UNL's Carson School's Van Winkle a finalist for Hemsley Lighting Internship

Clayton Van Winkle
Clayton Van Winkle

UNL's Carson School's Van Winkle a finalist for Hemsley Lighting Internship

23 Feb 2014    

Clayton Van Winkle, a third-year graduate student from Garland, Texas, is a national finalist for the prestigious Gilbert Hemsley Lighting Internship. In addition, his lighting design for last year’s “Candide” won first place recognition at the Region V Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), and he will represent the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at the national festival in Washington, D.C., April 14-19.

“The ACTF honor was great, but the Hemsley was just huge,” Van Winkle said. “This is the premier lighting internship in the nation.”

The Hemsley Lighting Internship is open to both Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts graduates in lighting design, though graduating MFA students are more commonly selected.

The internship is named after Gilbert V. Hemsley, Jr., who created lighting for the New York City Opera, Martha Graham Dance Company, Broadway plays and musicals, The Metropolitan Opera, American Ballet Theatre, among many others. Hemsley passed away from cancer in 1983.

It’s the second year in a row that a student in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film has been a national finalist for the Hemsley internship. Aja Jackson (B.F.A. 2013) was a finalist last year.

“It’s great that we’ve had two people in a row that have been able to go. It speaks a lot for our department and the program,” Van Winkle said. “We’re learning a lot here.”

As a Hemsley finalist, Van Winkle will travel to New York City March 15-16, where he will participate in an intensive two days of workshops and demonstrations, as well as a backstage tour of the Metropolitan Opera and the interview for the internship.

“It’s basically networking for the whole weekend,” he said. “That’s more useful than anything. I know that I’ll learn so much from the other finalists and the workshops we’re having.”

At the KCACTF in April, he will have another week of workshops and seminars, while competing for the national award.

“It’s pretty jam packed, but it’s going to be great,” he said. “I’ll learn a lot hopefully.”

Assistant Professor Laurel Shoemaker is not surprised by Van Winkle’s success.

“He’s really brilliant,” she said. “And he goes above and beyond. He takes every challenge and adds to it and pushes it further. And he’s a really great problem solver.”

Shoemaker describes him as very detail-oriented.

“He leaves no stone unturned,” she said. “With lighting, sometimes you can decide, ‘It’s okay. I can see him. That’s okay.’ The self critique that you do is to make sure it’s not just okay, but it’s representing you. That’s what I teach my students. Their work is representing them. Clay really finishes everything and does the best he possibly can on every project. We have a high standard. He has set his bar pretty high, and then he achieves it.”

What Van Winkle loves the most about lighting design is how adaptable it is.

“Basically I can take other people’s designs—set design and costume design—and make them beautiful and add on to them,” he said. “I also love that it’s so adaptable and quick. It really is the icing on the cake. A set can be absolutely stunning, but when you put light on it, it just glows.”