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The Design Arts of Theatre

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Introduction   ::   Scenic   ::   Costume   ::   Lighting   ::   Activities

The Lighting Designer

Light is so "liquid" and fascinating; I love working with it. When it comes to theatre, the lighting designer can make your scenery and costumes shine and glow, or he can make them look dingy and dull. As an actor, you never want to offend a lighting designer—who knows what he may do to you as you stand there, exposed, on the stage.

Here is a list of things that lighting does for a play.

  • Lighting provides setting and time of the play.
  • Lighting can help establish the style of a production. Style is an artistic movement (like "Romanticism" or "Elizabethan" or "Japanese").
  • Lighting can help to establish mood. And boy does it do a good job!
  • Lighting can help to make transitions from scene to scene in a play.
  • Lighting can help direct where the focus should be. Similarly, it helps to compose the whole stage into a balanced and interesting picture.
  • Lighting design is so fun, I wish I weren't color blind! I just can't see all those subtle shades of blue enough to do it well. Oh well.



Here is an example of how lighting simply enables the audience to see the actors on this dark stage.

Setting and Time

Setting and Time
This scene obviously takes place in a dark place. This is clear from the script, but the lights make it oh so convincing!

Focus and Composition

Focus and Composition

The lights in this scene tell us EXACTLY where to look. It is also quite stunning, demonstrating good composition.


This is a scary storm that the lights help to communicate.

Transitions and Movement

This scene takes place as the storyteller moves the audience from one scene to the next. Transitions in lighting usually end up being shifts in light; you can't see the shift here because this is not a movie.


Note the very Japanese look (or style) that this lighting assists in communication

This is the end of the workshop, please see activity summary .

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, October 07). The Design Arts of Theatre. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License