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Shaheem Litchmore

Nook Schoenfeld • NextGenOctober 2019 • October 11, 2019

From Amateur Night at the Apollo to Tyler the Creator’s Igor Tour

In PLSN’s continuing Parnelli NextGen series, which covers people well on their way to becoming household names in our business, we introduce Shaheem Litchmore, lighting director and programmer extraordinaire. As you may have read a couple months ago, we featured Shaheem in our production profile on JLO’s recent tour. We caught up with him last month at the opening night of Tyler the Creator’s Igor tour.

Shaheem was raised in the Queens borough of NYC and got into this business seemingly by accident, but once introduced to the tech side, he caught the bug. “When I was in high school, my best friend’s dad (Kevin Dessisso) was working at the Apollo Theater in Harlem as a head electrician. She used to take me to see the TV show Showtime at the Apollo, a talent showcase they held, which was televised. I started watching what everyone was doing behind the scenes, and I thought, ‘This is pretty cool.’ So I decided to ask him how one becomes part of the crew.” This was back in high school, circa 2005.

‡‡         Learning From The Admiral

“Her dad told me that if I wanted to come in on Wednesdays, when they showcased the amateur night, a non-televised version of the show, he’d show me how to do lighting and electrical type stuff. I became an unofficial intern by showing up. I learned to run cables, put the stage in, eventually they taught me how to run a followspot. Tyrone Long was the house LD there, they referred to him as the Admiral. I asked him if I could learn how to run the light boards.” The house was equipped with a Strand 550I for the conventionals and a Hog 2 for the movers. “The Admiral taught me light theory and how to properly program a light show.” A year and a half later, Shaheem was part of the Apollo stage crew.

After a while, Shaheem moved downtown with his work endeavors, working on shows in the fashion industry, etc. He hooked up with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and went on his first tour as a second electrician. He prepped the gear, loaded-in, and ran the console for the performances. “I learned how to program the ETC lines (EOS and ION) of consoles in a hurry. I was a young man getting to see the world. Our first gig was in Tel Aviv!”

When he returned to NYC, he picked up where he left off, but soon got more into programming than the electrical side of the business. He also kept his feet in at the Apollo. He was finally allowed to light some musical acts by filling in for the Admiral when he was booked on other shows. He also got a taste of musical touring when he subbed for The Admiral on some Trey Songz gigs. In 2010, he was called upon to light a Brian McKnight show at a college in the Bronx. After the show, he handed his card to management. They called him the next week for another one-off, which led to about five years of looking after this artist. Litchmore was paying his dues, but always looking for the next step to advance his career.

Along the way Litchmore met a tour manager named Tone Lopez, who introduced him to the A$AP Rocky camp. “I became his lighting director for a couple years while I branched out.” During this time, he was introduced to LD Alex Reardon, who was brought in to design the artist’s production. “Alex opened my eyes. He designed a tour I would go on to program and operate. He has this ability to make Hip Hop not look so generically Hip Hop, which is amazing.”

Shaheem was still living in NYC when he found himself doing more TV work. He branched out further by hooking up with the Lighting Design Group to work on some events. “I was fortunate enough to be sent to Sochi and Rio to work on some Olympic games. It was an amazing experience working as an electrician and programmer for some very elite people. I tell you what, the first time I saw my name run on NBC’s closing credits for the Olympic games, it was pretty gratifying. I had never worked on such a prestigious event.”

‡‡         Go West, Young Man

In 2017, Shaheem moved to Los Angeles, following the advice of friends like Manny Conde, who told him, “‘It’s the place you ought to be.’ I had lived my entire life in New York and thought a change and the options to do something different would suit me well. There are two things I really like about making this move. Now, when I go to NYC, it’s to go on vacation and see friends. The other great thing is that, when I return from a gig, I no longer have to concern myself with digging an automobile out of the snow.”

L.A. turned out to be a good move. Shortly after moving, he landed a job as lighting director for G-Eazy, a People’s Choice Award-winning rapper from Oakland. “I got to work with Sooner Routhier, which was really dope. She took me to the next level of my career — I learned so much. This particular gig put me in a good place. For the first time in my career, I was on tour and in charge of working with the headliner on a shed tour. Everyone came to me with questions every day, and my sense of importance escalated as I had to now deal with the big picture every day. I was representing the artist’s best interests.”

Shaheem has also found himself networking with more LDs and being able to help them fill holes. When Hozier was gearing up to start their tour last year, their LD, Steven Douglas, was still finishing up some Killers dates. Shaheem gladly filled in for two weeks until Douglas could finish his commitments. Then, when Aerosmith opened their Vegas residency, they hired Douglas. He could only accept this gig because he knew Shaheem could cover Hozier for him until he was done.

LD Dan Hadley had reached out to Litchmore to see if he could cover some gigs for an Indie band out of Austin named Spoon that was working the theater circuit. He was glad to cover this tour. While out on this show, he got a badly timed call from Cory FitzGerald to see if he would be interested in running Jennifer Lopez’ residency show in Vegas. It was from September through the New Year, and a great gig. Of course, Shaheem would have loved the gig, but he was honoring his commitment to Dan and this act, and stayed the course.

That turned out quite well as, about 18 months later, he got a call from a friend who had been offered the lighting director position on the JLO 50th Birthday Tour but couldn’t do it. The friend wanted to throw Shaheem’s name in the hat. By now Cory FitzGerald had teamed up with Alex Reardon to light this tour. Of course, Silent House was keen to get him onboard. That tour started rehearsals this past May and ran through mid-August.

While out on this tour, Reardon reached out to him to see if he would be interested in programming and operating another tour, this time by Tyler the Creator, whose May album release, Igor, debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 charts this year.

“I’m always down for any Alex production design,” Litchmore says. While he’s been in the business for over 10 years, he’s now getting the worldwide recognition he deserves.

If you’re looking for someone to press your buttons or steer your show, Shaheem can be reached at shadesigns11@gmail.com.

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