An idea to ponder


CB Mods
So, I was intrigued by a discussion on the stagecraft listserv that I thought would be interesting to get CB's thoughts on.

The basic topic was if it is possible to create a lighting design for a blank stage. I take this to mean that there is no set, probably just a black void. Personally I would think that a show without a set it makes the lighting designer's job more difficult as they have to provide all the definition for the show beyond the costumes. Lighting can provide isolation or not, colors, textures, etc. To me, a void jut presents a slightly more difficult canvas to paint on.

So what are your thoughts?


Not a New User
Fight Leukemia
From my practical point of view, absolutely.
Grid method, divide up into zones and get each covered evenly in white.
Then onto the color: red, green, and blue wash in each zone as before.


Active Member
I designed three shows on a blank stage, minus legs and a cyc. Was it hard, yes, but it was very enjoyable and rewarding. Now each show had elements to it besides just light. There were props for instance, and Ragtime had a swing, a gate, a piano, and a projector for images. Ashame I don't have any good pictures of that show, was a really good show.

The one other one was Miracle Worker. Props wise, tables, chairs, food, a ladder, and 5 door units with never more then two on stage at a time. That show I have a few okay pictures of:
Breakfast Scene with a door unit

When Annie gets locked in her room with ladder

Orphanage before Annie leaves

The last was Mystery of Edwin Drood. That had a table, chairs, a bed, and a crypt entrance. No photos at all of that. Now as far as completely blank, I have done one acts were it was just actors, legs, and a black curtain and made them interesting. Point is, its possible. The one director I use to work with hates sets, and does everything with light. So I was able to play, a lot.


Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
good show "Our Town" and a lot of work done in the 1960's for limited if no stage but be careful for you wishes in how close those come to Craig's Ubo Marionettes concept without actors to screw with your stage picture and or the concept of the production/show.

Really hard to do a stage without even some setting for it when not that as design concept. This as opposed to settings given a pre-show curtain call during the renassaunce period and applause of what some artist such as Indigo Jones designed for the set - this without actors screwing up what great art was designed for them to live in. The talent is the thing still. Dependant upon them and the production, sure, but if not you as designer are death to the production and enjoyment rule #1 in design.

Beyond this, sure, it can be done but it is really difficult and much of the show when not relying on the talent - and most now will be, relies upon them. Talent carries the weight both in scripted explination and living this world created in conveying this concept to the audience. A slip of light show into its own merit becomes just light show not play. My thoughts at least.


Well-Known Member
Closed a show in December that took place in 7-9 places (I don't have my notes handy) All I was given by the scenic designer were some benches, two desks and a few chairs. I think I was able to distinguish the strip club look from the doctors office look but I know there was some confusion about the aquarium verus the museum. Sometimes you can not be subtle because the audience is only seeing the show once they might not pick up on something that is only mentioned once.

In situations like that color and texture can really help sell an idea.


Active Member
I saw a show once, I cant quite remember what it was but there was no set but they had painted a blue print of a building onto the floor so where there was a door drawn the actors would pretend to open a door and same for stairs and sit in fake chairs etc. it was really interesting and the lighting had been done so each room was lit seperately and some practicals and stuff, was a very wild idea that paid off!


Well-Known Member
I suppose you could look at most dance shows as being like this. You have a cyc, some legs, and maybe some props for the dancers to use, but the space and the world is created by the lighting designer.
I did a Broadway review with a blank stage. My experiences with it was mixed. Since we were just doing one or two songs from each show, I didn't really create a tangible location, I instead tried to create a feeling with the lighting for the individual song. The biggest challenge I found was keeping the show moving. As the show was mostly solos and duets with very little movement or dance, I used the lighting to constantly change the world around the performers to keep something changing and keep the audience from getting bored. I used two studio-colors to try and give each song a color, highlight tempo changes and make something happen on the stage.
I think it ended up working well. While it would have been nice to have more of a set for each number, I don't think the audience got bored. The show ended up being 345 cues (though some of them were marks, I was dealing with movers on an Express 125), and it may have ended up a little flashier then I originally intended it to be, but with the lack of a set I was really worried about the audience getting bored with the show.
Images from that show are here for all who are interested.

Users who are viewing this thread