Create the Preliminaries and Send out the Shop Order
locations and elements that, to produce a lighting sec-
tion will essentially be a retrace of the scenic section
and a redundant waste of paper. While that may be
true, it doesn’t necessarily include accurate illustra-
tions of beam pool overlaps or approaching angles of
light. I believe it’s always wise for the lighting designer
to take the time and double-check the angles drawn
on sections for beam spread and focus range. Here’s
Years ago I was involved in a Broadway pro-
duction called A Christmas Carol, starring Patrick
over thirty-five roles in each performance. We had
originally produced the effort at the Richard Rogers
Theatre, and the show was going to be remounted at
the Broadhurst Theatre. The show was an official hit,
and the plan was to merely reproduce the show in
every way. The same scenery, the same lighting instru-
ments, focused to the same areas—we intended to use
the light cues on the disk on the same type of light-
ing console that had used the year before. Both the-
atres were Broadway houses, and both had the same
lighting positions. Taking the time to draft a lighting
section was a waste of time and effort.
Or so we thought. We hung the same lighting
package and the schedule was going along smoothly.
Only when we turned on the lights on the FOH truss
did we notice that the pools of area light seem a little
smaller. After some checking we determined that the
FOH truss position at the Broadhurst was approxi-
mately5′-0″ closer to the plaster line than the same
lighting position in the Rodgers. The solution at this
time-constrained moment was to fly the truss out to
a higher trim. Taking this action allowed the pools of
light from the instruments to get large enough so that
they provided adequate area coverage. Solved that
Wrong. During the technical rehearsal, we dis-
covered that the frontlight angle was now so high
no light struck Mr. Stewart’s eyelids. The shadows
he looked straight to the back of the orchestra seat-
ing, there were black holes where his eyes should
have been. As an actor, one of his main tools for
communicating, his eyes, was lost.
Our first preview was that night. Our course
was set. As they were clearing the tech table from
entire show a “little higher.” That is, angle his head
back so that he was looking straight up a little higher
to the first row of the mezzanine, rather than the
back of the house.
After the show we met in his dressing room, and
Patrick commented that he was beginning to get a
crick in his neck from angling his head back for the
entire show. We noted this discomfort and considered
this one world-class performer, who now was feel-
ing discomfort for our oversight. After meeting with
the producer, jumping on our swords, and making
some late night phone calls to people at home, we
came in the next morning with the crew. New instru-
ments with larger beam spreads arrived at the the-
atre, and we proceeded to re-hang the entire position,
re-trim it to a lower height, re-focus it, and allowed
Mr. Stewart to give his performances without any
further neck adjustment.
Had we paid more attention and taken the time
to draw a section, we would have seen the difference
in the distance to the Broadhurst’s FOH position,
and presumably would have changed the instrumen-
tation. That would have then avoided the additional
cost, the inconvenience to Mr. Stewart, and the loss of
confidence from the producer. My lesson was that, no
matter how silly or time consuming it may seem at the
time, always create or check the section for lighting.
It’s become one of my own personal Golden Rules.
The Preliminary Section: Basic Drawing
The preliminary section is created in three steps.
Using all available information, horizontal and verti-
cal coordinates are drawn, double-checked, and then
joined to create the scaled drawing. For clarity, the
illustrations will show these lines properly spaced in
the three steps to quickly create the overall picture.
Step 1: Draft the Rough Outlines
The left-hand side of Figure5.1 shows the horizon-
tal placement of the vertical lines that will be used to
create the preliminary section of the Hybrid Theatre.
Draw the first vertical line and define that as plaster
line, one-half of sectional zero-zero. Now draw the
left-hand column of lines or tic marks relative to that
line (negative to the algebraic left). When completed,
those vertical lines will resemble Figure5.2A.
Next, the horizontal lines will be added. The
right-hand column of Figure 5.1 lists the vertical
placement of the horizontal lines. Draw the first
line and define that as the stage, the other half of
sectional zero-zero. Now draw the next two lines
below the stage (negative to the algebraic “under”
or below), and the rest of the lines above the stage.
When completed, those added lines resemble Figure
5.2B. Now some quick drafting and a little artistic
license will clean this up.
show the preliminary shape of the architecture.