Teaching Stage Lighting


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My old high school lost their technical theatre teacher and now the acting teacher has to take over the tech. So he asked me if I could help him put together a lesson or a series of lessons for him to teach lighting to the students. Assuming the students have absolutely no knowledge, how would you guys go about teaching this subject? It is only theatrical lighting for productions so please don't get into concert lighting and all that. I pretty much have an idea of what to teach, but the question is how to teach it.
Your teacher can and possibly should contact some of the pro members directly with questions. Also a good text book goes a long way in what to teach. Bad someone is forced into teaching something other than their field, good they are stepping up to the plate and attempting to do so as best they can.

Sorry but the list of what I would be teaching or find important to mention would be very long, better to base such things off a text book and ask where to supplement such a guide.
Have your teacher contact a local professional, or another tech. theatre teacher in the area. They would be able to suggest good topic material, as well as maybe a text or two.

As for what I can suggest, Theatrical Design and Production by J.Gillette covers almost all the basics (and some not so basics) of technical production.
Again I would start with the very BASIC's of lighting--teach the fixtures FIRST--its applications, how to hang, focus, identify, adjust and dissect the fixture--basically how the thing works and goes together....and then go into the lighting theory--shadows and angles etc. This will get a student into the basic ballpark. Advanced--teach them how to wire a fixture up or build and install lenses and shutters; replace or attach and fix plugs and the various types of stage connectors used (twist lock, edison and stage pin). Fundamentals are the key in ANYthing IMO... I have seen a lot of stage lighting students who know the theory's and colors, but couldn't use, focus, hang (or hang safely) or even identify a type of fixture to save their lives. This is WRONG IMO.. Its like understanding a car engine but not knowing how to get into the vehicle. Fundamentals--basics of the instruments and how they work and are used, and THEN get into their applications and theory's and design.
I'm a high school tech theater student, and my school doesn't have a tech teacher, just a drama teacher. I know much more than her, and last year i taught the lighting section of the class. I used the above mentioned williams guide (post before last) to learn the basics that I didn't already know. It really helped.

Here's my ideas, as a student and a teacher.

1) Show students each type of light, explain what is unique to that light, show them gel frames, gels, and plugs and cables.

2) Describe the characteristics of light and basic color mixing, as well as basic principles of where to aim lights. Explain basic creaton of moods with light.

3) Take them to the booth for a practical, and show them the lights on your stage, and how they are aimed, and basically re-do everything from the light board.

4) Quiz Time: fixtures, characteristics of light, and color mixing.


1) Demonstrate how to aim and focus and ellipsoidal, explain the shutter notation on a light plot (the little symbol that tells where to move each shutter in to).

2) Discuss what effects different colors have on different paints, makeup, and fabrics.

3) Explain how to create a larger variety of moods on stage, as well as specifics on night & day.

4) Electrics course: explain power ratings, dimmer racks, and different types of bulbs.

5) Have them do a basic 24 or 32 fixture light plot by hand.

I think that that's about all I know how to do, and I plan to major in this stuff. Hope this helps.
We actually did this exact thing yesterday. The main thing we also did was try to keep it really fun. We did demos and made stuff look as cool as possible and joked alot so that the kids wouldn't lose interest as quickly in what we were talking about. We did the same types of things but not as in depth. Basically the goal of what we were doing was the teach anyone, including constume, set, everyone the basics so that if we were up on a ladder, we could ask anyone to go and get what we needed w/o having to get down. It worked pretty well and the kids learned alot. We deff have a few who are going to do their best to learn everything possible about lights. I like the approach to teaching though very hands on, and soundlight I think you made a very good list of what to teach and even the right order.

the joking thing is important. that's the only way that i was able to keep my own tech II class interested in what i was telling them about the fresnel in my hand.
Yes, we were using gobos (metal and Glass) and also gels in a S4 and we kept everyone interested by giving funny examples like with a red jell and a soft pattern gobo, "and now sam is on fire as he sits out under the leaves". It is somewhat odd for our class actually because it was basically me and another junior classman teaching seniors, juniors, soph, and freshman. It had a MUCH different feel to it than say the TD or anyone else teaching the class. I really love how the knowlage at my school is truely passed down from students to students.


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