Welcome to the Lighting Archive

What's new at The Lighting Archive?

We are starting to expand The Lighting Archive to include Lighting Design as it is represented internationally. Rick Fisher is our first British Designer with his production of The Inspector Calls.

We present a group of documents from the collection of works by Abe Feder. Abe was the first person in the US to be credited as a Lighting Designer. We found what he called his Data Books in the Marshall Library and Archives at the Springer Opera House in Columbus, Ga. He started work in the mid thirties and worked on B'way through My Fair Lady and Camelot. Thanks to Jaime Fagerstom at the Springer Opera House.

We have finally found light plots for West Side Story. They are from the 1980 production lighting by Nananne Porche, one of Jean Rosenthal's associates. She was overheard in the shop saying "We're not changing anything!" But actually since by then Cinemoid was no longer available she'd had to make color substitutions. We can now understand the lighting design clearly. Thanks to Myles Ambrose, who recognized the old plots.

Tom Skelton was a major designer in the 60's and 70's. His work is represented here with a dance called Facets for the Alvin Ailey Dance Company in 1975. He taught Lighting at Yale and invented the visual aid he called the "Magic Sheet". We also have a letter from him discussing how to light a musical comedy.

Big Thanks to Asher Robinson and Mac Smith who restructured the entire Lighting Archive website so that it could be accessed from tablets and other mobile devices.

Modern theatrical lighting is a unique art form, whose history until now has been exceedingly difficult to study due to limited access to original lighting documents. The Lighting Archive website is developing a collection of actual plots, focus charts, cue sheets and other documents from real shows. We will place an emphasis on historical productions and designers who have made important contributions to our field.

These documents make evident the aesthetic development of the art form. The styles of the theatrical visual are affected not only by the personalities of the lighting designers but very importantly by the interplay between what equipment was being manufactured and how the designers were inspired to use it. Another major force affecting the aesthetics and the equipment is the extreme time and reliability pressures that operate in the economics of the theatre world. How has the development of the next big thing computer consoles, color scrollers, moving lights changed and enriched the visual possibilities? By a close examination of these documents, students and scholars can now witness the development of Lighting Design as it has made a greater and greater contribution to the theatrical experience.

To aid them we have created an Interactive segment of the website. Using Ken Billington's Sweeney Todd Broadway as the example follow the map pins in this segment to trace information about each unit as it appears in every document for this production. Lighting Design is sufficiently complicated: no one document contains all the information about a given lighting unit. The pre-production paper work includes plot, section, hookup and shop order. The results of the work in the theatre are documented in the magic sheet, focus charts and cue sheets. See Eric Cornwell's Explanation of the Documents in the About section of this site.

We welcome Ken Billington and his lighting design for Sweeney Todd, with full support and permission from his collaborators, Eugene Lee, scenic designer and Stephen Sondheim, composer and lyricist. The Lighting Archive is proud to present the complete paperwork for the Broadway, London, National Tour and Bus & Truck. A curious scholar can study and trace Ken's lighting concepts form the B'way and West End versions (very different shaped stages) through the cut downs for the tours. How does he maintain the look while trimming and compacting for easy moves and quick setups?

We are presenting the rich colorful lighting design of Nicola Cernovitch with Revelations of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. This work, dating from 1958, is an example not only of the exploration of the use of strong color but because of the success of Revelations and it's signature place in the company's repertory, this plot from the 1960s has set the look of the company ever since. Note that the lighting of the original is unchanged in 2010 even with channels changing numbers and the Cinemoid becoming Lee, the ballet looks the same.
Big thanks to Chenault Spence and Al Crawford for getting these papers together for us.

Natasha Katz had the momentous task of recreating A Chorus Line in 2006. The production acquired the rights to Tharon Musser's original lighting which you can study at LightingDB.nypl.org. Her papers show her process of understanding Tharon's concepts and then using her considerable talent and Broadway experience to enrich the plot and the cues with moving lights and scrollers. We have her designer notes from the San Francisco tryouts, the complete Broadway paperwork and a cut down touring version that is largely moving lights.