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the role of the LIGHTING designer

If you chose to serve on the LIGHTING DESIGN TEAM for this semester's Advanced Acting show, you are responsible for participating in design team meetings as well as growing as a designer during the rehearsal and performance process.


If serving on the Lighting Design Team, you are ALSO responsible for independently learning about the role of a lighting designer as outlined below. 


Please be sure you have your Process Journal to reflect on your process/journey.


(WEEKS 6-7)

Task (Formative Grade): Create your own Lighting Needs spreadsheet (by carefully reading the script).  Consider all the information shared above as you (re-)read the script.  Include on your spreadsheet (in order) the Act, Scene, and needs/mood/special effects of the scene.  (Note:  You can not focus and FINISH your design until you've spoken with the director and also have seen a complete run through so you know the areas of the stage where the action plays.)  Be sure to focus on the time of day, season, practical lights needed (lights that are part of the set), windows & doors through which light would need to be seen, etc.  Also consider the script's needs/mood/moments/characters/meaning when re-reading the script and making your Lighting Needs spreadsheet.  Lastly, speak with the director about whether or not there will be any blackouts in the show, as this affects your design as well. (When finished with your Lighting Needs spreadsheet, turn it in to KP for a grade.)

Task:  Discuss your Lighting Needs List with your Design team (if you have one).  As a team you will use everyone's list to compile one FINAL (Google sheets) Lighting list that you will "share" with each group member as you build and revise it.  See KP for a preferred template to use for this spreadsheet.  (Don't forget to "share" with KP, also!)  

Task: Schedule a time to meet with John Schmidt to learn more about lighting, fixtures, how to program/use the board, and how to use your design ideas to light the black box space for our show.  Be sure you're clear on what you'd like to accomplish (overall) with your design when you met with him.  (I'd assume you'd want to meet with him to learn mechanics first - fixtures & the board.  Then meet with him later to discuss your design and get help creating it.  Be sure you schedule these meetings AHEAD of time.)

Task:  As a lighting team, create a Deadline Calendar for your lighting design, hang, focus, programming, run-throughs, etc.




(WEEKS 8-16)



Video: Working in the Theatre: Lighting Design (23:06)

Journal Entry:  What is the main role of a Properties Designer?

  1. What is the role of a lighting designer?  (stated right away in several ways - jot down all of them)

  2. What information does the lighting designer need to work through with the director in order to do her/his job well? (4:30-)

  3. What does a lighting designer do (5:17) when she reads the script?  What is the next step after reading the script?  With what is the lighting designer helping the director?

  4. What factors, throughout this video, must a lighting designer have to consider when creating a lighting design?

  5. What do you feel, after watching this video, are the TOP 3 skills that lighting designers need/use most?

  6. (21:00)  What has to "drive the technical choices"?  

  7. What did you learn or what were you inspired by during this video?

Video:  The Genius of Dear Evan Hansen's Lighting Design (3:13)

Journal Entry:  Subconscious meaning of lighting

  1. What strikes you about the lighting design and meaning of lighting in this short video?  (be specific)

Video:  Lighting 101: Direction of Light for Film (6:35) / Lighting 101: Quality of Light (7:24)

Journal Entry:  Lighting Direction

 List the different directions/types of light and benefits/results of each.  (Although this video is for film, the same lighting principles still apply.)

Video: The Basics of Stage Lighting (10:16)

Journal Entry:  Lighting Fixtures 

1.  List the different types of lighting fixtures and benefits/characteristics of each.  (Although you will mostly be using LED's in the Black Box, you should know the names and benefits of various types of theatre fixtures.  You will be getting more one-on-one instruction from John Schmidt if/when he is available.)

2. What is the "best" way to light an actor on stage?



The design PROCESS starts with the script.  All designers must  read the script.Realistic and interesting designs can not be created without knowing exactly what the script requires.


Once  the NEEDS of the script are determined, all designers take the time to  INTERPRET the script:  What does it MEAN?  What's MOST IMPORTANT to convey through design?  What is the HEART of the production?  What should it FEEL like? What's the THEME?  Is there a STYLE that should be considered when designing?  Is there an important or implied METAPHOR that could be shown through design?  What COLORS, IMAGES, and COMPOSITION on stage may best support the director's telling of the story?

Watch the video below in which Tony-winning set designer Bunny Christie shares her design for the play, INK.  Notice all the ways that she references the feeling, mood, and heart of the production which she reflected in her design.


Video:  Design on Stage (Bunny Christie)

Journal Entry:  Reflections on Design (Ink)

  1. What did YOU find visually interesting in Bunny Christie's design?  Why?

  2. In what ways did the designer's SCRIPT INTERPRETATION and/or RESEARCH assist in the creation of her final design?  (List at least 3 specific ways.)

