A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO STAGE LIGHTING
As production or creative staff meetings con-
tinue, the relationships between the lighting and other
aspects of the production evolve. The wireless micro-
phones, for example, will require pockets to be sewn
into specific costume pieces to contain the base packs.
The lighting and scenic designer will need to mutu-
ally choose the fabric used for the china silk, in order
to make sure the right material works for both them.
Maybe they can go to a fabric store together. On the
other hand, there may be no time for anyone to collec-
tively get together again until just before load-in.
Hokey Cue Master, Version 2
Throughout all of these meetings, the lighting designer
has been absorbing and notating everyone’s individ-
ual and collective input, recording the information on
a legal pad or a laptop. For the time being, there are
still only two core design documents, the cue master
and the systems and specials sheet.
Figure 3.5 shows the results of the first updating of
the cue master for Hokey. Several rows have been added
so that all of the added beats and moments that were
revealed in all the meetings can be added. To help make
a distinction between the songs and any other action, the
song titles have been bolded. The information in the col-
umns on the right-hand side may not have everything in
the right place, but the first priority is to collect all of the
available information into a single document as rapidly
as possible. Every new beat or moment, every blocking
or staging notation, and every song style indication has
been included. All of the scribbled notes from the other
meetings have now been absorbed into this single docu-
ment. Entering the information as soon as possible after
the one-on-one meetings often calls up other verbal notes
that happened so quickly they weren’t written down.
Assembling and viewing the notes allows the designer to
compare fresh information. This might include notes on
costume colors, which may become particularly useful
when examining color choices for the translucency.
Obviously, not all of these lighting change ideas will
survive into the light cue level setting session. At this
point, however, this document is a repository for every
conceivable lighting change, listed in a sequential format,
with some sense of when and why it would take place.
One of the benefits of the cue master is that it
allows the lighting designer to have a more global view
of an entire scene, and place it in the context of the
entire production. It makes it possible to begin com-
paring cues to one another—the lighting designer can
see that Act 1, scene 1 looks like it may potentially
repeat or restore to some degree during Act 3, scene 1.
As the cue master expands, it allows the designer
to define cue placement choices for more subtle move-
ment of light, as well as for obvious cue points. The
qualities and movements of light, now described in the
cue master, can now be viewed by the lighting designer
in much the manner that a composer would view a
musical score. The lighting designer now has an over-
view of all of the scene names, characters, and song
titles—the beginning of the language for the show.
Since all of this information is collected on a few pages,
it’s possible to easily refer to almost any aspect or point
of the production, and see adjacent scenes or songs, or
see where they are relative to the rest of the show.
Hokey Systems and Specials, Version 2
Once the cue master has been updated, it’s printed
out and studied. Then, any applicable information
about the systems or blocking notes gets transferred
over to the systems and specials sheet.
Figure 3.6 shows the result of this first updat-
ing session, compared to Figure 3.3 at the begin-
ning of the chapter on page 66. Already the amount
of information and structural analysis have dra-
matically expanded. During this updating process,
ideas about colors, angles, and cueing thoughts have
begun to emerge. And now, that information may
be turned around and re-entered back into the cue
At this point in the process, many of these
thoughts may still end with question marks by them.
But as the information gets more distilled, and as the
big looks and recipes for each scene continue to be
developed and honed, patterns and similarities of col-
ors, angles, and mental pictures start to emerge.
As Figure 3.6 shows, not all of the information
is strictly in the correct column. As a complex show
grows and changes, it’s common to see information
overflow from one column to another, until another
column is added. As new systems are decided, this
type of document often increases in size, and can
quickly require multiple pages with larger paper
and smaller fonts. Sometimes lighting designers start
by rotating the document to a landscape layout,
expanding it onto legal-sized paper, and adding col-
umns for each direction of light. In this way it can be
easier to see repetitions and patterns emerge.
The important thing is to condense the looks
of the show into the most compressed possible lay-
out. Then it’s possible to compare systems used in
various scenes to one another, and then see how
much any system is used throughout the show.
As more information and more cue sequences are
added to the cue master, the overall number, color,
and purposes of each system or special series is
expanded, contracted, or eliminated altogether.
Each system is constantly reviewed, decisions made
about the color and amount of coverage can then be