Student Spotlight: Head of Lighting Jessica Rieger

By Eva Dougherty and Maddie Scullion

Staff Writers

When you think of Jamesville-Dewitt High School’s musical productions what do you think of? The cast? Costumes? Music?  Have you ever noticed the lights? Behind the excellent singing and acting there is one person who makes sure the show is shown in its best light. That person is junior Jessica Rieger, the head of lighting at J-DHS.

Rieger ran her first show when she was in sixth grade. She ran the lighting board for her sister’s dance recital alongside her father, Dr. Brian Rieger. When Rieger got to the high school she joined lighting crew and has been the lighting guru ever since. As a freshman she was asked by the student who was in charge of lighting back then, Mary Miller, to run the board for the the middle school show. Altogether, Rieger has worked many musicals, choral festivals, concerts, and recitals both at J-DHS and in the community.

Rieger is not the only lighting star in her house. Her father, Dr. Rieger, started running lights professionally when he graduated college. In addition he is a psychologist and a brain injury and recover specialist.  He taught her everything she knows. “He has giving me all of his knowledge and I have loved working with him. Together we are the master team,” said Rieger.  Currently, the two are working on the Ballet and Dance Center dance recital. After seeing her dad balance the two, she doesn’t see herself doing lights professionally because it’s so time consuming. However, she does see herself possibly joining a lighting club in college.

When preparing for a show or concert Rieger has many things on her to do list.“There are lots of things I do,” said Rieger. Rieger has to hang and focuses lights. She must know how to change light bulbs and how to successfully focus the lights. In order to focus the lights she manually has to go up to the top of the stage using the cherry picker.“I love running the board and going up in the cherry picker because they are so unique and it’s a great change from my life.”   

The next step in preparing is having a Q to Q, which is her favorite part of the process. Q to Q is when all of the students involved in the show walk through the songs so the people running the spotlights, “spots,” and  Rieger, and Dr. Rieger can work with the director to figure out what the lights need to look like. During a Q to Q she can change the brightness of the lights, choose which lights are in the cue and much more. When she’s happy with the way the lights look, she sets them to a cue on the lighting board.

On the day of the show, Rieger works alongside the stage managers. Over headsets the stage manager will warn her when a cue is coming up. Rieger says that junior Josh Gutmaker, stage manager, and her run the show together.     

The lighting takes a lot of outside work as well. Rieger said that she spends up to 60 hours working on a single show, which is about three to four hours for each call. A call could take place before a concert or the musical. In which case, the lighting crew would probably run all of the lights to make sure they’re running smooth. A call could also take place on a random Saturday if Rieger or her dad feels like the lighting needs to be fixed or worked on. “It is often hard to balance [lighting and school] because the lighting is many hours of my night life so I won’t have enough time to do homework and study,” said Rieger. On top of that, Rieger dives in the fall and plays golf in the spring.

The audience may not notice all of Rieger’s hard work but junior Sarah Marron does.  “She’s loyal, kind, hardworking, and knows a lot about lights,” said Marron, who is apart of the lighting crew and a close friend of Rieger. She has worked a few productions with Rieger and has learned everything she knows about lights from both Rieger and her dad. “ I like being able to help with the shows without having to be in the shows,” said Marron. “I have learned so much from Jess and in particular her dad,” said junior Emily O’Connor, who joined lighting crew when she was a sophomore. O’Connor says Regier taught her how to run the board, set cues, run the rails, fix and hang lights, and much more.

    Chorus director Elizabeth Quackenbush says that the Riegers completely transformed the lighting and the theater when they came to J-DHS. She says that everything has gone much more smoothly. “Before the Riegers got involved, we had a ton of problems,” Mrs. Quackenbush said. Mrs Quackenbush describes Rieger as “very smart and dependable. She always thinks ahead about planning lights for shows and concerts.”

Right now Rieger is looking at Marist, McGill and University of Massachusetts. “In college, I am looking to study maybe Computer Science and possibly a major or minor in French,” said Rieger. Next year she is planning to take AP Computer Science, French, Calculus and AP Physics. She'll continue to be on the girls swimming and diving team and the girls golf team. She plans to continue being apart of Hole In the Wall, Tech Club, French Club, Math Team, Vegetarian Club and Heifer International.