( Originally Published 1921 )
IF a person has his own theater fully equipped he is able to make any experiments he pleases to secure novel effects of setting, costuming, and lighting—always provided, of course, that he has enough money to pay for all his failures, and time enough to experiment until he gets exactly what he wants. When we read the accounts by Mr. Belasco we are envious of the chance to try for weeks the working out of the best plan for showing the floating souls in the last act of The Darling of the Gods. We marvel at the capital which permitted discarding all the painted canvas which had been devised at first for the scene, and the substitution of hangings tinted by colored lights. What amateur organization can afford to do such things?
The amateur producer is always at a disadvantage of time, equipment, and money in such matters. Working upon a small stage, in cramped spaces, with few lighting facilities, for an audience predisposed to be over-critical, rehearsing at odd times persons otherwise regularly employed, for a few performances at most, is there any won-der that his effects are so far below his ideals? Should we not wonder that his results are as effective as they are?
With all the odds against him the amateur producer has made the most notable advances in aims and methods, and produced the most arresting novelties in such matters as lighting.
It is almost axiomatic that no stage upon which amateur productions are offered is adequately equipped. If there are dimmers there are usually not enough for all circuits. If there are any they are usually the old-fashioned circular kind with few points of contact so that the lights jump up and down instead of increasing or diminishing evenly. An experimental electrician may even be forced to construct his own dimmers of earthenware crocks containing a salt solution into which he lowers one end of the wire to carry the full current when it reaches the other at the bottom of the solution. But light from these is uncertain in intensity, the apparatus is cumbersome, the operator has to be reliable.
At times, the opposite of the foregoing is true. The lighting equipment of a small theater may be quite complete—but so complicated that only one or two persons ever master its intricacies well enough to use it satisfactorily.
No one can lay down absolutely just what the lighting equipment of any amateur stage should be, for at any time some play or spectacle may require a detail quite unforeseen but which the electrician must be able to provide. The one great feature of the lighting arrangements as of all other stage appliances should be adaptability. It is possible, however, to suggest certain desirable things upon which to base a beginning of satisfactory lighting.
There should be footlights. Whether they should always be used is another matter. But they should be provided, for it is as ridiculous to say they should never be used as it is to insist that they should be used for every performance. The footlights should be on as many different circuits as possible, each with its separate switch and if possible, its separate dimmer. Three different colors—red, blue, amber—are the best combination. If each of these can be split so that one half of each section to the right and left of stage center can be manipulated separately, there will be chance for more effects, but this last is not an essential. When blue lights are used in connection with others, about twice as many blue bulbs are required as of each of the other colors. White lights have almost entirely disappeared from the modern theater, yet in some cases they may be better than amber. In such uses bulbs can be replaced in the sockets for special effects.
The placing of footlights is a very important matter. I know of several auditoriums in which because of some transient interest in pageantry, or some scheme to link the audience with the performers, permanent aprons or fore-stages were built and permanent footlights placed along the front edge, yards away from the line of the proscenium opening. The result of this is that when a performer steps into this fore-space, he is badly lighted by too strong a glow from the floor—an entirely unnatural source of strong light. To counteract this glaring error of construction, in one auditorium temporary wooden frames are erected at the rear of the first floor from which high power nitrogen bulbs with reflectors Iooking like dishpans project strong glares upon the stage. This makeshift imitation of the use of the spot or flood light in the professional theater is never satisfactory, for spectators stumble against these unsightly contraptions, they are not easily controlled, and worst of all, they cast strong glares upon the backs of the occupants of at least the first ten rows of seats. This forestage also draws amateur actors out from the picture, for scenery has to be set behind the proscenium arch only. There is always a different intensity from the lights behind the upper edge of the proscenium arch, so that different parts of the stage show, for no reason, different intensities of lighting. The addition of the forestage in this instance has practically ruined the stage.
In the second hall-a high school auditorium—the matter has been more easily remedied. When the forestage is used the moveable footlights are placed along its front edge. To neutralize the light from them a corresponding set—alike in color, number, switches—was placed upon the stage side of a deep ceiling beam extending straight across the house, far above the heads of the audience. By careful adjusting of reflectors and shades the light from this border strikes the stage just behind the footlights. The various series are controlled from the same switchboard. When the forestage is not used the footlights extend across it not at its edge, but just in front of the curtain line. Then their light is matched, as is usual, from the first border, and the house ceiling beam row is not used at all.
