Posts Tagged ‘ lights ’

Finding my light

Every new show I do means learning new things.  Not just new lines, songs or dance steps, but new aspects of technique and stagecraft.  There is an awful lot to learn about doing theatre, or at least about doing it well, and I most certainly want to do it well.  My latest learning curve is to do with finding my light.

In our show (currently running) about the life and music of Richard Rodgers, I am frequently in a small pool of light on the stage.  Sometimes singing, sometimes engaged in a telephone conversation and sometimes addressing the audience directly.  It is considered important that the audience should be able to see me at these times, and the only way that will happen is if I can find my light.  I’m not quite sure how I have managed to go through quite so many musicals and operas without learning this, but it is something that I have struggled with this week.

Firstly, there is the exciting situation at the opening of the show, when the light is supposed to come up on me.  Only it didn’t on the first night.  It came up to my right and in front of me, as I had misjudged where it would appear.  I had to do an exciting little shimmy during the first lines of ‘With a Song in My Heart’ to get into position, which probably looked somewhat silly.  Even after my improvised movement, I wasn’t quite where I should be, but decided it would be too awful to try and move again.  There is now a little mark on the floor to show me where I should be.  I must just hope I can find it in the gloom!

Then, there was my misunderstanding about precisely where to stand.  I assumed that the centre of a pool of light was the ideal place to stand, but this is not the case.  As the lanterns are generally hung in front of the stage and the light is travelling downwards as well as towards the stage, it is actually wisest to stand right at the very front of the circle, where you can guarantee that your face (which, let’s face it, is probably what the audience most wants to look at in most cases) will be caught in the beam as it heads towards the stage floor.

There is a subtle art to finding light, which I am having to learn at speed.  It is important to be seen, but it is also important to be subtle about it, to move naturally into position without it looking like you are simply walking into the light, even if that is exactly what you’re doing.  The character should want to be standing there, rather than the actor.  It’s not easy, particularly trying to do it without looking at the floor, but there is one great help – heat.  Light, particularly the intensity of light produced by lanterns in the theatre, also equals heat, and this heat can be felt on the performer’s face if they look upwards.  There’s no guarantee that a warm face means that the top of your hair is caught in the light, but it’s a good indicator.

Stagecraft, whether it be finding light, covering for mistakes, adapting to different audiences, keeping in time with the musicians, projecting the voice or any one of a whole host of other things, does not come naturally.  It must be learned, and takes as much concentration as any other aspect of performing.  Now I know how to find my light.  Who knows what I’ll learn in the next show?

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