Performing in the Dark - Archived Post

Curtis The MentalistHire A Magician or MentalistLeave a Comment

Stage Lighting Should Not Suck

The importance of good, quality stage lighting for live performances can never be stressed enough.  

If a performer cannot be easily seen or heard during a performance, it is pointless to even have a show. 

I had some fun recently performing for a great group of people in a small town at one of their local theaters.  They worked hard promoting my show and doing all that they could to bring something fun and out-of-the-ordinary to their small town.  I enjoyed the show and meeting many of the people.  Oftentimes, it’s the intimate and smaller performances for me that I enjoy more than large audiences of people who expect to be highly entertained, then walk away don’t really give a shit after it’s all said and done.  A small audience who gets to know you and appreciates you is much better than a large crowd who almost always forgets your name anyway and doesn’t care if they ever see you again.  It may not be “better” financially, but not all performances need huge financial rewards.

The downside is that most of the time these venues are ill-equipped from a technical standpoint.  This creates problems such as poor sound and lighting, which makes for a less than stellar performance, which makes people not want to come back to other events at those venues.  It’s a problem that makes for further problems.   

Good Lighting and Sound Equipment

If there’s one thing (or perhaps TWO things) that venues should never skimp on, it is SOUND and LIGHTING equipment. 

That doesn’t mean it’s necessary to spend exorbitant amounts on state-of-the-art stuff.  It simply means it should be of good enough quality–or at least set up in a proper manner–that it doesn’t hamper whatever performance you are selling to your guests; regardless of whether it’s a band, a play, an concert of an orchestra, a comedian, mentalist, or what-have-you.  As mentioned earlier, if the performers cannot be clearly seen and heard, there’s really no point in having a performance at all.  NONE.

The best way to test this is to take a look at what the lighting and sound equipment does to people working in the actual performance space.  Set up the area to the EXACT way that you are going to have it during the show and BEFORE the performance is to happen and look at it carefully.  Can you see the performers’ faces?  Are there huge shadows?  Does the microphone feedback or cut out when they walk to certain areas? Are there dead spots?  What does it look like from the BACK of the room as well as the FRONT?  Pretend you’re a spectator watching the show and have people walk around the space.  That is exactly how it will look and sound to your guests.  Is it acceptable?  If it isn’t then adjust it to make the best of it, remembering that being seen and heard WELL is a MINIMUM requirement for any decent presentation.  Sometimes, regular house lighting is the best overall solution! 

Performers, Notify Your FACE!

As the photo above demonstrates, the lighting at this performance was nothing but ridiculously bright footlights, which was limited to only about a 50 square foot area of the stage and cast huge shadows on the back screen and left the vast majority of the stage in the dark.  Two other performers that went before me were amateurs and had no concept or awareness of the feel of stage lighting on themselves as performers, and consequently walked around and performed in the dark most of the time.  The audience could not see their expressions, and much of their comedy was completely lost.  They were totally unaware that when they walked out of the lights and into the dark, that the audience could not see them! 

This lighting would have been great if I were reciting poems from Edgar Allan Poe, or telling ghost stories.  It was horrible, however, for the type of show we were endeavoring to have.  But I was aware of it and worked as best as possible to stay within the lighting boundaries so that everyone could see and perceive what I was doing on stage.

As a performer, if you cannot feel the light on your face, or are not practically blinded by the stage lights, then your face is in the dark.  And dark is not good.  Time for performers to educate their face on such matters. 

Lighting Should Not Suck

There is a difference between poor lighting, and lighting that is so bad that it distracts from the performance.

Though neither one is really acceptable, poor lighting is better than lighting that totally sucks.  Lighting that casts huge shadows, makes a face look green or sickly, or otherwise distorts the desired perception of the performer, speaker, etc.,  is lighting that “sucks.”  

Lighting that sucks will likely make for a show that sucks, regardless of how great the performer is at their craft.

It takes both a good tech crew and performer to produce a great show.  One man or woman can’t do it all.    

About the Author

Curtis The Mentalist

Facebook Twitter Google+

Curtis Waltermire is a professional entertainer, who combines hilarious cartoon-like humor and antics with mind-blowing demonstrations of exceptional mental ability. Unlike many of his peers in the mystery arts, he makes no attempt to convince anyone that what he does is REAL. His one-man, comedy mind reading show has been performed for hundreds of corporate and private audiences throughout the United States since the late 1980s. He wears many hats and often refers to himself as a "Mentalist/Grandpa/Cool Dad & Above-Average Husband." He can be found on the web at

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.