Photo of Molly Tiede

Molly Tiede '09: The Light in the Piazza

By Theresa Schmidt ‘09    

There’s a new light in Boston’s piazza with the recent employment of 2009 McKendree alum Mary “Molly” Tiede as the Assistant Lighting Designer at the Boston Lyric Opera. With previous stints at prestigious companies such as the Santa Fe Opera, the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, Calif. and Julliard in New York, Molly has been a bright light in the theater business ever since her time at McKendree studying Theatre and working at our state-of-the-art Hettenhausen Center for the Arts. She remembers, “I didn’t expect to walk out of McKendree as a lighting designer! I wanted to be an actor; I love acting and had such a great time doing it, but it just wasn’t my calling. Having the McKendree experience of being able to explore all aspects of theatre, I found myself wanting to be a lighting designer. If it wasn’t for that McKendree experience, who knows what I would be doing?”

In particular, she credits Hett technical director Doug Magnussen for developing her initial interest in lighting into a full-blown passion: “The very person that is responsible for my love of lighting is Doug Magnussen. It’s all his fault! He is a self-trained lighting designer and he taught me everything he knew and sent me on my merry way to grow and learn. I always joke and tell him that he will be the first person I will thank in my acceptance speech when I win my first Tony award; I will always be truly grateful to have met him because who knows where my life would be now if he hadn’t introduced me to lighting.”

Her timing was perfect: Molly enrolled at McKendree in 2006, the same year that the Hett was being built. She explains, “The Hett was my playground to play with light and learn what it can do. The very lights that are hanging in there today, I took them out of the boxes and played with them before they were even hung for the first time. It was my place to meet professionals that came through on the touring productions and have them teach me what they knew about lighting. I didn’t want to go to a school where I was just going to be a number in a classroom; I wanted the one-on-one attention from mentors who were going to help shape my professional career, and McKendree did just that for me.That’s how I learned. I don’t think I would have gotten the same experience anywhere else.”

An important part of that experience was learning how to have fun on the job. Molly notes, “[My favorite course at McKendree] was my stage combat class that Michelle and Doug Magnussen taught. We learned sword fighting, mask work, how to juggle, etc. It was not only so much fun, but it also taught me to pay attention to my body and help me relax. That class helped me learn how to release stress, which I sometimes have problems with out there in the high stress theatre world!”

One of the most rewarding moments of Molly’s career was when mentor Doug attended her thesis production during her pursuit of her Master’s in Fine Arts. She recalls, “The best technical experience I had was designing my graduate school thesis, Eurydice. I had worked on that design for eight months and it turned out exactly the way I wanted it to. Both of my lighting mentors got to see it and I think it was the first time my parents truly understood what I do as a career. The whole experience was amazing, challenging and a whirlwind of a ride. It reminded me of why I do what I do.”

Molly feels incredibly grateful to McKendree for teaching her how to do what she does: “McKendree helped me to be that person that can say, ‘Hey, I came from the middle of nowhere Illinois wanting to be a lighting designer, having no formal experience, to working on Broadway.’ I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go there - it’s the basis of my career and I will always be grateful for what that university has done for me.”