How To Cue the Lights During Stage Productions

In a stage setting, lighting makes a big difference in the success of your production. Whether you are directing the lighting for a play, musical, or any other event, it's not just a matter of turning lights on and off and directing the spotlight towards certain characters. Lighting helps set the mood of a scene. It also helps give actors their cues. Differences in lighting provide dramatic changes on a scene-to-scene basis.

Setting up the stage lighting is usually the job of the lighting director. He will define what particular lights will be needed, and where these will be. The stage designer will also define which light switch goes where. Coordinating these with the director is usually the task of the stage manager, which is mostly non-technical, but rather a creative aspect of lighting.

Rehearsals and practice

It will be important for the backstage and lighting crew to be well-practiced for the production. Even if you will not be acting during the play, your timing will have the ability to affect the audience's mood.

  • Familiarize yourself with the script. As with every actor and stage hand, you should read the script and know its nuances. You will need to attend rehearsals so that you can familiarize yourself with the flow of the play.
  • Mark your cues. During rehearsals, the director will describe what lighting to use, and when to change lights. These cues will usually involve changes in scenery, certain lines of dialog, or some movement by an actor.
  • Create a lighting plan. For each scene, you will need to create a cue sheet. This will include details on which lights to use, when to use them, the intensity, and transitions. This can be relative to the play's script-define your cues against the script, so the lighting technicians will know what to do and when.
  • Program lighting controls, if available. Some modern auditoriums or theaters have computerized lighting controls. If this is available, then you can program the lighting controls beforehand. Still, keep a hard copy of your cue sheet, in case the computer fails.

You might need to revise your cue sheet or programming if the director decides on changes throughout the course of rehearsal.

During showtime

During your matinee or gala presentation itself, you will need to be well-coordinated with each other. Most theater companies have two-way radios and headsets for communication among crew members. If you're the stage manager, then you can help remind the lighting technician whenever light changes are upcoming.

Prior to actual showtime, be sure to practice communicating with each other. You will need to make sure there are no technical glitches before the performance.

After each show, you will need to charge the radio transceivers and keep the headsets. You will need to make sure that they are in perfect condition in time for the next show.

Lighting is a big part of a stage production. Even if you won't be acting in front of the audience, a lighting director and stage manager will be stars in their own right.



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