Performing Light began as a one-day symposium at the University of Leeds in January 2017. Through that event we aimed to enable wide and reflective conversations about the role of light in performance, and to consider its position in professional theatre making and within performance studies. We continue to maintain an ambition to facilitate conversations about light in performance from multiple perspectives and will keep updating this site as we organise further events.

The description for the original symposium is below, and the abstracts and speaker biographies are available through the link at the top of the page.

Video recordings of the January event are available through this link.


This one-day symposium will bring together a wide range of scholars and practitioners in order to facilitate conversations about light in performance. Emerging from a scholarly context in which there is a growing critical understanding of the contribution of light to performance and the value of light as an area of research, this event will address both the current state and the future potential of light research. Bridging considerations of both research and practice, this symposium aims to directly relate scholarly research to contemporary professional work, asking how research and practice might usefully inform each other.

Questions we aim to address through the panel sessions include:

* How can the effect of this most ephemeral of materials be translated into knowledge?
* What methods can we use to research light in contemporary performance?
* What is it that light actually does in performance?
* How do we research the role of light beyond the experience of live performance?
* What kind of language can we use to disseminate research about light?
* Practice-specific questions – what is (should be? could be?) the role of the lighting designer in contemporary models of practice? To what extent can a lighting designer be the auteur of a work?

The event will serve both immediate and longer-term goals in the field: first, to collate diverse contemporary research on light, and second to instigate an international network of light researchers. In the short term we hope that this individual symposium will provide a discussion forum for contemporary thinking about light, leading to the publication of an edited collection and/or a special issue of a journal. In the long term, our aim is to form an international network of scholars and practitioners developing research on light in performance. Beyond the immediate discipline of light, contemporary research positions an expanded scenography as a mode of understanding performance, an affective element influencing an audience’s interpretation of a given work through embodied experience. Scenography, then, represents an increasingly significant area of study in theatre and performance, of which the study of light is a small but expanding constituent. Although the study of light currently represents a relatively niche area of scholarship, it encompasses a wide range of methodological and conceptual approaches. Research into light in performance spans multiple questions of scenography, dramaturgy, technology, historiography, materiality, perception, aesthetics, visuality, praxis, semiotics and phenomenology. The richness of these approaches is reflected in the work of our invited speakers and through the themes of our curated sessions. However, this diversity of approaches also points to the scholarly importance of holding a dedicated research symposium. With such myriad approaches, light research lacks a scholarly home. This symposium, and the resulting research network, would foster connections between established and emerging academics in the field, inviting a productive expansion of contemporary research into light in performance. Within this context, it is especially important to develop and disseminate research on light as a vital and transformative aspect of performance.

The symposium has been kindly sponsored by the Association of Lighting Designers, ETC, and the Performance and Place research group in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries at University of Leeds.

Home page image:
Conceal|Reveal at Sadler’s Wells
Lighting design by Michael Hulls
Photograph by Hugo Glendinning