The footlights of the first hall are permanent ones sunk in a curving trough, so that modifications cannot be employed. Fixity of equipment has reduced the utility of that stage.
Unless the footlights are built with professional design and connections amateur stages are better off with moveable sets. These may be of many different designs. Troughs may be covered by board sections, making the whole stage level. Other devices swing on pivots, so that the lights turn down and the boards swing into place as flooring. In designing any special frames or reflectors remember that more light comes from the sides of an incandescent bulb than from the round end. If you are going to place foot-lights upon the stage floor consider the line of vision from the front rows. If the front of your stage descends to the house floor in a series of three or four steps, you can place your footlights upon the top step. Make it possible to intro-duce corrections before finally installing. For instance, be-ware of back reflection into the auditorium from the vertical step. This would light the ceiling near the stage. It might cast shadows on the lower parts of the performers' bodies. Close in the ends of such footlights so that the side walls are not illuminated. You will be amazed at how much light can filter around corners.
When amateurs can discuss nothing else about their plays they can always raise the question, " foots or no foots? " Those who insist upon footlights are always informed by their opponents that Mr. Belasco discarded them long ago, and that recently Mr. Hopkins has been using an overhead system. To this the defenders of footlights will answer quite truthfully that many plays of the former producer are most inappropriately lighted, and that the system of the latter has received a great deal of criticism from intelligent theater-goers. Its most dangerous disadvantage is that actors will develop under it an artificial pose, for with light coming from above an actor is aware that his nose and lips throw triangular shadows upon his face as they never do in natural lighting outdoors or in a room. To counteract this, members of companies playing in several theaters in New York have fallen into the trick of tilting their heads back to catch better lighting.
In October, 1920, a critic in a New York periodical wrote these pertinent sentences:—" It is in order, though, to ask where Mr. Belasco, usually so correct in matters of lighting detail, ever saw moonlight so vivid that it outshone the strong illumination of a brilliantly lighted drawing-room. It's all right for Mr. Arthur Hopkins to over-rule natural laws in lighting effects but we don't often see Mr. Belasco working miracles of that sort. The latter usually has some logical reason or excuse for his stage surprises in lighting." —Mr. Metcalf in Judge.
An amateur producer will always try to correct the insistencies of the faddist by the cold test of actuality. The author of an excellent book on play production admitted to me that a certain lighting effect which he praised enthusiastically he had never seen on the stage; he had based his opinions upon a black and white sketch made by the artists. This is no proof that the acted detail was at all like the artists' preliminary conception. Very likely when this was tried in actual performance—if it ever was—changes of all kinds were made before the effect was satisfactory. If you have participated in many dress rehearsals —in most cases the only ones in which amateurs use the stage where their performance is to be given—you are aware of how much is still to be arranged before the opening night. Frequently the entire lighting scheme is revised between the two dates.
For a long time Mr. Bassett Jones, a well-known authority on all kinds of lighting, was quoted as the final force in the banishment of footlights, but he has declared that they are useful, often necessary, so all who followed his lead, will now have to admit their value.
For certain plays, then, footlights are necessary. With them there must be side lights or strip lights, and border lights above. Two or three sets of border lights may be necessary to cover the stage depth. This scheme does not mean that the entire stage will be lighted equally from all points, for by varying the intensity, effects of naturalness may be reproduced. One lighting expert has made the keen suggestion that this same natural appearance of the persons on the stage may be heightened by placing at one side an amber light and at the other a blue one. This arrange-ment will cast slight shadows upon one side of the face exactly as we see in actual life. In a room light strikes the face from definite sources. Outdoors all lighting comes from level sun rays. If on the stage the shadows are not too pronounced the realistic aspect of the acting will be enhanced.
