Matthew Litfin, once a Delta College student, now stands on the catwalk of the school’s Tillie Lewis theater making adjustments to one of the many lights positioned high above the stage.
This is just a slice of Litfin’s responsibilities as a guest lighting designer for Delta’s most recent production, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”
Now a 2019 graduate from California State University, Stanislaus with a bachelor’s in theater, Litfin is applying the skills he obtained both in and out of school to help local productions on the technical side, while further honing his abilities.
Technical theater, Litfin’s particular interest when it comes to dramatic arts, encompasses many elements of a production outside of the performers to help elevate and fulfill a vision. This can include set design, sound, lighting, makeup and costumes as well as various other puzzle-pieces that allow a story to live and breathe.
“I was raised as an actor,” said Litfin. “As a small child, I was in church plays. My folks thought it’d be great to have me take theater courses in high school to get me out of my shell — which it did, it helped me a lot, but it also taught me how to become a character and work with other people in productions. It wasn’t until 2014 during my time at Delta College that I wanted to see what else there was to do.”
During high school, Litfin was involved in his drama department at Tokay High in Lodi, where he sharpened his improvisational skills through the school’s ComedySportz team and played the role Traffaldino in The Servant of Two Masters, as well as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Some time after entering Delta, Litfin decided to take a step back from acting and get more involved with technical theater through their drama program.
“I wanted to learn what it was all about,” Litfin said.
“I took some general electives, but as time went on I was able to discover more of a passion in designing and lighting, especially. There was a lot more work that went into a production than I had thought, as theater is a collaborative art. Delta pretty much taught me everything about the collaborative efforts in producing shows.”
Working with others to add texture, mood, depth, and ambience to scenes is a laborious task demanding hard work and tired nights.
“The most important thing is commitment,” said Michael Gonzalez, Delta student and stage manager for Curious Incident.
“With everything we’ve learned from Matthew Litfin and Kevin Bautch (technical director), I feel like every technician has to be working together and communicating or we’re going to be missing cues and other information. With this show and all the quick changes that happen in the main character’s head, it takes everybody to help fit this together,” said Liftin.
Litfin’s responsibilities cross with Gonzalez, as the proper cues need to be set for sound and lights when dialogue is spoken or when characters enter. Even a single movement could require a specific light or sound cue.
Cross-collaboration doesn’t end with the crew featured in the show’s program; even some of Delta’s drama classes contribute to the overall production and how it eventually looks, sounds, and feels.
“During the labs of the lighting class I take, we’d construct certain elements of the set that had to do with light and scenery,” said Robert Felton, theater major at Delta College. “The class usually spends time working during the day, so we don’t really interact with the cast. When others were installing the big windows on set, we were working on the starscape in the background. It all has to work together and intersect.”
The effort that drama lab classes put into the set help add to the overall vision of the story.
“The collaboration — the heart, the vision itself — it won’t always be just as you planned it,” said Litfin. “The fact that you’re working with other people who are playing their own vision to help the core vision, that’s what the beauty of theater is. It’s multiple minds coming together help elevate each other and fulfill the vision of the show’s director. Working with the technical director Kevin Bautch is really great, as he was my main professor when I went to Delta. I work as hard as I can on the lighting design for this show. There’s a lot — a lot of coffee’s involved. I do my darndest, though. I put my heart and soul into it.”