Lighting in Theater Essay
Posted by: Write My Essay on: July 19, 2019


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Lighting is a very important aspect of live theater and perhaps the most valuable technical facet of theatrical performances. Lighting was accommodated into the theater from the 1400 AD when dramatics desired to have night performances with candles lighting up the first theater (The Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Boston 11). Having thousands of candles as a source of lighting for a performance, it must have been very essential for the theatrics to have light.  Lighting in theaters not only needs to be clear, it should also be decorative to bring the audience to the experience of good plays and operas. The dramatics of all time understood this and Sebastiano Serlio perfected the decorative lighting in 1500AD by placing candles behind colored bottles as cited by the Edison Electric Illuminating Company OF Boston (15).

Footlights were developed in the seventeenth century and are credited to Nicola Sabbatini. They were placed on the floor all through the performance. Candles within lanterns were also established in the eighteenth century. This was the century that marked the greatest change in the theatrical world as we know it. Theatrics in this era, like Gian Battista Piranesi, understood the value of realism to the audience. Gian found that darkening the stage brought a sense of reality to the audience and the only way he could do this was to have the candles inside the lanterns. After the candles, the kerosene lamps followed that were hung from the ceilings. They were crucial during performances as they required human aid to control the brightness while certain changes of performance took place, for example, turning from day to night. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]

The next development was gas lighting. It was developed in 1803 and was much better than candle and kerosene. It was taken into consideration by the Opera house in Philadelphia; the Opera house manufactured its own gas from the basement of the theater. An interesting light was developed by Henry Drummond. He discovered that if one burnt a piece of lime a spot of light was formed. Dramatists of the time took up this “limelight” and made great acts with it. However, this marked the end of candles, gas lamps, and kerosene lamps. A far more advanced technology had set in (The Edison Electric Illuminating Company OF Boston 25).

In 1846, electricity came into being; the future of theatrics. The Paris Opera performed an act in which Moses appeared in dazzling white in a dark background. It was spectacular. With that theater was never the same again. To date, many changes have taken place and theater lighting has grown better from the first candle lighting (The Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Boston 30). One of these many changes is The Source ETC. This is a fixture “that changed the lighting industry as attested to by the Visual Environment Technologies (Para 1). It has a remarkable lighting and an excellent ‘zoom in’ property which highlights its specializations as “Source Four’s revolutionary technology gives you a clean white beam for unequaled imaging, crisp pattern projection, and a bright, even field” (Visual Environment Technologies Para 2).

The types of light required in a theater are floods, soft spots, profile Spots, and beam lights which comprise the latest advancement in lighting that has given birth to the Source Four lighting. The Source Four has brought theater experience straight from our dreams with the technology of clear lighting, the clean white beam for unequaled imaging and “ETC’s patented one-handed zoom operation makes adjustments quick, simple and safe. Technicians can focus with one hand and hold the ladder with the other (Vincent Lighting Systems Para 3).

Lighting is formulated through a process that entails the roles of many people. The director should have a lighting that creates realism for the audience. It should, therefore, be comfortable. Lighting should aim to enhance the scene and it should be proportional to the size of the theater. Salzberg and Kupferman (5) explain on how to light different types of theaters. Proscenium Stages, as elaborated by Salzberg and Kupferman (6) normally have lighting around the positions that run across the stage and are downstage or upstage of the proscenium are lighted. The authors explain that also the balcony can be used to hang the lighting fixtures. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]

The Royal Court Theater uses bright lights during its performances. The bright lights are comfortable for the audience and dramatists. In the recent past, the Royal Court Theater has embraced LED lighting. The theatrics here chose the white color that would suit their change of venue as attested to by the White Light (Para 3). The lighting in Romeo and Juliet, showcased in Branagh theater, was clear and in tune with the storyline. It was a bright yet comfortable shade of yellow. This ensured a clear view of the dramatists as well as the creation of realism.

With the new technology in lighting, in order to have great lighting, various lighting fixtures are used in theater to adequately light the stage.  Such are Fresnel and Ellipsoidal.   Fresnel spotlights pairs or floods to create washes or soft area light. The Fresnel is quite similar to ellipsoidal but has a softer edge to the light beams. Ellipsoidal (ERS) allows precise placement of bright and directional light. It is commonly used for accenting. The ellipsoidal can adjust from a sharp-edged, focused beam to a soft, diffused light. This is a function the Fraser cannot perform (Vincent Lighting Systems Para 2)

With this great achievement comes equally great risk; a risk of fire. From the time dramatists accommodated artificial light, it has been a danger to contend with. Advancement in fire prevention has not changed a lot as “fire protection measures, details differing from one region to another, have been established, codified and enforced throughout the world and have changed little over the past 100 years” (Ove Arup & Partners PC 7). For instance, the Brooklyn Theatre caught fire on December 5, 1876 (Flynn 4). This can be attributed to the fact that many people show up for theatrical performances and the theaters are mostly overcrowded. One way to control fires is to have many theaters so that people do not overcrowd in those available. The people who attend these events are different. Some of them are handicapped (maybe on wheelchairs). For this group, there should be an exit erected close to where they are supposed to sit. Protection devices should be activated in case of a fire. For example, sprinklers and curtains to accommodate fires on the stage.  Ventilation should also be well incorporated in theatrical edifices. In addition to ventilation, mechanical means of exhaustion should be established (Ove Arup & Partners PC 12).  [Click Essay Writer to order your essay]

Work Cited

Flynn, John. Theatre Fires Political and Legal Foundations of Fire Protection. University of Cincinnati, 2012,

Kupferman, Judy and Salzberg Jeffrey E. “Stage Lighting For Students”. Stagelightingprimer.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 22 Dec. 2016.

Vincent Lighting Systems. The Differences between Fixtures. Vincent Lighting Systems, 2016,

The Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Boston. The History of Stage and Theatre Lighting.  The Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Boston, 2016. Print.

Ove Arup & Partners PC. Fire Safety in Theatres – A New Design Approach Final Report. The Fire Protection Research Foundation, 2009.

White Light. Royal Court Theatre Goes LED With New Profiles. White Light, 2016,

Visual Environment Technologies. Source Four: the Fixture that changed the Lighting





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