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New High School Theatre Director looking for Guidance

David39
Swing
joined:2/12/21
Swing | Joined: 2/12/21

Three years ago, after seeing a desperate need for an arts program in our community, I implemented a theatre program at the high school where Im employed. Our community has limited opportunities for artistic expression, especially for our youth, and the program has been wildly successful. We have reached a juncture in the program, where I would like to take our production quality to the next level. This includes investing in and learning about stage lighting. I have limited theatre knowledge, particularly where the technical aspects are concerned. I have Googled and YouTubed for hours upon hours, but at this point I feel like I am just piecing together an overwhelming amount random lighting knowledge, much of which may be too advanced for my current situation or irrelevant to my program entirely.

I am looking for a good starting point to educate myself. Documentaries, YouTube videos/series, textbooks, etc. I would also very much appreciate any insight or recommendations on beginner products in which to invest. Although we are a completely independently funded and a 501(c)(3) (non-profit) organization, we have managed to fundraise enough that I think we may be able begin considering purchasing lighting. Our starting budget is around $1500. I realize it isnt the most ambitious, but any help would be more appreciated than you could imagine.

Thank you!!

 
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Updated On: 3/20/21 at 01:49 AM
dramamama611 Profile Photo
dramamama611
Broadway Legend
joined:12/4/07
Broadway Legend | Joined: 12/4/07
This is a really hard thing to talk about online...we don't know your space, your electrical layout. Sadly 1500 isn't going to get you very far...even a Source 4 Jr runs about 300 an instrument. How will your lights be installed? Do you have pipes?

Do you have another school or theater nearby you could talk to...or a collegexampus? My first suggestion would be to talk to a lighting professional and have them look at your space and make a plan for you .
If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
trentsketch Profile Photo
trentsketch
Broadway Legend
joined:6/25/09
Broadway Legend | Joined: 6/25/09
I have to agree with dramamama. $1500 isn't going to go very far for traditional theatrical lighting.

A lot is going to come down to the space. How can you safely hang the lights? How big is your stage? How many power outlets are there? What's voltage is available? Where is the fuse box for your space? How is everything wired? All of those make a difference in safety and performance. Reach out to people who can actually work with you in person and don't be afraid to get quotes/opinions from multiple companies.

I would encourage you to get the best board/console you can afford and slowly start adding more lights. Don't worry about the fancy stuff: you want an even fill of your performance space to start. The board is the biggest investment and you can usually find deals on used boards in great working condition. Make sure whatever you invest in has DMX input and output. That's what most modern lights are going to use and you don't want to be stuck having to run a bunch of converters. Newer boards can do more, but older boards can still program a great show.
Mr. Wormwood Profile Photo
Mr. Wormwood
Stand-by
joined:8/2/15
Stand-by | Joined: 8/2/15
As others have said, it's very hard to advise without being in the space. I would definitely recommend that you bring in someone who knows about lighting to take a look. I also agree that $1500 will get you almost nowhere unfortunately. I know every school is different but the school where I direct put lighting and sound upgrades into a capital project that didn't put the burden on a school budget or theatre department. In the grand scale of a school capital project, lighting upgrades may not be a huge amount. Of course you have to have a board and/or administration that recognizes the value of the program and that varies a lot from place to place I'm sure.
Owen22
Broadway Legend
joined:2/24/11
Broadway Legend | Joined: 2/24/11

What you can do is what we used to do in the old community theatre days.  Buy flood lamps and insert them into the back old tin coffee cans (they still have those, right?).  They aren't perfect but they will focus the lighting and are bright enough for stage lights.  You can use them until your enterprise can make enough money to purchase the real thing.

MattieIce2018
Understudy
joined:5/8/19
Understudy | Joined: 5/8/19
$1500 wouldn't go far in terms of fixtures but if the school has a decent computer or laptop, ETC does sell their Nomad dongle and USB-DMX adapter for $250 at an educational discount. With a decently powerful computer, you'd be running the software from the EOS line of lighting consoles.
missthemountains Profile Photo
missthemountains
Broadway Star
joined:9/13/11
Broadway Star | Joined: 9/13/11

Owen22 said: "What you can do is what we used to do in the old community theatre days. Buy flood lamps and insert them into the back old tin coffee cans (they still have those, right?). They aren't perfect but they will focus the lighting and are bright enough for stage lights. You can use them until your enterprise can make enough money to purchase the real thing."

I love this. Tbh, this is a great place to start. Many, many, many, of my student or freshly-graduated-college productions were designed in manners similar to this. Just plug them all into a power strip and when they're on, keep em on, when they're off, yank 'em out. Maybe put some gels on the cans too. This is affectionately referred to as "hillbilly style".

Owen22
Broadway Legend
joined:2/24/11
Broadway Legend | Joined: 2/24/11

missthemountains said: "Owen22 said: "What you can do is what we used to do in the old community theatre days. Buy flood lamps and insert them into the back old tin coffee cans (they still have those, right?). They aren't perfect but they will focus the lighting and are bright enough for stage lights. You can use them until your enterprise can make enough money to purchase the real thing."

I love this. Tbh, this is a great place to start. Many, many, many, of my student or freshly-graduated-college productions were designed in manners similar to this. Just plug them all into a power strip and when they're on, keep em on, when they're off, yank 'em out. Maybe put some gels on the cans too. This is affectionately referred to as "hillbilly style".
"

Yep, we used to attached cut out gels as well. Plus, it probably wouldn't be that expensive or hard to attach the power strip to some sort of a dimmer switch for fades.