Gabe Maxson


GABE MAXSON is a teacher, lighting designer, production manager, director, and film producer. He is an assistant professor of theater, and production manager, at the University of San Francisco, where he teaches theatrical production and design and serves as resident lighting designer.

He was an artistic associate at The Wooster Group in New York from 2002-2011. He co-designed, with renowned lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, La Didone (2008), Hamlet (2006), and Poor Theater (2004), and co-created the interactive video installationThere Is Still Time…Brother (2007). Other Wooster Group productions on which he collaborated include revivals of The Emperor Jones, House/Lights, Brace Up!, and To You, The Birdie (Phédre). He toured extensively with the company, premiering works in Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam, Basel, Athens, Moscow and Warsaw, as well as multiple U.S. venues including The Public Theater, NYC, and The Goodman in Chicago. Most recently with Wooster, he joined Ms. Tipton in Sarasota, FL, to update the design for a new version of Hamlet at the Ringling International Arts Festival.

Recent professional designs include Hope Mohr Dance's Manifesting at ODC, Anna Deavere Smith's Notes From the Field: Doing Time in Education at Berkeley Rep/YBCA (early showings), Terminus (Jon Tracy, dir.) at Magic Theater, A Raisin In The Sun (Patricia McGregor, dir.) and The Tempest (Jonathan Moscone, dir.) at Cal Shakes, The Convert (Jasson Minadakis, dir.), Circle Mirror Transformation (Kip Fagan, dir.) and Good People (Tracy Young, dir.) at Marin Theatre Co., Carey Perloff’s Higher (World Premiere – Mark Rucker, dir.) at A.C.T., Assassins (Susannah Martin, dir.) at Shotgun Players, Mark Jackson & Beth Wilmurt's The Companion Piece at Z-Space, Paufve Dance's Strangers Become Flowers , So I Married Abraham Lincoln and That Obscure Subject of Desire at ODC and DMT, Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Porchlight Theater, and Hunter’s Point at Strange Angels.

With wife Michelle Maxson, he was co-founder and director of SPi Theater Company. Directing credits include Becoming Natasha at the Culture Project (NYC), Irene Fornes' Oscar and Bertha at Festival Istropolitana, and the American/Slovak production of The Oresteia (co-directed with the celebrated Polish director Henryk Baranowski). Also with SPi, he co-wrote the original play Unwon and produced and performed in the American premiere of Jumping the Gun by Gábor Görgey.

As a resident artist at San Francisco’s Climate Theater, he directed and co-created (with Michelle, also a resident artist at Climate) They Are Bad People, a multi-media character dissection of conservative TV personality Ann Coulter.

Gabe is associate producer of the award winning feature film Burn Country starring James Franco and Melissa Leo, and co-producer and 2010 Emmy Award nominee on the award-winning documentary film Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi (HBO Documentary Films, 2009, NYTimes Critics’ Pick), directed by Ian Olds, Independent Spirit Award winner for Occupation: Dreamland. Maxson is a recipient of a 2009 TBA CA$H Grant and a three-time recipient of the Bay Area Lighting Artists in Dance award. He holds an MFA from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

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The Companion Piece at Z Space :

“The big, open space of the stage gives a show about intimacy (or avoiding it) an epic feel… Gabe Maxson’s lighting design goes a long way toward giving shape and theatrical flair to such a large performance space.” – Chad Jones’ TheaterDogs

“As they tirelessly ply their shtick and clamber for turf in the enveloping darkness (moodily broken up by Gabe Maxson's lighting and poignantly underscored by Rodriguez's evocative sound design), it comes to seem like their environment is no less than the muffling expanse of time and space itself.” -SF Bay Guardian

“Designer Gabe Maxson’s sure-handed use of light, especially his employment of the stark and isolating spotlight, is also an important facet.” – Joe Mader, Scene 2

The Tempest at Cal Shakes :

“…impressive production values, like … lighting designer Gabe Maxson's ability to capitalize on amber sunsets and floodlit trees.” – La Morinda Weekly

“Gabe Maxson's lighting creates an otherworldly effect” – Mercury News

“Cal Shakes counts panoramic views, framed by Gabe Maxson's sly lighting, among its top-notch production values.” – Mercury News

“The imaginative lighting of Gabe Maxson is almost upstaged by the spectacle of the hills’ changing colors as evening transforms to nighttime” – Edge San Francisco

“The set design by Emily Greene, the lighting design by Gabe Maxson, the sound design by Cliff Caruthers and the costume design by Anna Oliver, when joined with superb acting, bring The Tempest to a far more enjoyable height than I have ever experienced with this play.” – For All Events

“A Shakespearean devotee may complain about messing with the great playwright but if they attend Moscone’s mounting with a great cast of six playing 11 roles plus three energetic Sprites lifting them across Emily Green’s terrific shipwreck set dressed in magical costumes by Anna Oliver, with Cliff Caruthers’ sound design and Gabe Maxson’s lighting they may relent and just sit back and enjoy the fun.” – For All Events

“Gabe Maxson’s dramatic lighting and Cliff Caruthers’ eerie sound designs add weight and dimension.” – SF Examiner

Terminus at Magic Theatre :

“Robert Brill's coal-mine like set and Gabe Maxson's smoke and low light seem perfectly reasonable when faced with issues of life, death, afterlife, monsters, rape, worms, payback, Bette Midler and a goodly collection of Irish guilt.” – SF Theatre Blog

"The atmosphere is eerie in the Magic staging by director Jon Tracy… Robert Brill's set is just a large bed of dark gravel that the three characters stand and sit in, Gabe Maxson's lights kept low and tight around the storytellers, and the air thick with stage fog. It's a kind of purgatory, to be sure, but what kind has yet to be discovered." -Sam Hurwitt, KQED

“Scenic design by Robert Brill and Lighting by Gabe Maxson is breathtaking.” – For All Events

Circle Mirror Transformation at MTC :

“…a slice-of-life community center rec room down to the last water stain in the ceiling tile. You can even see the faint, dirty outline where something used to hang on the wall but has since been removed. Even the fluorescent lighting (skillfully designed by Gabe Maxson) feels exactly right.” – Chad Jones’ TheaterDogs

“Scenic designer Andrew Boyce and lighting designer Gabe Maxson recreate the drab, utilitarian workshop with uncanny accuracy.” – ForAllEvents

The Convert at MTC

“The physical production is clean and spare, with Nina Ball’s sets and Fumiko Bielefeldt’s costumes creating a perfect visual tone that is ably augmented by Gabe Maxson (lights)” – SF Examiner


“Gabe Maxson’s lighting was subtle and beautiful. The play of light off of the set made [it] come alive… the lighting was kept simple, not drawing attention to itself, but never being less than all it needed to be.” -Christopher Boltz,

“[The performers] impress. So does the haunting lighting, by Jennifer Tipton and Gabe Maxson.” – Backstage Magazine

“Overall, the video and sound design for the show was most impressive. Taking almost two years to create from start to finish, it was pretty amazing to watch. I would also be remiss if I did not comment on Jennifer Tipton's and Gabe Maxson’s lighting design. While sparse in nature, it supported a lot of the design choices made in the video, like short flickers and glitches, and kept me in the world of the black and white film.” – LiveDesign Online