A Process for Designing Lighting for the Stage (Part 9): Still Continuing to Populate the Light Plot

The last layer of light that we have to populate the light plot with are a number of Specials. These are lights that don’t properly fit into the various axis and washes.  They will be necessary for a number of reasons.  Often a close reading of the script or conversations with the director or other designers about the text or the concept will suggest them.  Perhaps there is a moment of the show when one of the characters has a poignant moment standing center stage and the central area is just too large and spill light from several axis undesirable.  You can plan a special for that. Perhaps in examining the set you can predict that you will want to punch up entrances from the two doorways. You might also predict the need to reinforce the comedy of having two characters hide in and enter the scene from the wardrobes.   You might predict that there will be moments on the sofa and at the table when characters sitting down need a little extra light because the light for that area is focussed for characters standing to one side or another.  You can hang a special for that.  Perhaps during rehearsal you discover a moment when the trio moves downstage on the apron and sings facing the audience and you want to isolate each character for that sequence.  You can hang specials for that.

Prima Donna light plot featuring Specials

While not really “Specials” in the sense described above, notice the side lights focussed on the USL & USR entry areas from the Wings.  These serve to suggest a lighting “presence” from the areas beyond, and serve to Model actors as they enter and exit.  Notice that with the right elevation, they might also cast the shadow of a character standing behind the closed door onto the translucent window of the doors.

Finally, lest we forget, the designer needs to remember what is beyond the set.  In this case, a drop is seen through the upstage windows.  This drop will need to have lighting.

Prima Donna light plot featuring Cyc Lights

With this, we have fully populated the light plot.  It is important that the Lighting Designer provide this plot in time for the lighting rig to be made ready.  In a non-residential theatre, the plot may need to be processed into a shop order so that all of the dimmers, fixtures, cables and control elements can be rented.  The designer will usually be very involved in this process.  In a residential theatre, the equipment may already be within the venue and the technicians just needing the plot in order to hang and place all the fixtures and equipment in the right places.  In either event, it is clear that the Lighting Designer must have the design to the stage of providing a complete light plot well in advance of the beginning of technical rehearsals.  Depending upon the circumstances, this may vary anywhere from several months to a few weeks in advance.

Prima Donna Finished Light Plot

Notice in the Light Plot that each fixture has attached to it an empty circle between the fixture symbol and the hexagon containing the channel assignment.  It is not always usual to see this on many professional plots. In my experience, if the Lighting Designer chooses to dictate the circuit number, that number will be displayed on the plot and the channel number may be omitted. I include an open circle for the electricians to fill in the number  because in my particular circumstances, I am comfortable with having the staff electricians select the most convenient circuit.  Usually this means that they will choose the closest one, but there are circumstances with more convoluted spaces than the one that we are using for this demonstration, when a number of factors make it hard for the designer to predict which circuit is going to be most convenient.

Another major drawing that the Lighting Designer  is obliged to provide is a Center Line Lighting Section.  Remember from earlier that versions of these sections can be used to determine throw distances, but it is also invaluable for determining the necessary trims and sight lines as they interact with the scenery and masking.

Of especial note is the information that the section provides information about the trim of the chandelier. Notice that the chandelier must be around 10′-4″ from the stage floor in order for the positions and trim heights of the electrics to work out.  If the chandelier were to be hung lower, the lighting designer would need to completely re-consider how to light the space because instruments lighting the upstage area would light the chandelier in order to light actors in the upstage areas and would cast shadows of the chandelier over those areas.

Next time we will examine some of the necessary supporting paperwork

That’s enough for now! Have fun!  Be safe!

SJM

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