English teachers and community-theater volunteers often end up with the job of lighting an amateur production. A truck pulls up and unloads a pile of black or gray metal instruments, piles of electrical cable and a control board from a rental company to supplement what's available or to be the entire works for the show. Most amateurs know to plan ahead and know that they need to wire instruments together on circuits that work together. When it comes to setting the lights, though, it's often a guessing game. A few general rules will help simplify the task.

                                                       Things You'll Need

                                                   1.Stage set and actors

                                                  2.Light plot






Divide the stage into lighting areas. Draw areas that roughly correspond to scenes in the play so that not all parts of the stage need to be lit for every scene. Make a plot of where each instrument should go, remembering to consistently bring hot lighting from one side and cool from the other throughout the areas, unless you've got a lot of instruments and a million-amp board. Enlist a few volunteers about the same height and build as the actors and establish a schedule to set lights. Try to work before rehearsals so you can see how the lights work, or after a rehearsal while your impressions are still fresh.


Hang lights in position in a rough set, one circuit at a time. Remember that Fresnel instruments cover a general area and ellipsoidals are designed to focused on a specific point. Small stages can be lit with Fresnels and general lighting instruments like strip lights with a few ellipsoidals for emphasis. Big stages require more ellipsoidal lights so that each scene is adequately lit. Adjust positions to avoid any shadowing by instruments alongside each other, but maintain the 45-degree angle needed for effective general lighting. Be sure to avoid exceeding the maximum load on circuits. Change lamp wattages, or add circuits where needed.


Adjust one type of lighting at a time: the hot, or main light, then the cool, or opposite side. Use stand-in volunteers following the general blocking of scenes to aim instruments. Let the actors rehearse a time or two to make sure you have them illuminated properly before adding any "wash" (strip, scoop or PAR spots) or scene-specific lighting. Use the swivel-set on the hanging clamp and the tilt at the side of each instrument to aim lights at face-height. Focus ellipsoidals by moving the focus slider, and frame the light to cover just what it should with the framing tabs. The focus slider and framing tabs are both on the neck of the instrument. There should be no prismatic effect on the stage with a properly focused ellipsoidal instrument. Add color media as you adjust each instrument.


Attach circuit cables to outlets on the battens or pipes and then to the outlets on the dimmer or preset board. Test each circuit as you go to make sure the circuits work properly and are conveniently arranged for the board operator. Hang special effects, projection or scrim lighting as early as possible so the actors have time to get used to it. Always check lighting after working---especially before rehearsals---to make sure that the hanging clamps have been tightened.


Schedule at least one technical rehearsal, at which the technical team is in charge, preferably several days before dress rehearsals. During these rehearsals, have specific actors perform actual blocking. When necessary, stop action, haul out ladders and adjust instruments so that aim and focus is accurate. Check mounting clamps on each instrument and all cable and circuit connectors as part of the tech rehearsal.

Tips & Warnings

Start far enough ahead to be able to check and adjust each phase of the light set. Keep up with blocking changes. Never be hesitant to change your light plot. Sometimes you can't see the problem until you get the lights up and the actors on stage. A wide variety of lighting equipment is available from robot ellipsoidals that follow action to computerized preset boards that use memory to make scene changes. Most amateurs and educational theater programs, however, have more modest technology at their disposal.

Always wear work gloves to protect hands and prevent slippage. Wear rubber-soled gym or athletic shoes when climbing ladders and handling electricity. Check the hanging clamp and aiming bolts every time you're near a lighting instrument. Accidents are embarrassing for technical directors and aggravating for directors but may injure performers.