Strip lights at the sides and the front row of border lights are intended to neutralize the shadows cast upward by the footlights. In an interior with a ceiling upon it the front border light is the only one that can be utilized, so it must equal in intensity the footlights. When exterior sets are used this light from the front would cast shadows of every profile of foliage, every leg-drop, every tree form. The other border lights are then used behind each such section. In the rear the back-drop or cyclorama is lighted from above by the last border, or if the row of lights can be masked and no character has to pass behind them, by strips of lights upon the floor.
Further intensification of lighting is usual in all theaters. The spot or flood thrown from the gallery, is shown at its crudest in the vaudeville house. In the gorgeous Chu Chin Chow a large battery of lights, operated artistically from the front of the balcony, enhanced many of the scenes. The Little Theater of New York has dropping sections of the ceiling from which rays can be directed upon the stage. In order to secure wider diffusion of light to produce a more agreeable mellowness some little theaters have wrought-iron brackets projecting into the house from each side of the stage opening. Upon these are hung lanterns, or globes, or some other decorative unit to spread light more widely than the front border can. While some directors suggest the wider use of the auditorium to supplement stage lighting, most directors try to confine lighting to the stage proper, for any extended use of the darkened house is nothing but a return to the early gallery spot, no matter how much modified it may be.
In modern, realistic plays there are employed all kinds of devices to bring out facial expression. Many persons in the audience never know of their presence in the scene. Two men in The Tabloid, by Arthur Eckersley, had an important scene as they stood on opposite sides of a table above which hung a dome light. It was discovered that while this single lighting unit gave exactly the concentrated effect desired in the otherwise dark room, it did not bring out for persons sitting in the audience the tense faces of the two men. A white globe was concealed in a pasteboard box behind a rack of books upon the table to throw a light up to the men's faces. A similar device is the placing of a light behind the foot of a bed to fall upon the heroine's face as she sits up against the pillows. These are simple cases, of course, but other tricks are as usual. When young Baxter of Seventeen stood before the mirror to note his appearance in his father's dress suit, few people realized that an extra amount of light from a spotlight concealed among the foots was turned upon him. So in many so-called realistic productions there are heightening effects. Mrs. Fiske may remark that she did not know for a long time the meaning of the phrase " A little more of the baby on the King," but every other stage performer knows it and isn't happy until he gets it, whether it be really a baby-spot or a full-sized one.
As amateurs deal largely with unusual plays, so they have more opportunities for unusual lighting effects than professionals. All of us have heard of the wonderful effects se-cured by simple means. Maurice Brown always declared that the lighting system of his Chicago Little Theater was extremely simple. Moon rays have been cast across stages from a bicycle lantern covered with green tissue paper. Improvised dimmers have been already mentioned.
With the propensity to romantic, costume, fantastic productions has come the most significant opportunity of amateur stage decorators. A large number of treatises offer help to the beginning experimenter. If he has the equipment, the material, the time, he can work out combinations for himself.
The supernatural offers him his first chance. In combination with the real he has merely to resort to the principle of contrast.
At one time, undoubtedly, a person, if asked to mention the color which connoted the other world, would have mentioned red. While this is fairly common in people's minds, there is a deeper response to the suggestion of the unreality of green. This color has come to be used almost always to aid the appearance of the Ghost in Hamlet, so the amateur director can take a lesson from this. If he is producing Lord Dunsany's A Night at an Inn how shall he evoke the proper awesomeness at the entrance of the dread god Klesh? First of all, to be most arresting, he should enter at the rear. With night outside the Inn it should be easy to have the stage rather darkened. To heighten the supernatural have the door opened by unseen hands to disclose Klesh standing there in a ghastly green light. This can be thrown upon him from a baby-spot suspended just above the door-way, focussed upon him. As he advances slowly into the room, another baby-spot, already hung in the first border and carefully tested before the play began, should be turned upon the upper part of his body. Any shadow should be neutralized. The effect can be further emphasized by the use of phosphorescent paint upon parts of the face and costume. Another method of securing the same effect would be to arrange a headdress projecting somewhat over the face. Under this conceal a small green electric light bulb connected with a small storage battery concealed in the actor's costume. This glow cast downward will give the proper ghoulish tint. The spot of light cast upon the floor will not be too distracting to the spectators. It may even give the impression that the figure moves about in his own supernatural glow.
