A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO STAGE LIGHTING
The assistant lighting designer’s only on contract
through opening night. The same goes for the light-
ing designer’s as well. If there’s not an assistant stage
manager assigned to the task, then it falls to one
of the two followspot operators to take the lead.
They may be paid a bit extra in their weekly sal-
ary, but with that they then assume the responsibil-
ity of watching the show in the stead of the lighting
designer; adjusting pickups, giving notes on tim-
ing and movement, and instructing any followspot
FINAL PREPARATIONS FOR THE
While you may not be leaving your home, in a sense,
yes, you really are. Entering an extended tech period
is a bit like going to a foreign country, or being some-
what separated from your typical surroundings.
You won’t watch as much TV. You won’t read as
much of the paper. You won’t be as prompt to return
phone calls or messages that aren’t show related.
Matters outside of show-related information, ideas,
or even gossip, may lose significance. Your world
potentially tunnels in and becomes smaller.
That’s not saying that this is a bad thing. It’s just
reality. So in order to prepare for this potential situa-
tion, below are some tips that might help at the other
end, once the tech process is complete, the show is
up and running, and you return to your regularly-
The Day (Week) Before the Load-in
during the tech period. If there are, tell the stage
manager or the assistant.
for all appropriate birthdays or anniversaries.
your favorite TV shows and sporting events.
that can be prepared with a minimum of effort,
without a long preparation wait.
non-perishable energy bars, pop tarts, nuts,
liquids. This is also less expensive than buying in
the deli next to the theatre every day.
consider powered cream; regular milk goes bad
reliever for tired legs; Ibuprofen or equivalent.·
The Night Before the Load-in
The night before a load-in, a lighting designer’s emo-
tions can range from a relaxed feeling of confidence
to a feeling of paranoia and dread. The “night before”
can often feel like the final period of time before the
clock regulating stage time starts ticking. It’s the last
time that tasks can be approached in a leisurely man-
ner. When nerves and anxiety try to take hold, regain
your mental equilibrium by reviewing the load-in.
Remind yourself of the goals to be accomplished
the next day, and imagine the steps required to
complete each task. Are there enough copies of the
paperwork available for additional last minute dis-
tribution? Is all of the paperwork prepared, allow-
ing all questions to be rapidly answered? This may
be the point when the designer discovers the need for
Initial Paperwork and Tools
One decision the lighting designer needs to make prior
to the load-in is the amount of information to have
on hand when first walking in the door. The phrase
“that paperwork is still on the electrics truck” takes
on a whole new meaning when the electrics truck
isn’t the first to get unloaded, or when its axle breaks
prior to reaching the dock, or when it’s missing in the
blizzard on the other side of the Continental Divide.
As the distinguished lighting designer Ms. Jennifer
Tipton once said, “If you have a choice between tak-
ing your paperwork or your underwear, take the
paperwork. You can light a show without undies, but
you can’t do much lighting with underwear.”
Many lighting designers walk into theatres with
that point of view, expecting delays with the arrival
of equipment. They begin the day with enough paper-
work to perform all work ignoring the contents of the
truck, thereby avoiding any possible waste of stage
time. Paperwork may include a copy of the light plot,
the section, focus point groundplans, preliminary
paperwork, infrastructure programming informa-
tion, the magic sheet, and the cheat sheet. The focus
document may also be included, so any changes made
during the hang may be directly noted onto the paper
that will be used during the focus session.
Since the amount of paperwork and equipment
can quickly become cumbersome, many lighting
designers coordinate their baggage with the produc-
tion electrician. The road crew may also arrive with
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