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Kevin Adams is the lighting designer who almost wasn’t. He trained in set design, and that’s what he was pursuing until he encountered installation artists like Dan Flavin and Christian Boltanski, whose work famously manipulates light.

“I started lighting my own set designs, and it really took off,” he says, “and so I became a self-taught lighting designer.”

Of course, his work on three recent musicals is often inseparable from the set. “Passing Strange” uses a wall full of fluorescent bulbs (created with set designer David Korins), and in “Spring Awakening,” strings of light bulbs dangle over the actors.

Lighting instruments were equally prominent in “Next to Normal” last winter at Second Stage, but Adams says he isn’t simply repeating himself.

“Those ‘light bulb shows’ are a funny little trilogy of contemporary rock musicals,” he explains. “I think contemporary light helps them look like what theater should look like right now.”

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