Intro to Stage Lighting


Students will demonstrate a basic knowledge of the 4 functions of light: Visibility, Mood, Focus and Modeling by identifying these elements in freeze frames from movies.


Materials Needed

A flashlight, Movie clips: The Saint (Statue part), Westside Story (ending with Tony and Maria in Spotlight), Knights tale (being taught how to dance)


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Have students enter with all the lights off except for a flashlight that you will hold. Use the flashlight to take roll, refer to the schedule on the board etc. Explain that the word theater comes from a word meaning “seeing place”. Give a brief history of theater lighting i.e. plays were originally performed at sunrise or sunset, then fire now electricity.



Instruction: The functions of light have come into play now that we have more control over the light on the stage.


Modeling: Have a volunteer come up and use the flashlight in different positions on his/her face. How does the light affect their features, the mood and what you can see. What is the focus? Etc.


Transition: Turn on the lights again. Refer to a Quote from Jennifer Tipton, Tony award winning lighting designer. “To me, lighting is the audiences guide to the story and to what the production is doing. Light can confuse or clarify the issue.” Ask the students for their opinion on what this quote means and what she is trying to say.


Instruction: Go over the four functions of light and their definitions. Have the students take notes.

Visibility: What you can see

Mood: feelings that the scene evokes

Focus: What your eyes are drawn to

Modeling: Placement of lights to create dimension.


Transition: In film the camera is like the light in a play- your focus is drawn were the camera man wants it to be while light on stage is laced were the director wants you to look.


Guided Practice: Using still frames from movies have students identify with each frame each of the four functions of light in the picture. Talk about each one after you show it. Suggestions for freeze frames: The Saint (Statue part), Westside Story (ending with Tony and Maria in Spotlight), Knights tale (being taught how to dance)


Conclusion: Ask the students what they might notice about lighting in plays or movies that they didn’t before? Remind them that being observant about the light around them, natural and artificial, will help them as they design for plays. Why do they think this is so? Can they think of times/places when the lighting around them was particularly interesting? How could they use that memory/info in the future?



Students can write their responses to the various film clips.