Welcome to the Lighting Archive


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.

Richard Pilbrow tells us that in 1957 his eyes fell on Peggy Clark's light plot for Wonderful Town (1953).  In his latest book A Theatre Project, he says it changed his life. In honor of the above we have chosen to present all of Wonderful Town, one of Peggy Clark's many shows from the 1950's.

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 Fransisco tryouts, the complete Broadway paperwork and a cut down touring version that is largely moving lights.

Gilbert Hemsley's Porgy and Bess, shows the difference between a typical opera company lighting rig (the Houston Grand) and what the lighting becomes in a standard B'way plot all from 1976.

Jean Rosenthal worked from the 1930s until 1969.  During her lifetime she set many standards for documentation as well as visual innovation. We present several shows from different stages of her career.
Mercury Theatre/Orson Wells, John Houseman in 1948, Martha Graham and West Side Story- Jerome Robbins.


Now Available on the Archive

Ken Billington 
Peggy Clark

Wonderful Town

Nicola Cernovitch

               Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
                      Revelations 1965 thru 2010

Gilbert Hemsley

                Porgy and Bess
                       Houston Grand Opera  June 1976
                       Broadway  September 1976

Jean Rosenthal               
                Martha Graham Dance Company 
           Repertory Light Plot 1948                             Repertory Light Plot 1963                                   
             Julius Caesar at the Mercury 1937

               Joy to the World Broadway 1948

               West Side Story National Tour 1957