Theatre Workshops Review: Lighting

Without actors and a director, the show cannot go on. And without “techies,” the actors and director wouldn’t have a set, props, working sound effects of lights. In other words, it wouldn’t be much of a show. One of the most important parts of that production is the lighting. This was the theme of a workshop held in Steinbach Theatre last Saturday. At first, it was nerve-wracking to walk around on the wire mesh platform fifty feet above the stage of Steinbach Theatre from which the lights illuminate the stage, but I soon grew accustomed to being on the high-tension cables. There, I and a handful of other people learned about lighting in the modern theatre industry. First, we learned about the different types of light instruments the theatre uses and how they are used. Then, we experienced firsthand the methods of arranging the lights in the proper positions and angles. There are three main types of light used in the average theatre: PAR, fresnel and ellipsoidal. PAR lights provide light to wa large part of a stage with a soft, broad beam. By producing such a wide beam, they are not able to light any one section extremely well—that is where fresnel lights are used. Fresnel lights are narrower in focus and are great for illuminating a certain part of the stage. However, for spotlights of individual actors, the ellipsoidal is used. This light has a long barrel and an adjustable scope for increased accuracy and precision. These are all affixed to battens in the upper wings of Steinbach. To achieve certain moods for different scenes, colored films called gels are placed in front of the lights. The name came from an abbreviation of “gelatin,” because up until 1975, they were actually thinly sliced sheets of gelatin. We also learned about the origins of modern lighting. Most producers and directors in the early days of indoor theatre knew almost nothing about the technology required for lighting. They hired sailors who were out of work to design, build and set up their lights for them. The sailors knew how lighting worked because they often worked in lighthouses. Not only was the workshop beneficial to those who attended, it also helped the Theatre Department. In the workshop, we set up the lights for the fall term play, “The Odd Couple.” This hands-on process was both motivating and conducive to the educational aspect of the workshop. It gave us experience with lighting instead a mere lecture about it. Overall, the entire process was both informative and entertaining; you could go so far as to say it was illuminating.