Lighting operations in theatre

 3 February 2011

Simon Fraulo is a theatre lighting expert. He has seen big changes in technical theatre training and jobs over the years.

Changes to the lighting industry

"Lighting as an industry is more competitive to get into than it used to be. When I first started, you were stage crew, you were a fly man, you were sound, you were lighting. Now it's more specialised."

"It started as a holiday job many years ago when I was 14, working on pantomime during the Christmas holidays. I then started going back to the theatre, which was in Bury-St Edmunds in Suffolk.

"The industry's changed enormously from when I first started working in theatre. The technology was all analog when I started.

"The control side of a lighting system was one cable from the control room that went back to the dimmer room for each individual dimmer. Now there is one cable which services hundreds of dimmers and it's all done by ethernet and digital data."

Getting into a lighting career

"Lighting as an industry is more competitive to get into than it used to be. When I first started working in theatre all those years ago at that theatre in Bury-St Edmunds, you did everything.

"You were stage crew, you were a fly man, you were sound, you were lighting. Now it's more specialised. Within the lighting industry there is more specialism.

"It's no longer as easy as it used to be to just be a lighting technician where you could program lighting consoles, rig lights, focus lights, build practicals, work on electronic gubbins and do design. Those days are fast becoming over. We now spend more time specialising in an area and it is fiercely competitive.

"To enter the lighting world now, most people go to college. When I first started, along with many of my peers my age, we didn't go to college. We started working in theatre and learned by practical experience and through knowledge being passed on by previous electricians and lighting technicians and directors and designers.

"Now, people go to college, there are more technical theatre study courses than there were when I was 17. The only courses really open to you were if you were going to do a stage management course at RADA, and stage management is a completely different world to a threatre technician."

Necessary skills

"To be a theatre technician, you don't necessarily have to be a designer or any great artist, but to have an empathy and an understanding of the artistic values that you're working for is a major factor to doing this job.

"You also need to have initiative. You have to work with a sense of logic, you have to be able to prioritise and think on your feet constantly during production situations.

"You have to be prepared to do very, very long hours, that's the nature of the job. And you have to be prepared to do the same thing over and over and over again.

"There is so much to learn from physically doing the job, day in, day out, week after week, production after production. Although I've been doing this for over 30 years, there isn't a day that goes by where I don't learn something new."

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