ArtsLink: Like World of Arts, Why it's Important in Our Current Gloomy Times to be Sure to Find Your Light

By Jason Young on May 07, 2020 from A&E Blog via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Find your light! 
 
You will hear these words quite a lot if you happen to wander into a darkened theatre during a tech rehearsal. They usually come from the director—though you may hear them from a choreographer, a stage manager, or even a lighting designer—and they are almost always directed at an actor who has missed their mark. 
 
Let me explain. 
 
A mark is a place, or a spot, on the stage where an actor is supposed to stand at a specific moment during a performance. Actors don’t generally have a mark for every minute of a show, but there are several moments throughout the performance that, for a myriad of reasons, the director or a choreographer or a designer needs the actor to stand on a very specific piece of stage real-estate in order to achieve any number of desired visual effects. A lot of times that reason is lighting. 
 
Theatrical lighting is complex. I am not a designer, so my knowledge is limited; but I do know that you can illuminate an actor from several different angles, and each one provides a different look. You have top light, side light, back light, and front light. You also have footlights, which is front light from a low angle. The most important of these is front light: That is what dissipates shadows and allows an audience to see an actor’s face. However, without light coming from other places, front light on its own will wash an actor out and make them appear two-dimensional.
 
These simple rules, and several more intricate ones, are how lighting designers manipulate light sources, angles, and colors to give us all of the amazing visual elements that we have come to expect from high budget, spectacle-rich, theatrical productions. However, those visually stunning moments can easily be ruined if an actor misses their mark, if they aren’t in the right place at the right time. That is why it is critical that actors find their light.
 
Interestingly enough, it’s hard for an actor to see their light. If they spend their performance starring at lighting instruments in the grid then they go blind. Unless the mark is in a pool of light on an otherwise darkened stage, actors do their best when they feel the light. Lighting instruments give off heat, just like sunshine on a summer day; and once you learn what it feels like, actors can easily place warmth on a specific part of their body and hit their mark every time.  
 
I have been musing on light for the last several days. Over the weekend the WVSSAC organized the “Shine for WV Seniors” event where schools across the state were called upon to turn on the lights at their athletic fields at exactly 8:20 p.m., or 20:20 in military time, to honor this spring’s graduating class. The event seemed to be a massive success: Social media was filled with photos and videos. That simple act of flipping the lights on seemed like an appropriate and effective way to communicate love for the students and recognition for what they have lost. 
 
As people we seem to have very specific emotions attached to light. It comforts us, and when we think of it in relation to its opposite, darkness, it seems to bring us peace and hope. 
 
Afterall there is “a light at the end of the tunnel”, and “it’s always darkest just before the dawn.” In Sunday school we learn that even at a young age we each have our own little light that we should always let shine, and at Christmas we want our days to not only be merry but also bright. Across centuries lights have kept people safe like the lighthouse on the banks of a stormy sea or lamps in a tower in Boston as the British approached. Light is also very inviting. It drew Brad and Janet to the Frankenstein place at the beginning of one of my favorite movies, and at our passing we apparently move toward the light. Even the fortune cookie I cracked last week told me that it was “better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
 
Our world seems to be bathed in darkness right now. An almost constant stream of gloomy news combined with our recent gray skies has blocked out a lot of the literal and metaphoric light in our lives. It’s in times like these that I wish I was in a tech rehearsal. I need to be reminded that I have the responsibility of finding my light. 
 
It’s out there. 
 
Since the beginning of this quarantine, light has been shining from the sacrifice of our essential workers, from the teachers moving mountains to keep students engaged, from people going the extra mile to help their neighbors, from businesses changing their entire operation to assist their communities, and from every person who put life above liberty and simply stayed home. 
 
If it’s dark where you are, then you may be missing your mark. It’s time to find your light. 
 
Maybe it’s in a phone call to an old friend or in an email from a distant family member. Maybe it’s in the pages of a good book or the lyrics of a great song. It could be in the excitement of a film you never seen or the familiarity of a nearly worn-out DVD. Your light might be at the bottom of a big bowl of salad or at the end of your street, but you have to walk down there to know. You could meditate on its location or say a simple prayer. Perhaps it’s on the other side of a good night’s sleep. 
 
Unfortunately, I don’t get to be your director this time. I don’t know exactly where your light is, but trust me, you’ll feel it when you find it. 
 


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