A career as a Lighting Designer in the theatre? What a bright idea.

April 06, 2020 Categories: Business features by No comments yet

Let’s flirt with the idea some more

Good lighting. The reason for loads of fruitless Tinder dates. The pictures sold you heaven-on-a-stick dreaminess but the reality wasn’t even halfway there.

And guess what, there are people making other people look better for a living, amongst other things. They’re called theatre lighting designers.

So if you want to light up the world of play-pretend and fantasy – and make actors and performers resemble their moody-black-and-white-publicity-shot best – then a career as a theatre lighting designer could be for you.

Grow your capacity for love

We’re betting you’ve already got a passion for lighting. 

But are you empathetic?

Might not be the first quality that springs to mind if you want to light theatre – or even music – productions for a living but it’s an integral part of a job that’s all about pressing emotional buttons in the audience.

You must also respond to the director’s vision. He or she may want to set a Shakespeare play in a sausage factory and it’s up to you to help transport the audience beyond the bangers.

Working to deadlines is also a key attribute that every good lighting designer needs, likewise flexibility, because things change constantly in a theatre environment – especially when it’s a new show.

Last-minute alterations, even the introduction of a whole new part of the set that requires lighting, are not uncommon.

Learn to love those that love themselves

The other major consideration, and we mean this respectfully because we all have one, is that there are a lot of egos in theatre-land, some of which you’ll have to massage, including on days when you’d rather stuff a Satsuma in the offending mouth.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that directors and set designers usually have a lighting vision in mind, thereby dictating what the lighting designer must work with, which is why there may be wrestles with your own ego too at times.

It’s also a good idea to contact theatres should you feel like asking to shadow a lighting designer because everybody likes to show off. They might be a frustrated performer.

But don’t forget about YOU

Lighting designers have signature styles of lighting that they create in each show, little motifs if you like, and so will you if you pursue this career. Lighting design is a terrific way through which you can express your own creativity.

Help bring the house down by keeping standards up

There are technical theatre courses available which include a lighting design element. This will give you a wrap-around understanding of theatre and good basic training.

But you can’t beat getting in amongst it.

Here are some possible inroads.

Some people start off from a purely technical background. The production electrician’s job is to rig the show, hook up the dimmers and patch all the circuits, from which they might get a gig as a lighting designer’s assistant.

Then there’s the touring production electrician route. Part of this job is to re-create the lighting design of the original lighting designer, like inputting all his or her cues into the desk. You would be re-producing their work as sympathetically as possible while also assessing whether it does the job, lights the actors and makes the set look pretty.

This is a good place to learn and to make mistakes.

Now, go forward into the light.

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