In a full-length play lighting is likely to be as important as properties. In combination with the scenery it is almost as significant as the play and the acting. Long before the full drama is placed upon the stage for its last rehearsals, the director should hand to the lighting manipulators his specifications, or he should discuss with them exactly what he should like to have. The technicians will then be able to inform him whether he may have all he wants exactly as he has described it, These technical workers, knowing the equipment and its capabilities and flexibility better than he does, will probably suggest modifications, substitutes, and omissions, until a practicable working compromise is evolved. The craftsman detailed to manipulate the lights and all his assistants should know the play from seeing it rehearsed rather than from reading the script. This visualization will—if they be artistically interested—give them ideas for the best reinforcing effects. Their suggestions should always be tried unless they are manifestly impossible of realization or inconsistent with the ideas of the play already instilled and crystallized. Enthusiasts should be curbed until they accept their parts as contributory, not leading ones. If an experimenter is allowed to experiment too long he will become an improviser and stop the play while he ecstatically runs the whole gamut of the lighting range. Before the dress rehearsal, the lighting should be decided upon, the connections should be made, the lights placed, the cues memorized, the changes known. Then a dress rehearsal should do more to smooth a performance than it so frequently does. Most dress rehearsals seem to ruffle people. Actors reach home at two in the morning, while members of the productions committee stay up all night to finish scenery and run wires. This should be corrected, and directors should insist upon an expedition and facilitation of all the mechanical aids to good productions. It is a ridiculous waste of time to have the cast dressed and made-up to start a dress rehearsal at half past seven, and find the electrician of the group just starting to screw colored bulbs into the sockets. If everything had been placed and connected before dinner, there could be a half-hour's experimentation before rehearsal, then no stops need be made during the action to repeat lighting changes. Dress rehearsals are only too frequently more likely to be scenery and lighting rehearsals.
A worse kind of late preparation occurs when the lighting expert and the director change their minds after the dress rehearsal. This is fatal when it should be tried with the action itself, as there is no chance to work it out except in the actual performance. Worse still is the last minute change when everything is ready for the performance to begin. Once I sat in an audience gathered to see three one-act plays. Between the second and third the wait stretched to thirty minutes. From behind the curtains came muffled sounds of moving objects and persons. Then there appeared in the rear of the house the head of the productions committee. When spectators asked if the curtain would open soon they were told no one knew. Author and stage manager had decided to change the lighting and were frantically moving lights about, trying color mediums, rearranging the actors, and in general raising such last-minute confusion that others were deserting the stage in disgust and despair. Neither of the two men seemed to feel any responsibility to the waiting, anxious audience, who should have keenly resented such theatrical mismanagement and discourteous forgetfulness. At times like this—and every amateur organization experiences them—there should be a beneficent tyrant whose word is law. He should order a rapid arrangement, banish the vacillating temperaments from the stage, call " places " to the actors, and give the signal for the curtain.
A person who cannot make up his mind in advance should never be entrusted with the staging of amateur plays.
The first time a director studies a play he may make indications of the lighting. How to carry these out will be settled later in conference with his electrical staff.
A great favorite with skilled amateurs is The Chinese Lantern by Laurence Housman. It gives so much chance for beauty of lighting that it is worth studying for that alone. The three acts take place in the studio of a Chinese artist. This requires an interior with doors, windows, easels, stools, pictures. Only one unusual feature is required by the play. This is a large picture showing a garden, and in the foreground a hanging lantern, a mandolin, and a jar with blossoms. At several points in the play this picture glows with unnatural light, and in it appears the old master who painted it, to utter warning and advice to two of the characters. So far all this is quite easy to construct. But -and this demands ingenuity for its successful accomplishment—into that picture in Act II walks and disappears a young artist, and from it in Act III he returns to claim his sweetheart just before she is married to the fat clown whose soul is set on being a grocer.
