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My First 'Tour'


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Firstly, I hope this is in the right section of the forum ? Mods please move if not.


Here's the background...

Although it is not totally confirmed yet, A local Am-Dram group is staging "Journeys End" later in the year, initially in our local village hall, but then touring other village halls and a couple of small theaters. They have asked me to design lighting.


I have never worked on a touring show before, only on short runs in one venue, where I was able to tailor the lighting design to the available rig and equipment, and, knowing the venue in great detail (as they're were local), I knew what I was dealing with.


As this is only in it's initial stages (casting, read-through's and now rehearsals), I have not had much involvement as yet.


I understand I may get more informative responses once I have more information from the producer(s), but I was wondering whether there's anything you think I should know about running lighting for a small scale touring show, and any advice you may have.





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One of the most important factors to consider in village halls is power - most of them only have 13 amp sockets and almost definitely won't have a fixed lighting rig in place.


I did a similar tour earlier this year (village halls and a school) and we just took T-bars and a handful of PAR cans (the most we used were about 8; you really can't get away with any more in most venues as once someone turns on that tea urn to prepare for the interval you've got a bit of a problem) and it still looked pretty successful - you're unlikely to get anywhere you can rig from, so stands and portable kit is generally the way to go.


Some of the village halls we rocked up to had their own lighting/sound equipment, but most of them either looked a bit dodgy or were inaccessible - one hall we went to actually had quite a nice setup, but the control room was locked away and nobody had a key. The main feature your system needs is adaptability; if you're touring to theatres and village halls you could go from 8 PAR cans to 50+ generics in one leap.


Good luck,



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When PARs first started being used, people often referred to them as punch lighting. Crude, blunt, but bright instruments. I have no idea why people have got the idea that bunging a few on a T bar stand = Lighting design. The play is set in a trench, in the officer's section. Scenery is usually based on sand bags, duck boards, timber bunks - think Blackadder goes forth. All that is required is lighting that sets the scene, and creates tension, but lets the audience see what the cast are doing - faces are important. So toplight, or at least the impression of toplight is what's needed. If I were touring this around, I'd be looking at low wattage Fresnels, as high as I could get them. Can the set be built to incorporate some adjustable tube that single lanterns can be attached to? This, plus some front light won't cause too many problems power wise. There will be plenty of sound effects and so some way of providing flashes - your par cans hidden behind the set, pointing up could be fine for this kind of thing.


Angles are very important for good lighting, and rarely do T bars let you do this properly.


If you are going to tour the show, presumably you are building the set to fit the venues, so build in the supports for the lights - then they can be the same, or close to, each show, and you can add venue kit, if it functions. The most dramatic lighting I did was outside and all I had were two 500w floods on stands and two on the ground - you don't need clever kit or bags of power if your designs are good.

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I'm going to say right from the top that I've never done a tour of any kind and there are many more people here that know loads more than I do. But - just a wacky idea.


If there's room lengthways and no rigging at all, what about a couple of windup stands, for example manfrottos, front of house a little back from the stage with a steel scaff or piece of truss going between them? Then you could bung a few fresnels up there and you have some front light - would allow you more postions and potentially nicer angles than just off 2 T-bars. Again this may not work but maybe say 6 fresnels run off a single soca down to something like a betapack plugged into the wall rigging on said contraption and voila - some front light.


What are others opinions on this?

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Lighting sets part of the scene for the action, and lets the audience see the action. Talk with the production team and see the rehearsal. Get a good idea of the play aand the set requirements. Design a lighting scheme that fits the action and shows the actors. Then you have to make it tour friendly. The three ways are 1/take it all with you, 2/work with what is there, 3/ telll the receiving house what they will provide! This all depends on the tour contract.


You will need information about the tour venues. If you are touring all the kit then you will need access to electricity and lots of it! If you are using their rig with permission then you will ned to know what is available.


Yes you will have power problems yes you will have a variable stock at each venue, yes you still have to light the same play each time.

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When I've done similar small scale touring I will always do a recce in each venue the show is going as early as possible. Thats the best advice I can give.


Things to look for: power (if any), available lanterns (if any), rigging possibilities (if any), get in/out implicatios (such as stairs and low doors), etc. Once you know what you face then you can start making plans of how you will alter your design to fit these venues and what you have to tour/hire for certain venues.


Unfortunately when touring in town halls/schools it is very hard to keep your original design but try to enjoy the challenge. It is a great opportunity to be creative! ;)

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As before, what is a good idea is try to include some LX built or rigged into the set- even if its just for set dressing rather than being able to light people. Low voltage stuff like birdies etc. In any venue the fundermentals required to power a few birdies should not present a problem - and as such, as lighting designer, you get to keep some element of the design consistant!


Research and prep are your two biggest friends for touring. Call all the venues, get ground plans, notes, tech-specs - and when making calls, always have a laptop or notepad handy, particually for some of the village halls where you might finally get hold of 'Bob; from No.42, who's the man 'who knows about the electrics'.


All the research will enable you to prep what bits of kit you will need for the tour (in terms of power jumpers, rigging, stands etc etc) Needless to say, always take a well packed touring kit / toolcase. Fuses, spare plugs, cable ties, etc etc.


Always try and plan the time well. Make up a prod schedule for each venue and always allow yourself some 'get out of jail free' time - just in case theres a problem. If all goes smoothly then you find yourself with some extra time to enjoy or continue tinkering.!

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Is it worth mentioning the time-honoured "KISS" method of lighting?


"Keep It Simple, Stupid" is good advice on this sort of tour. Instead of trying to do too much, a few basic but evocative lighting states managed with limited lanterns and even more limited power requirements will serve you well.


By the way, have fun. You are reminding me of my first tour--back in my university days in Canada, the Department of Drama managed to get a small government grant to send a show touring rural town halls and schools over the summer--the play had a cast of 5 and there were two "do everything" technicians of which I was one. Set and lighting were kept very basic but we had a great time and even earned a bit of minimum-wage type money. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!



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On the first few days we were working a lot of hours and trying to get a routine going and we were beginning to get a bit fed up with all of it, truth be told - but then with a small company, everyone does their bit and we all started to really bond together, and each day's IN got quicker and quicker. We started to enjoy it more, particually the miles up and down the motorways - chatting and generally having a lot of fun.


The shows went well and I think the biggest drama from one of the village halls was a powercut - not from overloading!!


The No.1 tours might be big budget and high tech - and I love doing them as well, but theres nothing quite like the small scale 'closeness' you get. As the man said - enjoy it! ;)

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