How Far Down?

Just so you know, I don't know everything like some people seem to think. I had never herd the term apron before, but I asked Dave and he told me so now I know what you are talking about. I just always called it the lip but I suppose that would be the top of the apron.

So you learn somthing every day...

Anyway, the answer as far as I am concerned, you should never have lights focused on the apron. Most lighting designers don't want that to be seen. You should focus your lights so they hit the stage surface right above the apron, so there is no light hitting it.
Lighting the apron

Totally dependant on the show involved. There is absolutely nothing wrong with lighting the apron. I have seen designs that required lighting the front of the apron, but that is usually only if there is action in front of the apron. I would say it generally looks better if you cut any spill off the front of the apron. And if you must light the front, light all the front.
Remember also, that when you focus lights, you are not concentrating on what the beam looks like on the floor, you are lighting the actor centered around his or her head. Five feet high is the main target for the center of your beam not necessiarially a line on the stage apron.

Often you will find that with the down stage lights, in focusing on a target 5' high as they would be in going down stage, your beam probably won't come closer to the edge than say 1' away from it and still be able to cover the talent. Only shutter cutting you would need to worry about would be from more or less stray light and not the main part of the beam.
lighting an apron

I am going to have to disagree with ship's comment "Remember also, that when you focus lights, you are not concentrating on what the beam looks like on the floor, you are lighting the actor centered around his or her head"

Only part of lighting design is lighting the actor. The rest is creating a mood and enhancing a scenic design to create a world around the actor. I have yet to work with an LD who did not take into considerations lighting the entire playing area. Yes you do want the actor to be seen. But you also want the scenery seen and you do not want ugly pools of light on athe floor.
I stand corrected, mood and scenery lighting is a factor in design. However I usually don't worry much about it because my wash and filler lights take care of it. Remember also that if you are focusing at a acting area 5' high, the beam of lights covering the talent in the up stage are going to have a lot of light on the back wall. Now in the case that your lights are a bit focused and the top of the wall is a bit dark, than you might need to suppliment the wall a bit just to even it out, but a tapered lighting of the wall isn't a bad thing either.

Only if I need to highlight a piece of scenery do I ever focus a lamp specifically at a wall or on it. Long throw front fill lights focused on the up stage especially will cover the actors and the scenery in addition to other general washes. The challenge is to make the talent "pop" out from their environment and thus you in most instances would not want to have the scenery just as intense as their surroundings much less be the Key Lighting. Thus the main part of lighting the stage is lighting the talent. All else is secondary. Look into the McCandles "A Method of Lighting the Stage" for one founding source in this concept in addition to other design books that would support this theory.

On the down stage apron however I don't think you need to worry much about scenery lighting, no matter how you light the stage and it's environment - focusing fixtures to light the scenery or just relying on ambient light and washes to do it. There are good valad points to providing sufficient and specific lighting to the scenery as you state.

The pools of light on the stage or back wall from the talent or Key type lighting would also be covered up by the wash lighting or proper focusing of the the lights. That's one really good reason you don't want a shiny stage deck or scenery so it can absorb the focused light and prevent it from reflecting all over the place or being a very well defined pool of light. Also softening the focus of your lights and adding frost to them helps to prevent this.
how far down

Ship we mustt be talking about two different forms of theatre. When you say that the challenge is to make the talent "Pop". That was something I was taught never to do. The talent for the most part is supposed to be seen, but the final result is supposed to be a unity of designs and talent. If any one of the designs or talents pops out of the scene, something looks wrong. And yes between lighting all the acting areas with down and front light you usually cover all the scenic areas, and this is where most LDs I know will use the DS down light to define the apron and chut it very specifically to the floor.
ageeed that we agree to disagree on design.

I'm not talking about making them glow as if under a 2Kw followspot, but in design my goal is to provide light for the stage and it's world and highlight the talent in such a way as to bring them out or "Pop" just a bit in intensity beyond the scene especially during things like assides or just to highligh the main action and focus of the scene. Tricks like the use of a bit of back light on the talent help some in making them stand out just a touch and also help to sculpt them when done properly. The light I put on the talent is three dimensional and sculpting, the light on the rest of the scene is directional if not just ambient.

The viewer is naturally drawn towards the brightest part of the stage. If you provide just a touch more light on the scene being played out in say a particular acting area, above that of the rest of their world, the action that takes place in it helps to keep the focus on the talent especially if other things are going on on stage. The talent in doing their job should already have the focus, but with the lights also helping them it helps push their preformance over the top. Providing a bit more light to them makes it easier for the audience to concentrate and stay focused on them. At least in my opinion.

But we all have our own styles we use and no one is best much less right for any one show. You would certainly want to light parts of MacBeth differently than Three Penny Opera than Little Shop of Horrors.
Now that I see what you mean by pop I pretty much agree with you especially in shows with asides or musical theatre. But the fun of design is that no two minds think exactly alike.
Sometimes it is fun to play with an audience and have the action talking place on the darker part of the set. *Warning this should only be done with a competent director*
But thank you for humoring me with my little lesson of differences of opinion throughout the design world. I meant no bad feelings.
What on earth is an apron??? :? Never herd that term before, but then again, I can't seem to learn much of the theatre's name in english either...
Inaki said:
What on earth is an apron??? :? Never herd that term before, but then again, I can't seem to learn much of the theatre's name in english either...

Yup its exactly what Cruiser said--the apron (in a proscenium stage) is the part that extends from the plasterline to the downstage edge. Lots of funny little terms in theater--like In One or In two...Ten out of Twelve...meal penalty ;) I feel like Dr Suess needs to write a Cat in the Hat book about Theater and call it "Onstage UpStage In the Wings". heh :D

Basicly, like others have posted, you light where the action is and make sure you hit all the hot spots. Light should never bleed off the stage if it's possible. Sometimes you really dont have a chooice in HS theaters due to limited resources (ex. barn doors, etc). I usually always aimed my light about a foot or two from the front of the apron to be able to hit the faces of my actors when they came forward. I also had the dirctor block it in that way again because I was limited with only 24 or so Leko's. Again, use whatever technique works best for your space and resources. If you have any more questions don't hesitate to ask.

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