Magazine article Stage Directions

Keeping Phaedra Bright

Magazine article Stage Directions

Keeping Phaedra Bright

Article excerpt

Light travels in a straight line, but it can be bounced

For the world premiere of Adam Bock's Phaedra with the Shotgun Players in Berkeley, Calif., I was presented with quite a challenge from my scenic designer. The play is set in the home of a family in suburban Connecticut. Not only did the style of production demand strict naturalistic realism (not simply stage realism), but the scenic designer gave me the opportunity to do this on a two-story set with only 48 dimmers at my disposal.

I knew from the get-go that I did not have enough lights for the show with a traditional approach. Sure, I could get face light on all the actors, but lighting is about more than mere illumination. I needed to craft the right tone with regards to sculpting our actors and lighting the set.

Far too often, tall scenery dies off as it gets higher and higher. With designers focused only on lighting actors they ignore the set and do not allow it to perform as another character and compositional tool in the show. For Phaedra, the house itself was as important as anything else. It needed to live.

I took a cue from film, which employs not just hard direct light but also soft bounce light. By hanging a system of bounce cards in the air and lighting them with a combination of fixtures with no color and Lee L161 filters I was able to fill out the space and properly light the 18 foot, 6 inch high walls.

Not only is the use of bounce light an effective way to cover large areas with illumination, it is a vital tool of naturalistic lighting that is too often ignored. …

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