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An Exploration Into Lighting Design, and its Role in Performance.

This website will document the exploration of my practice as a lighting designer and how I have developed my understanding of the contribution and function of light in theatrical works through considering both its ability to communicate with, and impact, audiences, and its ability to assist practitioners in their creative processes. The aim of this project is to better understand and subsequently improve my practice, as well as providing insight for other developing lighting practitioners into possible methods of working.

As a lighting designer, I have worked on a range of different theatrical productions (as shown throughout this website), and have used various creative processes. However, due to the fast pace and high turnover of projects, historically I’ve only had limited opportunity to meaningfully reflect on my work, limiting the possibility of further understanding my practice. 


I have always had a strong interest in the contribution of light in shaping a piece of work. This contribution is most evident in how the audience experience is shaped by lighting, but I’m also fascinated by the way it can influence a performer’s process, resulting in both performance and lighting working cohesively to ultimately enhance the storytelling and evocation for an audience. 


This interest was initially sparked by my work on a production called ‘Wait For Me’ which is the first case study of this investigation. This then fed into my work on the second case study; a production called ‘Boys Cry’. For ‘Boys Cry’ I actively tried to push my lighting design to find the extent to which lighting can help tell a story on stage. I then used my findings and explored the possible role of light being a key collaborator in a research and development process with a movement specialist. Through this process, I intended to develop my skillset so that I can employ these ideas across my work to improve the impact my lighting can have on productions, and therefore increase the significance and contribution of my work. 


A big question that has clouded much of my work so far is simply ‘what is lighting design?’. The ethereal immaterial quality of light, along with the creative possibilities with it, contradicts the rigid rules of physics that it is bound by, as well as the technical limitations that come with the context of a particular production. To be able to improve the impact of my work, I will also need to establish and answer to this question.

Through my reflections on these three productions, I have concluded that the emphasis of what a ‘lighting design’ ‘is’ should be placed on ‘design’ - the process of creating art that responds to a stimulus. The lighting design exists to serve a production and is simply executed through the medium of light, in a way that navigates the technical and physical limitations. Therefore, lighting design is simply something that responds to the stimulus and communicates the intention. In addition to this, the logistical factors and context of the production influence the execution of the stimulus, and subsequently how light needs to work to serve the piece. Therefore, the process needs to adapt on a project-by-project basis. 


The lighting designs for the three productions covered in this exploration, all had the same aim, to aid visual storytelling and invoke feeling in the audience. However, the production processes varied significantly in response to the context of them. 


The different approaches to lighting a production being explored are; aiding - where lighting is one of many creative elements layered into a production as another element communicating the story; heightening - where lighting plays a more key role in the production and is integrated with other production elements; and collaborating - where light works with the other creative elements and has an active role in shaping the piece. My case studies; ‘Wait For Me’, ‘Boys Cry’ and my collaborative project are examples of these approaches respectively. 

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