The Principles Of Successful Stage Lighting

The Principles Of Successful Stage Lighting

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Published by TOP4 Team

All the world’s a stage but in theatre, the stage is a world in itself. The entire production crew – the writer, the director, the cast, the art department, the state management team, the backstage people, etc. – will work together and rehearse for months to ensure that the play they are presenting will be believable and engaging for the audience. When the lights go off, the curtain rises and the story unfurls in front of the audience’s eyes, there’s nothing quite like the magic of live theatre.

Stage lighting is one of the essential factors that help theatre artists become successful in their project of creating a believable, make-believe world. Stage light design brings together all the elements in the stage and completes the look and feel of each scene. The very basic role of stage lighting is to provide visibility, so that every single individual in the audience, from the person in front to the one at the back, can see everything on stage. Beyond providing illumination, the lighting also is crucial in moving the story forward by enhancing the mood and message of the play.

The drama of lighting
Achieving the right lighting for a live dramatic performance requires years of practice and training. Having a good set of lighting equipment, which is available in production house supplies and major electronics stores, can also have a huge influence to the end result onstage. Be reminded, however, that a good lighting director should not only be skilled in handling stage lighting equipment, but should also have a deep understanding of effective storytelling.

Some of the basic skill sets required for stage lighting include:

1. Knowledge of equipment. Two basic types of luminaries are used to properly light a scene:
- Floodlights offer substantial lighting to cover a wide area
- Spotlights deliver a more specific and controllable light beam.

These lighting fixtures are typically made up of the following components: housing or casing, lens or opening, reflector which determines the intensity and direction of the beam, yoke which allows the light head to be rotated, C-clamps for securing the lamp to a pipe or stand, the lamp itself, and accessories such as the frame holder, rotators, donuts, barn doors, gel frames and many more.

Be familiar with each component. Know its function, how it works with other parts and what effect it produces. Knowledge of your tools of the trade allows you to play with the controllable qualities of light, including colour, intensity, distribution, texture and movement.

2. Clarity about function. Each piece of luminary plays a specific function throughout the play. Used together, the lighting fixtures and accessories you pick for the production will carry out various tasks to complete the theatre experience:
- Specific visibility – helps the audience see clearly what’s happening onstage
- Emotional highlight – invoke a mood or atmosphere
- Composition
- Special effects
- Highlight, revelation or elimination of on-stage elements.

Thus, when designing lighting for theatre, it is important to be clear about the purpose. The attention of the audience should not be on the lights, but on the subjects they are illuminating. Some say that the audience shouldn’t even notice the lighting if it’s well-crafted and weaved organically in the story.

3. Understanding of the story. It is absolutely important for the lighting director to know the story inside and out. Even if you’re not appearing onstage for even a second and will never be seen by the audience throughout the program, the stage lighting will be highly influential as to how the play will turn out. A lighting director may have an isolated booth as a base, but he or she should work very closely with the director, stage manager, and other heads of production to bring to life the emotions and concepts that make up a memorable performance.


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