical consultant. I knew I could help them understand sightlines; some of the mechanics of stage work; production devices; projections; lots of areas that aren’t about the lighting design.”

DelGaudio liked the idea and Fisher made a brief trip to California, meeting with DelGaudio, Glenn Kaino, and the rest of the creative team, as well as director Frank Oz. “It was for a couple days, just to give my notes and thoughts, as an overall theater consultant,” he explains. “I met with the creative team and Frank Oz, who was happy and open to having someone from a strong theater background offer some thoughts. And that’s exactly what I did, in all different areas. I found that everyone was very receptive.”

Fisher’s wealth of theater experience is a valued asset to any production, though he notes modestly, “It is just my age, no genius was involved on my part; it was just experience from being involved with so many productions in my career. I made note of things they would perhaps not have thought of, or didn’t know were possible in theater. All things to make the show run smoother; easier. Notes like ‘why don’t you do this effect here as it is a more psychologically powerful position on stage’; ‘making the weathered paneling for the back wall and the floor darker will make Derek’s face be seen better’; and a few simple staging suggestions to get the widest sightlines possible.”

While consulting for In & Of Itself, Fisher got to know DelGaudio’s partner in A.Bandit, artist Glenn Kaino. “He is wonderfully open to ideas. I really admire Glenn; I think that he’s a very special artist. He’s really curious, which I value a lot, in all forms,” Fisher says. “He comes from the art world, which is something Derek is exploring and has been interested in learning about, since I first met him. Derek has never wanted to stand on a stage and do six magic tricks, as wonderful as they might be, he wants it to have some greater connection to art. Derek wants to put these two worlds together. Glenn is the perfect person for him to work with as Glenn was in the art world but wants to understand and learn the world of magic and shares Derek’s idea of connecting art and magic. That has created something very special.”

Be sure to also read the other SD stories: Elusive Illusions about DelGuadio and Frank Oz's work and Designing the Undefinable about Glenn Kaino's work on In & Of Itself