The Parameters
and the electricians to operate them. The musical
form often involves representing several different
locations, which requires additional lighting equip-
ment that might not be needed in a less complex
“static” presentation. A realistic drama, on the other
hand, may not require the use of followspots to direct
focus, but the scenic design may require more indi-
vidual hanging positions, and requisite hardware, in
order to provide illumination, or successfully rein-
force the time of day. The complexity of the scen-
ery may potentially increase the amount of time and
money required for proper installation of the light-
ing package.
If the show is an original production, rather than
a revival, the lighting package needs to be adapt-
able. Depending on the intangibles of the person-
alities involved, and the spontaneity of inspiration,
entire productions may suddenly change direction in
the course of a single post-rehearsal meeting. Being
able to rapidly react to sudden requests may become
essential when the process is being explored on the
one-to-one scale model. Anticipating that possibility
and adjusting the amount and flexibility of the gear is
important to facilitate the exploration, and possibly
the ultimate success of the production. With that in
mind, savvy lighting designers construct the light plot
with as much flexibility as possible. That flexibility
may translate into extra gear, more dimmer distribu-
tion, or some amount of color changers or moving
If a production’s being remounted with the
same design team, on the other hand, the need for
rapid response in wild new directions will presum-
ably not be as severe. While that may appear to be
the case, wise lighting designers double-check who
exactly is going to be in charge for the re-mount-
ing. If it’s the old crew who swear they just want
to get the show up and go to the bar, the “simple
remount” may be just that; a challenge to regener-
ate the “looks” of the production under different
parameters to everyone’s satisfaction. Other times,
however, the “simple remount” by a bored artistic
staff may open the door for “improvements”: “But
we’ve seen that before. Don’t you have anything dif-
ferent?” Being asked to “improve” an existing show
on the spot can imply many things. More often than
not, it implies the need to turn to the producer and
ask for more money. Reinventing the wheel, espe-
cially at the last minute, can be very expensive. Be
certain that the director requests the change, inform
him or her of the ramifications of that request, and
be certain the producer is involved in the decision
to pay for the additional costs that will in all prob-
ability result.
Finally, if the show is an original with a subse-
quent life following its present incarnation, it may be
changing faster than it takes to get ready to move
to the next stop. In that case, it may take more time
to produce accurate lighting documentation than the
time available just to create the lighting. The archi-
val packet may need to be created and evolved as the
production is being mounted. If the show’s getting
mounted and then immediately moving onto a tour,
the lighting designer may need to ask for an addi-
tional pair of hands with a brain, in order to assure
that the lighting records are properly updated before
the show leaves town.
A production planning to load-in to a single venue is
often tailored to fit into that specific theatre. If the
show will be touring to several different locations,
on the other hand, the flexibility of the lighting pack-
age may need to be more emphasized. The equip-
ment assigned to different hanging positions may
need to quickly shift or adapt to each performing
facility; fixed-beam ellipsoidals may need to be con-
verted to zoom units instead. The number of dim-
mers included in the lighting package may need to be
greater than required by the light plot, so that exist-
ing circuitry within each performance facility can be
incorporated into the lighting package. The light-
ing package will probably require more prep time
in the shop, so that it’s more clearly labeled for local
folks unfamiliar with the setup. Depending on the
complexity and the speed of installation, the pack-
age may be fitted so that the dimmer racks can fit on
either side of the stage and the cabling will remain
Touring with a package is a whole different
magilla, and often requires an additional set of skills
as both a designer and as an electrician. While it is
an advanced education, and a remarkable way to see
the world, it is not the focus of this book. Other texts
speak in much more detail about this facet of the
theatrical and entertainment industry.
If the lighting package is transported from a light-
ing shop or a warehouse to the performance facil-
ity, the type of transportation can affect the size or
configuration of the light plot. If a small truck has

Get A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting, 2nd Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.