Stage Craft Essay

6 June 2016

Since ancient times, people have been enjoying the delights of theatre and play enacted and carried out on stage. The history on lighting for the theatre is very interesting and innovative. As technology has developed over the years, theatergoers have been witness to extraordinary progress as innovations took over and added unique contributions to stage craft, architecture and theatrical lighting. The history of stage lighting and lighting cues in theatre dates back to Greek and Roman times. Light has always been an important component for theatrical storytelling, and various lighting techniques have evolved over the centuries,

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Before the 20th century, many experimented with electric lights but it was until the turn of the century where electric lights were used exclusively in most theatres. During the 20th century, stage lighting design became an art in its own right, emerging from the obscurity of props, set designs, and costumes. Great efforts were to bring the subtlety and drama of effective light on the stage. The American playwright and producer David Belasco and his assistant Louis Hartman had developed many light instruments. Jean Rosenthal, another pioneer of American stage lighting, invented a system for recording a particular lighting sequence so that it could be faithfully repeated.

Going into the 1940s and 1950s, stage lighting kept on evolving and improving. Many technical advances included special lenses, reflectors, projectors, and new plastic materials for color filters. In 1948, mechanical dimmer switches were replaced by electronic dimmers capable of being controlled with a remote control. Today, the lighting designer programs and operates a computerized control board that can recreate any instant of a lighting performance. These improvements increase the lighting quality and the creativity that can be used on plays and events.

The 20th century had witnessed the two greatest wars in history and social upheaval without parallel. The political movements of the “proletariat” were manifested in theatre by movements like realism, naturalism, symbolism, impressionism and ultimately, highly stylized anti-realism. Society battled to determine the ultimate goals and meaning of political philosophy in the live of an ordinary person. Meanwhile, commercial theatre advanced at full force, manifesting itself in the development of popular forms of drama. Some major musicals at the time were Oklahoma! , Porgy and Bess, and Showboat.

In 1912 lights were placed in the auditorium to allow for more natural angles of illumination for both the actor and the set. The projector lamp, a spotlight that could be dimmed, was invented in 1914; after 1919 colored “gels”, or gelatine, were placed over the lights. By 1922 stage lighting had become a scientific study. The great technological advances allowed spectacular shows such as The Phantom of the Opera to compete to another innovation which were movies.

The cost of producing big shows such as the ones I mentioned previously, combined with the organizations of actors and technical persons in theatre, have limited what live theatre can do competing with Hollywood films. The 20th century could be the most important time frame for theatre as it improved in many different ways. Stage lighting played a major role in doing so with its affects and better lighting quality for plays, events, and etc.

Plays and musicals are still performed to this day; the most notorious plays and musicals are the ones that are showed on Broadway. The type of scenarios that can be enhanced with the advanced technology of stage lighting is endless causing a tone to any type of scene and play. Stage lightning is one of the most important factors in theatre all because its improvements made in the 20th century which were very important to the quality of theatre.

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