Stage lighting does much more than just make the actors and set visible. It has been described as ‘painting with light’ – watch any TV or stage show to see this put to good effect. Unless you want to stage all your plays in an outdoor theatre during the hours of daylight you really do need lights!
We have many different types of lantern each with their own special uses. All the special effects and subtle cross fades are now controlled by computerised memory desks and banks of associated dimmers.
Preparation for lighting a production begins several weeks beforehand and much depends on the type of production and how it is to be staged: is it a musical or a straight play, in the round or on a proscenium arch stage? The lighting designer has an ongoing dialogue with the director to decide how the various scenes in the show will look. For example, whether the setting is indoors or outdoors, what is the time of day, does sunlight come through windows, what are the main acting areas, are strong colours needed to suggest particular themes e.g. green ghostly light, blood red for a murder scene and so on. MDG has the choice of a good range of lanterns and uses a Zero88 Jester ML 48 channel memory desk.
The next stage is to plan what lights will be used, where they will be placed and what colour filters (gels) will be used. All this has to be done within the constraints of the equipment, including calculating how much electrical power can be used before the fuses blow! Once all the lights have been hung, fitted with safety chains and connected to the dimmers the process of plotting out each cue starts. This can be a very lengthy process involving the lighting designer, director and various other helpers to carry out minor adjustments and act as models in the acting area. Getting all these preparatory bits right might seem a bit of a chore but it can save a lot of time once rehearsals begin.
By the time it’s opening night, all the hours of preparation and rehearsal come together to entertain an appreciative audience. It is now just a matter of pressing the ‘GO’ button to select the next cue or at least it should be until something goes wrong – an actor misses that important lighting cue, a lamp burns out or you lose your place in the script! No wonder we win awards for technical ability…