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Post Script

Overcoming the challenge of putting theatrical lighting in a library

The Challenge

Creating a dance installation in a library using small amount of gear that could be setup and struck every rehearsal and performance.

The Outcome

And immersive and evolving visual experience that highlighted the surreal and liminal state of having a dance performance in a library.

When Celia Morris first approached me about a project that involved designing dance lighting in a library, I was immediately on-board. Over the next few months, we went through a long process of sourcing lighting instruments, cables, and boom poles to make it happen. After doing load calculations of all our equipment, we worked with the Oberlin College facilities department, who were kind enough to run special electrical lines to ensure we didn’t overload the wall circuits.

This show needed to be extremely light and easy to setup, given that we had to set up and strike the whole thing for every rehearsal and performance. This also meant it needed to be low-tech to minimize the number of potential technical failures. Audience members would enter the 4th floor of Mudd Library through the elevator, where we geled the built-in lights red to match the red funky 70-futurism style interior. Where they arrived, we needed to light it enough for it to be safe, so we just placed a typical clamp light you can find at a hardware store with a 90W-equivalent LED lamp. Off to the right there were rows of empty stacks which the dancers would climb around on, which was lit using a simple PAR 48. In some places we also geled over the safety lighting from the ceiling that we were unable to turn off. In the main area of the 4th floor, we lit Mudd’s staple “womb chairs” using two Source Four Jr Zoom fixtures on floor plates. These were attached to dimmers so they could be turned on and off from our lighting control laptop running QLC+. The outdoor courtyard of the 4th floor acted as the main performance area, and was lit using 4 RGBW LED fixtures and 2 white LED fixtures mounted to booms and connected to our lighting control laptop. The audience would watch the performance from inside.

Despite the logistic challenges, both performances of this show went extremely well and provided a unique and surreal experience that significantly deviated from a typical library experience.