Rules of thumb for your students to “shine” - (with wattage, that is)!
Sometimes I have the luxury of going into school productions of friends and I am able to assist and concentrate on one aspect of theater-making. This week it was makeup, and last night it was chimney sweep makeup. (Of all the technical aspects of theater, I am a wee bit partial to the greasepaint end!) At the end of the dress rehearsal, the director’s notes really all came down to one glaring tech element that didn’t do its job – lighting. The whimsical makeup design, sixty-four brilliant costumes and the student painted backdrop couldn’t save the dress rehearsal - or tell the story – without lighting.
So what is the primary objective of lighting?
To light the actors
To isolate your audience from the stage. In a "cafetorium", that might mean 3 fluorescents on and 4 off.
To focus the audience’s attention on the stage and distract from other areas.
To create a location and time of day with lighting. A household or practical light is great for this. Finger lights on actors in “He Lives in You” from TheLion King JR. reads as evening and creates a mysterious mood.
To purchase new equipment, rent it first. Maybe you don’t need 8 floods. Found money for gels and gobos? Possibly.
Color and intensity must be balanced with the audience’s ability to see the actors. If you cannot see Maurice and the wolves in the forest, there is no plot point.
Spotlights are superstars. They will help your actor tell the story.
Remember to let students learn lighting like they learn to sing, dance and act. It is their show.
As our friend and Broadway lighting master Ken Billington says, “We can tell the audience anything we want with lighting.”