Pic­ture the glow of can­dle­light or the quality of light after a rainstorm.

Imagine trying to recreate the seam­less work of Mother Nature, in a the­ater, casting actors or musi­cians with just the right hues to create the sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief that allows an audi­ence to sink into the performance.

This tech­nical mas­tery is a glimmer of the work of Northeastern’s new assis­tant pro­fessor of the­ater, and lighting expert, Justin Townsend.

Lighting helps shape the archi­tec­ture of a the­atrical space itself, and the archi­tec­ture of the story; how we tell the story, and how we see the story,” Townsend says. “It’s my job to find both the mood, the dif­fer­ence between the soft can­dle­light and the rainy day, and to shape the entire space that we’re witnessing.”

The new addi­tion to Northeastern’s fac­ulty, known nation­ally and inter­na­tion­ally for his lighting and set-​​design tal­ents, begins many of his projects by plunking a desk down in the middle of a the­ater or per­for­mance space, and having a per­for­mance or play unfold all around him.

While watching the per­formers, Townsend’s imag­i­na­tion takes hold: “It’s a neat right-​​brain, left-​​brain job,” he says. “I use my engi­neering mind to con­sider the tech­nical aspects of lighting, and geom­etry to figure out where to put the light to accom­mo­date the very basic needs of the story.”

Or, in an upcoming case, Townsend is trying to light a musical score.

Working with Yale Uni­ver­sity doc­toral can­di­date of music Anna Gawboy, he is inventing a “light organ” that emits colors instead of sound to accom­pany the musical score Prometheus, by Russian com­poser Alexander Scriabin.

The score by the late 1800s com­poser calls for the color red to be emitted when­ever the C note is played, Townsend explains. “He was ahead of his time. He imag­ined the exis­tence of a light organ before any such thing ever existed,” he says.

Townsend plans to make the light organ a reality. With the help of North­eastern under­grad­u­ates this summer, he hopes to create the tech­nology to add the color red to the score.

The tech­nology will com­bine com­puter, key­board and con­ven­tional LED equip­ment to make light playable like a piano,” Townsend says. “This will pro­vide the red light Scri­abin imag­ined when a chorus and 200 musi­cians perform.”

Townsend is also working on a new play, “Mon­strosity,” pro­duced by a group of play­wrights in a pro­duc­tion com­pany, 13P. With this work, he attempts to dig deeper into the story of an anar­chist youth move­ment set in the future.

Townsend, who earned his master’s at Cal Arts in Los Angeles, and works on roughly 30 design projects a year, can’t imagine a better outlet for his talent.

When I sit at a table in the middle of a the­ater and have a play per­formed for me, it’s totally spec­tac­ular,” he says. “While I’m watching the action, I get to dic­tate how the rest of the world will see that performance.”