DERRICK McDANIEL // artist profile
Photo by Peter Konerko

All Photos by Peter Konerko for @ This Stage Magazine

What energizes you as an artist?

Travel. Experiencing new places and people. Road Trips. Just point the car in a direction and go. Walks around my eclectic and diverse neighborhood. Food. I have a great passion for fine dining but I also have a spot for two tacos and a beer. Acting. Watching great performances, whether they be in rehearsal, in front of an audience, or movies. I still have that acting spirit and still dream of getting on the boards again. Hiking/Camping. It could be the mountains, deserts, or forests, campground or backcountry — on foot or horses. It’s all inspiring for me. Friends. True friends.

What’s been inspiring you lately?

Lately, I have been taking more and more trips to the museum, especially LACMA. The exhibitions of James Turrell and Diana Thater have been great inspirations of how light, shadow and color — and how they’re projected or presented — tend to evoke emotions, moods, and perceptions. The vivid and bold colors in a painting and where the artist envisioned or placed the light source for that piece. A grand ornate procession cross, because of how it is lit, creates an equally detailed shadow on the floor. Which has led me to a broader look at our world around us — how full moonlight shines through tree leaves, how a street lamp casts a haze on a dark and misty night, or the colors in a sunrise or sunset.

“If I wasn’t an artist…”

I would most likely be some VP in some conglomerate. I also have a business background. Or owning my own event planning company. I’m very good at organizing and logistics.

“As a child, I was…”

Always laughing. Shy. More of a school boy. I tried to avoid confrontation as much as possible, but grew up in tough neighborhoods. Played saxophone and flute in jazz, concert, and marching bands. In high school I was never at home and became president of many clubs and was always involved in student government but had no real friends. I spent most summers, starting at age eight, riding horses and wrestling cattle to the ground on my father’s ranch in California.

Who are your artist allies?

Johnny Clark, Ron Klier and Tommy Dunn at VS Theatre are great fans of my work. Buzzworks Theater, of which I am a board member. The artistic directors, producers, and directors of the The Road Theatre. Byran Rasmussen, owner of the Whitefire Theatre. Artistic Directors Ron Sossi and Beth Hogan, and literary manager/producer Sally Essex-Lopresti of the Odyssey Theatre. Steven Klein and the producers at Firefly. Jack Stehlin and Jeanne Winosky Stehlin of The New American Theatre. Elliott Shoenman and Daniel Shoenman of Inkwell Ensemble. Danny Cistone and Stephen Gifford, two of the most amazing set designers that I have had the privilege to work with. Every time I walk onto one of their sets I have to up my game to rise to their standards. Dave Marling, an awesome sound designer. I love collaborating with Dave. It’s just pure fun. Lighting Designer Kent Inasy. Theatre Planners. My very supportive Brothers and Sisters. And my small network of awesome, ultra-supportive and true friends.

Who are your artistic heroes?

James Earl Jones. I saw him in a production of Fences and fell in love with the theater and acting. Everything in the movie Fifth Element — actors, characters, design… etc. My parents and grandparents. Anyone that led, worked, and died for voting rights, civil rights and equality for all.

Photo by Peter KonerkoWhat’s your favorite (or go-to) LA “spot?”

Being a bit of a foodie, I have a few places. Lulu’s, for Breakfast. Lala’s (on Melrose) for lunch. Other spots are El Coyote, Tatsu Ramen, and the Village Idiot. Fratelli Café is the spot that I bring my laptop and work on design when my apartment is too distracting with TV and other such things. Fig and Olive (Melrose), Casa Del Mar (the sunsets are spectacular from this POV), Yamashiro (great views of the city). Malibu Creek State Park.

Okay. Define art. Go!

Creating: Taking the risk to believe in the magic of the unknown. This is a little slogan that I came up with for myself when I first started out. When I’m designing the lighting for a play, I choose colors and images that I feel are right for the mood and place. So I guess art is taking a risk that what is created will move you in some way and then, perhaps, cause an emotion or spur a thought for someone else.

What are you currently working on?

My lighting designs are currently running in the productions of My Sister at the Odyssey Theatre, Broken Fences at The Road on Magnolia, The Mongoose (also playing at the Road on Magnolia), and No Wake at VS Theatre. Next on my calendar will be a series of plays at Whitefire playing in rep: Stella’s Last J-Date, Waiting for Johnny Depp and Baby Oh Baby.

What’s your creative goal for the next year?

Bigger, Bolder and More! Creating shows with bolder color schemes, and different presentations of the lights. My goal is to do more shows in New York, and to expand to Chicago and Atlanta. I’m just going to believe in the magic of the unknown. It’s worked so far.