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Scenic Theatre Lighting

What Is the Importance of Lighting in Theatre?

With a burst of passion and creativity, the performing arts can light up an evening. Behind each of these fantastic performances are hundreds of hours of tiny details, each of which holds the show together like glue.

No matter the type of performance, lighting in theatre is a needed pillar that drives performance from an idea to an inspired function. It is one of the technical lifebloods of theatre and it takes a lot more than flipping a switch.

Understanding how scenic lighting works, how it benefits theatre, and why it is so powerful is a big step towards understanding how to convey good performance art. Today we are looking at that subject. Read on below.

The Lighting Designer and the Power of Visibility

No matter the project, there is always some form of lighting designer (LD). This person, or sometimes persons, is in charge of crafting the lighting in the performance art in a way that turns the project from mundane to vibrant.

The LD crafts the importance of lighting through the power of visibility. This is not a simple matter of “Can the audience see the performance”, though that is an important factor.

The power of visibility is how light can catch the eye of the audience in particular directions. Through light, the LD can affect a wide variety of aspects from the audience, the mood, the focus and beyond.

The Details of Lighting in Theatre

Whether it is a play, musical or a performance art piece, the stage has many aspects that require lighting to bring it to life.

Lighting is more than a few lamps projected onto the stage. They can obviously include color, different arrays of light density, and timing of various light effects.

On top of this ‘main rig’ the LD can use scenic lighting to create a mood or a trigger to change from scene to scene.

Imagine an actor turning on a desk lamp. Along with the lamp lighting up they can also use this trigger to give purpose to changing other lighting on the stage.

Knowing how and when to put these together to create the right effect is an art form in itself.

Setting the Mood

Lighting to set the mood can be a simple enough concept. Dimming the lights can make the performance feel more dramatic or intimate. Bright and obnoxious lights can make the performance feel confusing and even terrifying.

Color theory can do a lot to affect the mood. Harsh reds can often mean danger and fear. Deep blues often have a calming effect.

Some art pieces can have a large variety of mood changes during the performance. This is a common theme for plays, which have corresponding stories to direct the mood as well.

With these tricks, the lighting can enhance the emotional core of any art piece, often with a simple change.

Showcasing the Scenery

Many art performances have some scenery or backdrops that set the scene, sometimes literally. These backdrops can range from minor importance and only there for effect, to the focus of an entire scene.

When scenery needs showcasing, lighting it up well is mandatory. Not only does this allow the audience to see the scenery, but it can help cast shadows or highlight certain parts.

With the right scenic lighting, you can also take the same piece and craft very different aspects to it. Shadows can create dark and moody scenery, where bright lights can make the scenery feel warming. All with the same scenery.

Putting lighting within the scenery can help create dimensions to scenic drops or flats to make them feel more realistic and three dimensional.

A Special Effect

For the special scenarios, lighting can make some dynamic effects that you can’t recreate in other mediums. The most common effects are crated with smoke.

The use of carefully placed smoke or fog effects such as smoke out a chimney or a low fog rolling across the stage add realism to a scene which draws the audience in even further.

Lighting can also recreate other dynamic effects like the weather. When the crack of lighting appears, the flash and shock are all lighting effects.

This can also simulate fire, explosions, or even the blur of motion or heavy rain and snow.

The use of projection in conjuction with the lighting helps to bring movement into a scene and when used well, tricks the audiences eye.

Creating Focus

Art’s purpose is to draw the eye. One of the main aspects of a performance is to showcase an art piece in a particular form.

Scenic Lighting can help draw focus to the right pieces at the right time, allowing the lighting designer to help showcase the proper pieces of the performance at the right time.

This can comes up in the form of spotlights or similar lighting. By blacking out or dimming the rest of the light, the audiences’ focus funnels to a particular spot or person in the piece.

How to Create Lighting Designs

Now theatre lighting can do all of this in so many wonderful ways. How do you get to this level of expertise? How do you integrate lighting into the various performances in a seamless way?

The expertise comes from training and practice. There are many degrees that can help you hone your technical skills. Blending it together comes from a few simple understandings.

Working With The Director

Most stage performances will have an overall director. This person, will help organise the overall vision and creative needs of the show.

The lighting designer will work closely with the director to deliver their design. The LD will be at most full run rehearsals to note the scene blocking and movements. This gives a detailed map of how the lighting will go into each part of the performance.

Whilst the lighting designer will create their own picture, the design is often a collaboration between the director and the lighting designer.

The Theme of the Show

Much of the dynamics of the lighting need to fit in with the performance itself. There is no need for dark and moody lighting if the themes are hope and joy.

This will be a case of the lighting designer reading into the performance. The creator or director will often have a guide for them to follow, but each scene will have obvious dynamics that the lighting designer then enhances.

Staging Needs

In the end, the last thing that you should never forget is simply lighting where light needs to be. The audience needs to see the piece, any actors involved need to see where they are going, and visual performance in the dark does nothing.

This makes the foundation of most lighting schenes based on the need to light the stage. It’s a simple start but makes for a great foundation to build all the lighting aspects onto it.

How to Light Up A Performance

Lighting in theatre is one of many powerful tools to create unique events and important art pieces. No matter what aspect of theatre you are showcasing, the technical side will always have a powerful hand in making it happen.

Scenic Lighting only enhances this tool and is being seen more and more as a necessity than a nice to have.

When it comes to the technicals of scenic theatre lighting, we here at Opto Projects have the tools and expertise to make it come alive. Interested in diving deeper into the world of scenic theatre lighting? Contact us today!

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