Theatrical Design Logo
Blocking affects lighting by helping to dictate how acting areas need to be arranged.

The lighting designer can often analyze a groundplan accurately to figure out how action will flow around a set. Yet, by watching the actual blocking during rehearsals, the lighting designer may see interpretations for the use of space that the designer did not initially consider.

Often, when watching rehearsals, the lighting areas may go unaffected. However the need for designer control (use of dimmers) may be influenced by the blocking.
  • Acting areas: follow a “color key” and are lit similarly so that actors moving throughout the space look like they’re in a single location.
  • Supplemental areas: often areas that are adjacent to the main playing space, and need light so that the actors don’t walk into a black hole; but usually doesn’t require a full color key to match.
  • Specials: anything else – including items or spaces you want to highlight, add depth to, or requires additional lighting.

Trouble viewing the video? Watch it directly on Vimeo or YouTube.
Blocking poster image

Entrances, large furniture pieces, etc. may call for the need of lighting specials or isolation where the designer did not originally deem them necessary prior to watching rehearsals.

Before seeing a rehearsal, I would not have expected an actor to stand on a chair. That gave me the opportunity to either add a special (I didn’t expect anyone’s face to be that high) or to adjust the focusing of that area’s instrument.
The Importance of Being Earnest production photo
The Importance of Being Earnest production photo. Lighting by Kade Mendelowitz.

When looking at a groundplan with a kitchen table and three chairs, the designer may ordinarily feel all the chairs and the table needs even coverage. Through rehearsals, however, the designer may find that only one character tends to sit at the table during private moments to reflect on his/her life.

If the designer was to leave the lighting as originally planned, the large bright area may draw away from the focus of a single character. On the other hand, it may be useful to have both types of control so that the lighting may emphasize the loneliness of a character.
The Stronger production photo The Stronger production photo
Rehearsals told the designer of this production of “The Stronger” that no one ever sits at the furthermost downstage table. Atypical blocking!
During cueing, lighting should anticipate movement. Lighting may “focus down” during long scenes to help sustain audience attention to a long dialogue. If the lighting is to follow a character outside the focused area, the character should not step first into darkness.

If the cueing goes just right, when the lights arrive at full intensity just when the character enters the area, the lighting can be beautiful. Although the light should look motivated by the performer, the lights usually need to lead the performer ever so slightly.
The Misanthrope production photo
"The Misanthrope" Lighting design by Kade Mendelowitz
The Misanthrope production photo

Light is like the glue that washes over everything and can make the costumes, scenery and performers look as if they belong together. It can be the great equalizer!

The lighting designer must take all of the other design elements, the director, and the performers themselves into account. This consideration will assure that all areas work together to form a single vision.
The Island production photo
"The Island" production photo. Scenery by Timaree McCormick, costumes by Tara Maginnis, lighting by Kade Mendelowitz.