Panel 1: Dramaturgy and Audience Experience of Light
Paper title: Performing Houselights: The Design and Atmosphere of Going Dark
Abstract: In 2014 the Savoy Theatre in London became the first West End theatre to install LED house lighting. The replacement of the previous lighting system reduced the Savoy’s energy use by 90% and delivered a smoother dimming curve, creating a slicker plunge to darkness. Yet, in the design and installation of the new system, a great effort was invested in replicating the cosy and warm feeling generated by the previous lights bulbs. But why? What is the significance of houselights in relation to the overall theatrical experience?
In this provocation I make the case for the design of houselights in performance and consider their role in the production of atmosphere(s). While houselights are often quickly diminished at the start of the event, they do not only signal the start of the performance. Building on Gernot Böhme conceptualisation of atmosphere (1993; 2013) and Tim Edensor’s examination of how lighting design fosters atmosphere(s) (2015), I will propose that houselights equally play an important part in setting the tone and establishing the atmosphere(s) of/for the performance. By observing different (houselights) designs, I will suggest that lighting design should also – when possible – extend beyond the stage; since, much like the design of lighting on stage, the colour, angle, intensity and glow of light in the auditorium could contribute to the dramaturgy of the piece as well as its aesthetic and affective experiences.
Biog: Yaron Shyldkrot is a practitioner-researcher undergoing a FASS-funded practice-as-research PhD at the University of Surrey, exploring dramaturgies of uncertainty and theatre in the dark. Yaron holds an MA in Advanced Theatre Practice from RCSSD and currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA). As a performance maker, he works as a director and dramaturg and co-founded Fye and Foul, a theatre company exploring unique sonic experiences, darkness and extremes. www.yaronshy.com