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20 Years Behind the Spotlight

July 13, 2017

As Southeastern Illinois College’s George T. Dennis Visual & Performing Arts Center celebrates 20 years, a lesser known player from behind the scenes steps into the light.

Heather McDonald of Harrisburg has been running the SIC spotlight for every theatre performance for the past 20 years, and the spotlight will henceforth be known as ‘The Heather McDonald Spotlight.’

The SIC theatre department decided to honor McDonald with this special naming along with a service award for her long-time dedication as the spotlight operator. 

McDonald’s theatrical involvement extends beyond 20 years, as she first discovered a love of theatre while attending shows as a child.  She began her long-term involvement with the SIC theater department when she attended SIC as a student in 1995 on a theatre scholarship.

“Heather is like a spotlight ninja. She just magically appears on the first day of dress rehearsal and makes all the numbers look great!” remarked Allan Kimball, SIC Theatre Instructor.

While McDonald is a vital part of the team effort required to put on a show, she always stays behind the scenes.

“Half the time we don’t even realize she is in the building until we see a spotlight hit an actor, and I think, ‘Oh, Heather is here.’ I can’t imagine a show without her,” stated Kimball.

McDonald’s expertise is needed because it takes a great deal of skill to operate a spotlight effectively. Manning the light is an art form in itself, and according to Kimball, McDonald has a way of creating a masterpiece on show night.

“She has a natural instinct about when and where to use the spot,” said Kimball. “Most of the time we don't even have to program in cues for her...she just knows.”

McDonald enjoys her involvement with SIC’s productions.

“I love theater in general, and it [running the spotlight] is a great way to be a part of it in my small town. Most people in rural areas don’t get that opportunity.”

McDonald will continue her work behind the spotlight in upcoming shows at SIC, including Seussical The Musical on July 14-16, 21 and 23; School House Rock Live! on Oct. 6 and 7; Miracle on 34th Street on Dec. 1-3; Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 on Feb. 9 and 10; and The Producers on April 20-22.  She will also be working the spotlight for upcoming high school productions in the SIC Theatre.

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