HOUSTON--A good photographer knows great lighting.
So as Lynn Lane sat in his artist studio and clicked through digital images he captured working with Jeremy Choate, he thought about what Houston lost over the weekend. And he choked back tears.
"The entire art, dance and theater world lost someone incredible," Lane said.
Jeremy Choate was little known outside Houston’s performing arts community, but people who work on stages around the city revered him as an outstanding light designer. He was only 33 years old, a father of two children, but he was one of those startlingly talented people whose work behind the scenes makes Houston’s performance scene so vital.
"Without lights, the performing arts is nothing," said Karen Stokes, the head of the University of Houston’s dance division. "So when we get a great lighting designer, we all stand up and pay attention. And he was really one of the finest lighting designers I ever worked with."
So Choate’s death over the weekend generated an outpouring of shock and mourning in the arts community.
"Woke up in the middle of the night crying," Stokes said. "Woke up this morning crying. Talked to other people who were crying. He just was the kind of guy that elicited a lot of love."
Choate was sitting on his motorcycle, waiting at a stop light at the intersection of Studemont and Interstate 10 on Saturday night, when he was struck by car police believe was driven by a drunk driver. The collision tossed him off his motorcycle and into the car’s windshield, causing the massive head injuries that apparently caused his death on Sunday afternoon.
Police said the driver, identified as Shannon Michelle Garcia, 25, fled the scene on foot. Her date reportedly told police she had been drinking. She was later charged with "accident involving injury or death," police said, but two days after the collision she still had not been arrested.
"I was devastated," Lane said. "I just couldn’t believe it."
Dancers recalled Choate’s calming presence in an industry that’s infamously and inherently dramatic.
"There’s a lot of drama, often, backstage," Stokes said. "What Jeremy was able to do was defuse a lot of drama and provide this calm sense of assurance that all was going to come together well."
Choate had a knack for creating dramatic lighting that somehow didn’t distract from the dancers on stage, Stokes said. Indeed, collaborators said he considered lighting an integral part of the dance performance and sometimes he even worked with choreographers to design dances around lighting.
"It was really exciting, because he wasn’t just lighting the moment," Lane recalled. "He was creating a sculpture and the dancers were a part of the sculpture he created."