Last month, Xander von Klar was sending people through space and time with the help of lights on a stage.
He designed the lighting for the University of South Carolina’s production of Constellations, a Nick Payne play that follows one couple’s relationship through parallel universes. Von Klar’s beams of lights swirled and changed color to signal changes between worlds on an otherwise bare stage.
“They had to move through time and across realities as they were transitioning through the play, and we had to explain that using only the lights on stage,” says von Klar. “It’s such a high-concept thing. Being able to help tell that story, to bring it down and put it in the theatrical space, was a really good experience.”
Now that he’s graduating with his degree in theatre and English, von Klar is turning off the lights, at least for now, to attend the College of William and Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia. And while law is far different from stage lighting, von Klar says they’re a lot closer than the different realities in Constellations.
Step back in time for a moment, and you’ll learn that Von Klar got involved with theatre as a high school student in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but he got more involved once he came to UofSC. He always preferred working behind the spotlight rather than in it.
“I really like learning the skills that support the theatrical experience,” he says. “There's so much more to it than getting up on stage and talking. The way we use lights and sound and scenery all impact storytelling.”
Von Klar dabbled in various aspects of technical theatre at UofSC, but he focused on lighting. In addition to designing the lights for Constellations and, before that, Of Mice and Men, he worked on the lights crew that installs and wires lights for each show. He also picked up welding in a theatre class.
Von Klar also majored in English because it provided many opportunities for deep discussions about media. That’s something that reminded him of home.
"In my house growing up, every night there would be a great debate about the movie we’d watched that weekend,” he says. “English and theatre let me continue that.”
In addition to his two majors in the College of Arts and Sciences, von Klar studied in the South Carolina Honors College, giving him a diverse palette of courses for his core classes. He took one course that explored Congaree National Park. Another one involved helping a turtle preserve in Charleston. Back on campus, he had a class about the mathematics of game shows.
“The honors college gave me such a wide range and scope of things that I was never expecting to see on a college syllabus,” he says.
With Constellations in his past and his honors thesis complete, von Klar is looking forward to graduation and a scene change in law school. He does not know what kind of law he wants to practice, but he’s eager to explore the options and find a way to serve.
“I'm interested in a lot of different things in the public interest field,” he says. “I’m really excited to see what it has to offer.”