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MissionLocal: I think most audience members are unaware of the technical and artistic aspects of stage lighting design, yet we really feel it — it’s emotional, it affects pacing and nerves, it can conjure a night in a forest or an interrogation room, it sculpts space, relationships, script, etc. Can you tell us about a spot around here where you find the lighting interesting?

AllenWillner: Well that’s easy. It’s the place that I really first discovered light and sound for that matter. It was the bunkers up in the Marin Headlands just up over the Golden Gate Bridge.

When I first came to California in 1993, I was an assistant sound engineer over at the Plant Recording Studios in Sausalito. I was really not enjoying it very much. The atmosphere of a recording studio can be sterile to say the least. So I bought a Sony portable DAT recorder and drove up to the Headlands to record some guitar in the bunkers up there.

Now there are hundreds of them in the hills overlooking the ocean, each of a different size and reverberant quality. I would sit and record, and then the late day would come and the sun would go down over the bunkers, and the light would just stream in. I’d never seen such beautiful light in my life. Ambers, blues, reds, pinks all blending all goin’ down. The clouds would diffuse the light and blend the colors. That’s where I studied, that’s where I learned about light.

That’s where it all comes from. The sun. Even the light of the moon, the blue aura of the moon, it’s just a reflection of the source.

Exerpted from a Mission Local interview with Allen Willner.