Placed about the stage and hanging from the ceilings might be beautiful Chinese lanterns, except that they will not serve for the brightness of full day in which the play opens and ends. Footlights and borders of amber should bathe the colorful stage. Act II opens after sunset. Through the translucent paper covering of the windows a red glow could be thrown from a flood, or a bunch of bulbs. This would have to be reinforced by strong red from foot-lights and borders. As the slave girl goes about stage lighting the lanterns (by turning the buttons of the electric lights in them) the red must be dimmed. Gradually the amber in footlights and borders would replace the red, although a faint tint might be allowed to play upon the window. A little later the drudge is ordered to put out all the lights. If he turns out a few in the lanterns the audience will be prepared for a gradual darkening which is needed for the supernatural effect to be operated with the painting a few minutes later. When the boy who yearns to be an artist is discovered copying the old masterpiece his sketch is torn to fragments. As he lies sobbing on the floor, the lantern in the picture begins to glow, disclosing the great old painter who stretches out his hand and draws the youth into the painting, where both figures disappear. When all the characters rush in and find him vanished they of course light the lanterns, so there is a brilliant stage again.
Act III discloses the studio before dawn. Just the merest dim light from a single bulb in the border would be enough to show the slave-girl asleep on the floor. The first person who enters carries a lantern. It should throw enough light to cover this first part. A later character orders the door opened. Through it should streak the pale light of dawn, reinforced slightly from the front and above. It is again in this dim light that the picture begins to glow and from it steps the former drudge, now resplendent in festal robes. As he and the little slave-girl—really the bearer of a charm to make her husband a great artist—declare their love, the red glow of morning bathes the windows and pours through the door. Again this should be reinforced by the other lights, but not too strongly. Then as the action progresses this red glow is replaced by the amber of bright daylight—but not too quickly—and so the play ends in the brightness with which it began.
The manipulation of the picture would be extremely easy were it not for the requirement of having a character actually step into it and step from it later. If its only mystery were the appearance of its painter in its depths that would be easy. A picture built up of its details and covered with gauze would serve that illusion nicely. The actor, as the old artist, could step from behind some covering foliage. Or if the picture were painted on the gauze, then reproduced on the background, a few lights turned on behind the gauze would bring the standing figure into view. But entrances and exits preclude any gauze covering.
In one amateur production this was quite simply arranged, yet it drew spontaneous applause from audiences of thousands every time it was repeated.
The tone of the studio walls was tan in panels framed in black. In the center of the rear wall was set an open arch some six by seven feet. Behind it about three feet away were hung black velvet curtains. A platform was covered with a dark red rug. Upon this were placed a couple of stools, a tall brilliantly colored jar containing several sprays of pink blossoms, and a mandolin. A lattice work railing painted white set up at the rear of the plat-form threw all these details into high relief in the fore-ground of the supposed painting. Across the velvet curtain was pinned a cut-out paper tree branch painted in rather flat tones. Its foliage dropped and mounted about the black background, which appeared yards away. The lantern which hung at the top of the painting was only half a lantern masking an electric bulb which illuminated the entire upper center of the painting at the proper time. On each side of this built-up painting was a strip of six incandescent lights, the lower two red, the upper four white. These also were turned on only at the proper time. Placed as it was, the furthest thing on the stage from the footlights, continually detracted from by the lines, brilliant costumes, and movements of the actors, this " painting " actually appeared to be one. Just before the old master's appearance, without the audience's being clearly aware of it, the regular stage was darkened as much as possible. At its darkest the old artist slipped sideways into his position. Then, as there were no dimmers on the side strips, two boys, carefully alternating, screwed in the lowest red globes, then those above them, until finally the bulb in the lantern above the opening was turned on, and the artist stood in brilliant view. The entire picture glowed, of course, by contrast with its previous lighting. For the dis-appearance of the character the process was reversed. There was no hurry about it, and the audience was not startled. The change took place before their very eyes, only they could not see, nor could they puzzle out exactly, how it was done.
If you keep your eyes open for such details even when you are most interested in the story of a drama, you will notice a great deal of good lighting, and some astoundingly bad lighting. The most laughable is the way the footlights jump up after the butler has turned the light switch in the wall, and has taken his hand away. This can be so simply remedied that it is a silly error. He should hold his hand on the button until the lights have been turned up at the switch-board. The same rule applies to all kinds of changed lighting caused by the characters in the scene.
