Free Theatre Lighting Essay Sample


In the society, theatrical presentations are purposely made to educate, entertain and communicate various ideas. Often, these presentations comprise of music or dance, script and various design elements. One of the important design elements is lighting which works in conjunction with other elements, the theatre director's concept and the performers. The physical components of the lighting design works with other elements of non-physical or physical environment including the personnel, schedule, scenic components and theatrical space. Practical knowledge of all the framework of theatrical lighting environment is significant as it coordinates and executes the required aesthetics. The purpose of this paper is to discuss various lighting aspects relating to theatre.

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Theatre lighting

Light is at the core of the actor's environment. Owing to technological development, this light can be manipulated in a creative way. When this light is systematically used, it can support the actors but if it is used crudely, it leaves the actor cruelly exposed. Practical handling of light with observation of the relation between effect and cause plays a key role in the study of stage lighting.  The fundamental requirement of light in the theatre is to illuminate the actors thereby enhancing their visibility to the audience in all parts of the auditorium. The nature of illumination varies according to the type of performance.  Every scene requires different lighting techniques that can enhance proper passage of the play's feelings and messages.

Functions of theatre lighting

The first function of theatre lighting is to illuminate the stage to enhance visibility of the performer by audience. If the audience cannot see the actor, the lighting designer wastes time. This is because visibility affects ability to conceive spoken speech. Lighting also sets a scene's tone as well as creating mood. Mood is the evocation in the audience of appropriate emotion (Salzberg E.J). A bright red light that washes over the stage conveys a hazardous tone. A lighting cue signals an event to occur onstage and is useful when the event marks a significant point in the play. Lighting can reveal form by altering the perception of objects onstage making backdrops to look more three-dimensional. Furthermore, it can bring attention to as well as pull attention away from something thereby establishing location and time. For instance, light blues represent an afternoon day whereas dark blue and purple indicates night time.

Theatre lighting qualities

The qualities of lighting include intensity, color, pattern and focus. intensity is determined by how far away a lighting fixture is from the lit area, lamp strength, the fixture's design, presence of color gels or specials, the type of color to be lit, beam or angle of the lamp and the overall lighting scheme of the stage.  Color gels are pre-colored by the manufacturer and remain true to the color when it is lit. Color gels are altered slightly by strengthening or weakening the light source.  Border-lights and cyclorama lights aid in the mixing of color gels creating multi-colored effects.  Pattern refers to the shape, clarity and evenness of a lighting fixtures output. A lamp's mounting position, reflector's shape and size and lens characteristics affect its pattern. Focus refers to where the lamp is directed.

Lighting equipments

Today, there are various types of equipments that are used for lighting in theatre. The commonly used equipments include the Fresnel, scoops, ellipsoidal follow spots, par cans and control devices.

I. Ellipsoidal

This is the most prominent device that is used ion stage lighting which belongs to a light group referred to as the focusing instruments. The ellipsoids allow the lighting designers and technicians to make the beam edges softer or cut some parts of the beams using shutters. The ellipsoidal lights are designated by their types of lenses.

II. Fresnel

They are usually used for color washes. During their use, their beams can be changed by moving the light in forward and backward directions on tracks that are built into the lights. The beam edges on the Fresnel are always soft.

III. Par Cans

The par cans produces a broad beam of light that covers a very large area and they are the easiest to use and work with. In addition, they are easy to handle and focus.  In most cases, they are used in travelling bands and shows because they are durable.

IV. Follow spots

The follow spots are the lights that are designed to follow an individual theatre actor. The follow spot lights are used to give the actors mobility while on stage. Though the basic set up of the follow spots consist of shutter controls and gels, they have many differences in their designs.

V. Control devices

In the utilization of all the lights discussed above, the aspect of control must be considered. There are different types of control devices in the market but they all perform the same function. They control the power by allowing one to control the lighting fixtures that receive the power. They also control the brightness levels because they allow the user to decide how brightly he/she wants the lights to be.

The language of light

Lighting design involves the process of changing the mental images and putting them into practice. The theatre lighting designers must learn how to represent the visual images with words referring to period, history, art and style because it is an important part of the communication process.


In conclusion, lighting is a remarkable part of the modern theatre because the new ability of sensitively and accurately controlling light has led the immergence of theatre lighting as a more important element in theatre creation.


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