A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO STAGE LIGHTING
curtain, rise up as a guillotine curtain, or combine
the movement, like a tableau curtain? What is
the speed, in seconds, of the movement from full
open to full close? If the main curtain’s action is
guillotine, does it have a split in the middle for
performers to pass through during bows?
first lineset, the last lineset, to the back wall, to
the front edge of the apron.
measured distance from centerline to each side
wall. Any interesting architectural challenges
or obstructions, either on the stage or in the
air. The location of any traps, floor pockets, or
lighting troughs in the deck.
(typically not indicated on the draftings of the
facility; this information is required to determine
accurate electric and border trims).
positions, and the number of balconies. The
near and far sightline locations for each
length, and location of the battens. The load limit
above batten weight (which will determine the
number of instruments possible on each batten).
Location of fly rail. Can the sheaves be kicked?
over the stage, and the accessibility to, and the
hanging methods for, those lighting positions.
soft goods: legs, borders, blackout drops, or
backings. (If the show plans to use the house
masking goods, it’s critical to know the height of
all of the legs. These dimensions typically have
the greatest potential affect on all border trim
crossover other than the upstage portion of the
stage, booms that require to be lagged into the
deck, traps in the stage, to name a few.
distribution panels included in, or close to, the
loading door to the stage. Lighting on the
loading dock for night deliveries.
presented there in the recent past. Names of the
lighting designers or production managers, who,
when contacted, may provide additional insight
to the facility or personnel.
Advancing the Performance Facility
Whenever possible, a site survey of the performance
facility should be part of the lighting designer’s ini-
tial agenda. In a perfect world, the entire design and
artistic team all simultaneously converge for a tour
of the performance space. It’s possible that major
decisions can be made in short order, when the col-
lective group required to make those decisions are
all together seeing the same thing at the same time.
In some cases visiting the theatre is as simple as
walking down the hall and opening the door. In other
cases the theatre may be locked, and arrangements
must be made to meet someone at the theatre with
keys. When access is constrained, schedule conflicts by
other members of the design or artistic team may delay
the appointment when the group can collectively meet
and tour the stage. Most designers believe that phys-
ically being present in the space, even for a moment,
gives them a sense of the space. For many, having that
sense is so important that, after a point, getting into the
space, regardless of who else is available, is more impor-
tant than standing upon ceremony. Waiting for a tour,
so that the rest of the team can be present, sometimes
becomes a courtesy that must be abandoned, in order to
see the space at all. While it might be perceived as impo-
lite to visit the performance facility without the rest of
the members of the design team, it’s an unwritten under-
standing between working professionals that sometimes
schedules conflict, and you have to move on.
With luck, the lighting designer can then return
for another viewing when the rest of the design team
can also all convene. Sometimes this schedule works
to the lighting designer’s advantage. The first indi-
vidual visit can strictly focus on assembling infor-
mation and taking initial measurements about the
space. When the entire team assembles at the space,
it’s then a return visit for the lighting designer, and
his or her concentration can be on interaction with
them, rather than splitting focus and simultaneously
trying to acquire information about the space.
Any time that you’re provided with the opportunity
to see a space before load-in, pinch yourself. In my
experience, it doesn’t happen all that often. And if you
get to see the stage without some other show “in the