Of course, opera has always had its ridiculous practices, and always will have, I suppose, yet it was somewhat of a shock to see in the otherwise excellently managed production of L'Oracolo a glaring fault of lighting. The scene is laid in Hatchet Alley of the San Francisco Chinese quarter. Borders to mask the space above were cleverly devised to represent lines of clothes on ropes. At one side of the stage were a couple of stores, while the other was taken up by the opium den of the villain. Across the stage rear was erected a long piece of scenery representing several tumble down two-storied houses. The lighting was entirely satisfactory and realistic through the early part of the action—so satisfactory and agreeable that a spectator was not even conscious of it. Just before the heroine made her first appearance, an Italian lamp-lighter crossed the stage and with his long stick turned out the street lamp. Quite appropriately the entire stage was darkened at once, and a corresponding hush fell over the audience. The shutters at one of the second story windows were slowly opened and the prima donna appeared. Then came the incongruous lighting. Full upon her was thrown a brilliant small amber light. There was no place on the stage from which such a strange sudden light could originate. As a matter of fact it was thrown from behind one of the house wings. Who ever saw a levelly directed yellow light in a dark night? The incongruity—designed, no doubt, to throw her into high relief—threw' her entirely out of the picture, and as she sang with the conventional gestures of all grand opera, her hands and arms cast grotesque shadows upon her face. When her aria was finished and she was about to dose the shutters, the yellow light vanished as if by magic. The whole proceeding was so prominent in a modern exhibition of stagecraft as to call for more than passing comment.
If the prima donna's contract stipulates that she must be favored by a spot at her first appearance ingenuity should at least invent something more plausible and acceptable than a bald disregard of all common sense. It would be easy to bring in that patch of light, but naturally and artistically. For instance, just before the street lamp is turned out the stage could be bathed in light blue suggesting moonlight. A slight intensification of this would give a reasonable excuse for letting a slightly brighter ray strike upon those shutters before they are opened. Let the character move into the light; never make nature follow her around to " spot " her for a solo just at the proper moment. Another scheme, not quite so romantic in the circumstances, would be to have the room in which the heroine is, bathed in light. If the beams were thrown equally from above and from both sides and from points slightly in front of her, they would have lighted her face well enough to let her singing be heard. As she was singing in Italian, only the melody and quality mattered to the audience. She was not acting in any tense situation, so there was no need to emphasize her facial expression. In sum, there was no reason for this incongruous detail of lighting. If the explanation be given that dawn was coming, that can be answered by saying that dawn does not come in single rays but in a broadly diffused glow. Nor does it disappear after a five minute séance at an opened window.
One of the greatest helps to the director is the scheme of painting with color. In this he actually tints uncolored or neutrally colored scenery and hangings with colored light. Such a scheme cannot be utilized for all kinds of plays, but skilfully employed it produces elements of beauty, which are artistic delights. The method requires delicacy of treatment, for it must be suggestive rather than garish. It also must not interfere with the proper lighting of the characters, nor must it be neutralized by this. Somewhat related to this is a scheme of planes of lights.
To produce such planes more than the usual borders of lights will be needed. Each should project its rays almost vertically downward. Shadows should be neutralized by strong rays from both right and left. I have seen some models—but never stages themselves—ingeniously devised with lights sunk in troughs, or concealed behind low platforms, or profiles, to produce similar planes of lights. These planes extending across stage parallel to the footlights may merely be planes of different intensities, or they may be planes of different colors. If the first—different intensities—they may be used in relation to the emotional phases of the action to emphasize it. If so used, many rehearsals will have to be conducted in this lighting, for characters will have to learn exactly where to stand. If different colors form the planes, the lighting will add to the pictorial effect. Such a scheme—to give only one instance-might be followed for the first scene of The Harlequinade by Dion Calthrop and Granville Barker, representing the banks of the Styx, The back drop or cyclorama could be bathed in the coldest, most mysterious blue, with suggestions of vertical shafts of other colored lights, to indicate vast depths below. The rugged rock profiles and the bare trees might be colored brown and dead gray. Just in front of this there might be a pink section. Then as characters advanced through this the audience would get just a hint of that ruddiness which we all associate with the underworld. Near the front an amber zone would give the air of reality in which the philosopher, newly arrived from earth, might stand, and into which the deities might pass as they decide to leave the dwellings of the dead to come to this world. When Mercury appears brilliant rays from a baby spot-light should be thrown full upon him to emphasize this brilliance.
