Switched On - Putting It All Together


This section summarises the whole process of stage lighting, many of its subjects have been covered in previous sections. However, a few have not and they include the end of the process from the technical rehearsal to the first night, and in particular the developing and refining cues:

The Technical Rehearsal:

During this time all the elements of a production are put together. Each section or cue sequence is run with the full company on stage. These sections start and stop in order to iron out any problems until, when they run perfectly, the 'tech' can move on to the next sequence.

This session is then usually followed by a number of full dress rehearsals of the production.  Again everything is run through on stage, but this time without stopping (hopefully!).

During the 'tech' it is important that the Lighting Designer continues to maximise their time in refining and improving the lighting states and cue sequences. As always this involves the taking of good notes, but also the ability to make changes quickly on the hoof.

The amount of changes is different on each occasion – and partly depends on how rough a plot has previously occurred.

Changes can be minor or major – e.g. adding a second to a timing, 10 percent to a unit level or completely re-plotting a cue, adding or subtracting cues, and so on. A good working relationship with the deputy stage manager – the person charged with calling all the cues – is of course essential in this.

The action during a 'tech' can be stopped by any number of problems, and the lighting designer is one of the team allowed to bring things to a halt. However if every little thing is allowed to bring things shuddering to a standstill then it is probable that the tech’ will over run.

Thus it is good to develop the ability to work quickly whilst the action is running, only stopping when absolutely necessary, and modern lighting boards in particular allow for this.

Dress Rehearsals:

It is usual to have a number of dress rehearsals (2 or 3 is typical), with notes coming from each session that allow further refining of the work.

The notes from director, designer and the Lighting Designer are worked on between each dress rehearsal with the idea that the 'final dress' will be the finished product – naturally on very busy productions this is not always the case and first nights can be fraught.

Special care therefore must be taken in the final session not to make any foolish mistakes that will only be revealed on the first night.

All through this process the taking of good notes is vital and, in order to allow the lighting designer to keep their eye on the action before them, and off their notepads it is useful to develop a short hand.  But in doing so make sure the notes remain legible.

Make sure you are well positioned to take notes – with a light and a plan beside you, and anything else you may need. It is not unusual to have a remote monitor showing you the cues being executed and a headset so you can hear them being called by the deputy stage manager – and to communicate with if really necessary.

Number each note and draw a line under each one to separate it from the next.

Examples of short hand:

1.  Q5 c14↑  10      -  which equals, in cue 5 raise channel 14 by 10%

2.  Q12 = 10s↑  7↓     - which means, in cue 12 make the timing up in 10 seconds, down in 7 seconds

3.  C6→                      - which means, move channel 6 to the right

After the dress rehearsals comes the big night – the opening of the show – and it is vitally important for our sanity that the last thing for us to do is to enjoy the end result of our work.  And then to feel free to leave it behind (having learnt new lessons as required from the experience) and move on to new and exciting challenges.