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Lighting an Outdoor Performance

  • 1.  Lighting an Outdoor Performance

    Posted 05-11-2021 14:57
    Hello All!

    We are planning on holding evening outdoor performances for our school productions. I was wondering if you had any information you could give me on what you have used in the past for lighting an outdoor evening performance. I am specifically interested in finding out:
    -How many and what kinds of lights do you use?
    -What is the wattage of the lighting you use to light an evening performance?
    -What power source do you use to run the lights? (I've heard of places using a generator.)
    I would greatly appreciate any help you can provide, including lessons you've learned in lighting outdoor shows! Thank you in advance!



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    Kate Mote
    Teacher/Theatre Director
    Founders Academy
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  • 2.  RE: Lighting an Outdoor Performance

    Posted 05-14-2021 16:01
    Hi Kate,

    Two years ago our high school production team produced an original student written/directed musical. Our student technical team came up with the idea of using Philips Hue lighting. You can program them via an app on your phone and can be used with regular clap work light holders. We attached the claps to light trees and part of the set for stability and safety. Because they are rated for 110 but can also work with 220, they worked great for our needs. We used extension cords (safety tested) and connected with our school's electrical source. We spoke with an electrical engineer to make sure we were following OSHA  safety guidelines.  A generator might be too noisy for outdoor setting. I hope this helps. Break a leg with your upcoming performance.

    Robin Felix
    Academy Teacher
    CTE Performing Arts
    River Springs Charter School

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    Robin Felix
    Academy Teacher
    River Springs Charter Schools
    Wildomar CA
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  • 3.  RE: Lighting an Outdoor Performance

    Posted 05-17-2021 06:37
    There are many issues when moving to an outdoor location, lighting is just one concern. weather is the biggest issue, bringing your theater lighting out can be a big mistake, especially in a moist/humid area, as the lights cool down condensation can form and rust traditional fixtures, LEDs can have some of the same issues, I would recommend based on the size of your production looking at renting some Exterior LED fixtures, they have a lower power consumption and provide colored lighting capabilities to add mood to your event. For ease of use, wireless DMX can be used to avoid running cabling, you should have a protected area for your console and sound in case of showers. Good luck on your venture.

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    Jerry Onik
    V.P. Theatrical Supplies and Equipment
    Heartland Scenic Studio
    Omaha NE
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  • 4.  RE: Lighting an Outdoor Performance

    Posted 05-17-2021 20:30
    I would strongly advise against using lighting for an outdoor performance.  Along with everything previously mentioned, unless you are rehearsing at the same time as the performance, you will have no real idea of how much light is being produced until the show.  Where do you put the board, if you're running it from a console?  How do you protect cables and instruments from being pulled out or knocked over by audience members or even the cast?  Is there ambient light that will interfere?  Are there shadows being created by the lights?  I worked for several years with outdoor theatres and we found using traditional theatrical lighting did not really work, unless you actually have a dedicated stage space, such as an ampitheatre or some sort of backing shell.  Instead, we started our shows a little earlier--right now, it gets really dark around 9.  We used ambient lighting - tiki torches, fire pits, camping lanterns, things like that.  It created a really cool atmosphere, and made if much more of an event.  Have all the actors in very light colored costumes so that they reflect whatever light is available.  If you're lucky, you'll get a full moon, and that will be even better.  OUtdoor theatre is so  much fun, I hope it goes well.

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    Marie Miguel
    Chespeake, VA
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