After a designer has INTERPRETED the script (which is shared/discussed with the director), (s)he then goes                                      in search of  rESEARCH & INSPIRATION for the design.  This is often done by researching various aspects of the script/story, including the setting, the time period, historical references within the script, the style or genre of the piece, photos from the time period or setting, source material, etc.  A designer may also research her/his own ideas for design.  See an example of what I mean by this HERE.

For the next part of the Design Process, you will be creating a Design Board to visually display your research/inspiration.  This will become the springboard for your own designs.  Read about this task below.

Task (Formative Grade):  Create a lighting INSPIRATION board for your design.  Since you may not know much about lighting yet, consider this task to be one in which you are "researching" others' lighting designs, and finding "looks" / "feels" / colors / directions of lighting design that inspire you for your own designs.  Collect these images to create a design board for both overall looks and also important moments in the show.  You will share this design board with John to communicate what you're going for with your own design.  Be sure to label each image, if applicable, with the Act/Scene/page or title of the "moment" from our show.

  • The goal of this task is to research and find information and inspiring images that will assist you in acquiring, designing, or creating realistic and visually interesting lighting for our production.  

  • Creativity thrives in community, so be sure to collaborate with others and your team along the way.

  • As you research, be sure to "collect" your research/inspiration in a location that you can easily access when it's time to create your team's Design Board.

  • Note:  You will be graded on your individual contributions to your team's Design Board OR you can create your own.


Once a designer has carefully read the script (to determine what's needed for design), and has both interpreted and researched important aspects of the script and design (which also involves design meetings with the director), (s)he can then BEGIN DESIGNING

In order to design anything, a new designer must become comfortable with failure, and leave plenty of time for it during the process.  All creative work involves multiple attempts before arriving at the best outcome.  If you "get it right" the first time, you're probably not involved in creative work, and should re-consider what you've created.  Failure is natural, accepted, and expected in this course.  However, waiting until the last minute to fail is not, so please watch your calendar closely and plan ahead!  Theatre is ALWAYS on a timeline.


Designing and creating anything that's original requires planning.  How this planning "looks" is up to you, but you need to make sure that you make your designing/planning visible.  You will do this planning in your Process Journal, and it may include sketches and notes  about your designs, or photos of models that show your design in the planning phase.  This documentation process could also include a catalog of tutorial videos on how you learned to do an aspect of your role (such as videos on how to run our board, or other teaching videos outside of those listed above), interviews with experts, or documentation on mentoring you received in tool use or skill development in order to create your lighting design.  

Task (Formative Grade):  YOUR Process of Design

  • Track your process of design in your Process Journal, including any relevant research, images, sketches, pictures of prototypes, pictures of models, or further learning you did to create your design.  You must make your design process visible for this grade.  (See paragraph above.)

Task (SUMMATIVE Grade):  YOUR Completed Lighting Design (the lighting you create for the actual show)


dress/tech rehearsals:

Tech/Dress Deadline (Formative Grade):   Prior to Dress/Tech rehearsals, all lights must be hung, focused, and programmed (including audience lighting), and the lighting design should be complete.  It's preferable that a dry run (with the SM/ Director) has been completed PRIOR to the first tech rehearsal, in order to ensure that the tech rehearsal runs more smoothly and everyone's time is respected.


Video:  Behind the Scenes at Disney's Aladdin

Journal Entry:  Calltime​ / Pre-Show Checklist

1. In professional theatre, as shown in this video, what are the (specific) tasks performed by YOUR (assigned) role prior to a show?  

2.  What are some of the things that YOU could put on YOUR Pre-Show checklist to be sure our show runs smoothly?  (Think of ALL the things necessary from the time you enter the black box until the show starts, including things like "Where do I put my personal belongings?" or "Where should this prop be pre-set?" or "What's the best place for this quick change to happen?" Etc.  Don't forget to include "sign in" on your checklist.)

Task (Formative Grade):  You will create YOUR Pre-Show & Post-Show Checklist with ALL tasks (that pertain to lighting) to consider prior to the show.  This MUST be well-thought out and completed/hung up PRIOR to the FIRST dress/tech rehearsal.  Type and print your checklist (with your name in large font at the top) and tape it to the light board.  (Keep in mind that you will most likely need to add to this list from things you learn or are reminded of in dress/tech rehearsals.



GO DEEPER (optional):


(This list will be added to over time.  Let KP know if you find any helpful information that could be useful to future Advanced Acting students.)

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