Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Annelise Salazar Illuminates the Future Today with Lighting Design Award

School of Theatre, Television, and Film MFA student earns Cody Renard Richard scholarship award for lighting design, honoring her as part of next generation’s BIPOC theatre makers.

Annelise Salazar Illuminates the Future Today with Lighting Design Award

Annelise Salazar

by Gabriela Romero

February 18, 2021

Annelise Salazar began her Bachelor of Arts (BA) undergraduate studies in theater untethered to any specific field. But one aspect was clear: she found a sense of home inside a theater. In Salazar’s freshman year at Millikin University, her path cleared, literally illuminated, after being assigned lighting design in shop class.

“I found myself staying after hours and asking a ton of questions. I did not just want to know how things were done, but why they were done,” Salazar recounts. “I followed around a senior lighting designer. I thought she was just about the coolest person I have ever met!”

The designer revealed Salazar’s interest in lighting to the head of the lighting department, and Salazar changed her major from a BA to a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) focus on lighting in her junior year as an undergraduate.

“Since that move, I have never stopped thinking, breathing, and working with light,” Salazar says.

Salazar then transferred to SDSU to pursue a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Design and Technology to take her passion for lighting to the next level.

In 2021, Salazar’s hard work was honored with a Cody Renard Richard scholarship award for lighting design. The scholarship is designed for “honoring, uplifting, and supporting the next generation of Black, Asian, Latinx, Indigenous and People of Color theater makers.”

“I am both honored and humbled to have received this wonderful honor and award,” Salazar says. “I am excited to meet the rest of my cohorts chosen for this scholarship, and have intellectual and meaningful conversations! I would like to thank everyone who has made this possible for me!”

Being Hispanic, Filipino, and Native American (Tataviam Tribe), Salazar says, “I didn’t see anyone else in the field that looked like me” and she found it difficult to fit in at first, while simultaneously feeling Americanized by not speaking a second language in a predominately Hispanic area.

Her feelings of discomfort to fit in, both in theater and in her home’s community, catapulted her exploration of Latinx artists in the technical theater world, allowing Salazar to have a “coming to life moment.”

“I finally fully embraced myself,” said Salazar. “Sure, I don’t know much about my roots, but that does not mean I can not discover and also inspire a generation of lighting designers to do the same. I might not speak Spanish, or go to tribe events, or know how to make Filipino cuisine like my grandmother, but I am still a strong woman because of those who came before me, and I will keep laying the foundation for those who are to come after me.”

Salazar believes this scholarship is a way for young artists of all backgrounds to communally pave the way and have open conversations about what it means to be BIPOC in the technical theater industry.

Although Salazar owes her work ethic and passion for lighting to many people, Anne McMills, head of lighting design at SDSU, has been a special mentor who created an immeasurable impact in her lighting education.

“To be able to learn from someone who has such a passion and talent for lighting makes me want to up my game that much more,” Salazar reflects.

Anne McMills says, “Annelise is a very promising student and a joy to have in our program. She shows up ready to work and with a positive attitude that makes each day a pleasant one. She is also a sensitive artist and a hard worker ... always ready to push her work to new levels. Annelise has a bright future in front of her, and it will be exciting to see where she goes!”

Salazar also appreciates her family, as she says they “do not have a huge background in theater, but they are at every show, and my dad is always asking why I made certain design choices. The people around me make me a better designer without even realizing it!”
Learn more about Salazar’s award, the SDSU School of Theatre, Television, and Film.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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