Amateurs have only begun to sound the possibilities of lighting. They are usually handicapped by lack of space, equipment, means. But they are making progress in spite of many drawbacks and mistakes.
A recently exploited field is the emphasis of dramatic action and emotional stress by a play of lights. Some-what this same attempt has been made in connection with music, and one color symphony has been given in New York. It has not been so successful in musical combinations, perhaps because the sense of sight has never been associated with appreciative listening to music, and also because people are not agreed upon the correspondence of certain tints to definite notes. In drama there has always been the association of ear and eye, so the artistic color manipulator does not have to weld together the two senses. Generations of attendance at performances have already done that for him. We laugh at the crude attempts to reinforce dramatic feeling by incidental music in anything except the most fantastic drama. We shout with derisive glee at " Eliza—crossing-the-ice " music, but we have not fused into drama all the assistance afforded by emotionalized lighting. Some producers have made attempts; some have achieved successes, others have perpetrated disheartening mistakes.
In a Greek tragedy suddenly to shift the color upon the stage from amber to red because the characters begin to discuss war is to jolt the sensibilities, rather than to reinforce them. It would be just as consistent to tinge every sentimental passage with violet or pink tints. Then, to heighten effects there must be an observance of that other essential principle—contrast. An art-director will do well to pause long enough to consider all possibilities before choosing one. Will the darkening effect of red be the best medium to accompany the effects of battle, murder, and sudden death? Might not the revealing coldness of full white sunlight do it better? Did Charles Rann Kennedy succeed with this intention at the conclusion of The Terrible Meek? Evidently, there must always be the appropriate adjustment of means to ends. While color is one of the most fascinating elements of a theatrical production to experiment with, it should be understood that its use must depend upon long and careful and appreciative experimentation. Distance, shadows, basic color of scenery, costumes, movements of performers, feeling, situation, make-up; any single one of these may spoil the result of long calculated combinations. The general use of amber on the stage has changed making-up to look natural under the newer medium.
Even professional producers sometimes make glaring blunders in dealing with lighting matters affecting their performers. Upon a stage containing a large number of women one director threw a peculiar green light, turning his attractive looking company into a sickly, jaundiced hospital ward. A long list of such errors can be made by any observant playgoer. There are the countless scenes in which sunlight pours in at rear windows, yet all the shadows of persons are cast back into the teeth of the brilliant sunlight by the more brilliant footlights. There are the glowing fireplaces before which sentimental scenes are played, yet which never by any chance cast a shadow out into the room. There are the stormy pitch black nights which magically clear into the glorious light of day before you can say " Jack Robinson," as in the last act of Miss Nelly of N'Orleans. There are the elaborate center clusters in drawing rooms which never throw a shadow upon the floor, although nowhere on the stage is there the slightest indication of any other lights to neutralize them. Because of this, many designers of interiors use wall brackets placed so that they naturally destroy shadows. In fact, in most professional productions, all shadows are avoided as taints. One was used to good effect in the cell in Justice by Galsworthy, but this was on a very small stage. There is a good reason behind this professional fear of them. Distances on the regular stage are so great that any shadow of a person swells to enormous size before it is cast upon a surface. The very at-tempt to secure a natural shadow would inject a gigantic spot detracting from the character itself. Lady Gregory in a letter to W. B. Yeats commented on exactly such a circumstance. Of a production of his play The Shadowy Waters she wrote that the only vexing part was a warrior's helmet, which bore immense horns. The black shadow thrown down from these, every time he moved, produced the impression that a black goat was going to lunge at him from the side of the ship. Only within restricted limits can visible shadows be allowed. The small stage of amateurs need not observe this rule as strictly. With its restricted size shadows bear more nearly the same relation to objects that they do in actualness. This gives to the little theater a chance for effects almost impossible upon larger scenes.
The risks attendant upon manipulation of lighting are omnipresent, but the exultation resulting from a telling stroke o'erweighs all the disappointments.