Technical Theatre Lighting Lesson Plan

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Educate your students about technical theatre lighting with this helpful lesson plan. They will study two text lessons, take two related quizzes, and participate in activities that will help to reinforce concepts.

Learning Objectives

After studying this lesson, your students will be able to:

  • Describe many of the changes in theatre lighting since the 16th century
  • Explain some of the equipment used in lighting and related terminology
  • Name several people who changed theatre lighting with their inventions


1-1.5 Hours


Key Vocabulary

  • Accent lighting
  • Candles
  • Cyclorama
  • Fixtures
  • Footlights
  • Lamps
  • Limelight
  • Producing the Play
  • Snoot
  • Wash lighting

Curriculum Standards


Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.


Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.


Compare and contrast the experience of reading a story, drama, or poem to listening to or viewing an audio, video, or live version of the text, including contrasting what they 'see' and 'hear' when reading the text to what they perceive when they listen or watch.


  • Inform your students they are going to be learning about theatre lighting.
  • Ask them if anyone is familiar with the subject.
  • Review the ten key vocabulary terms.

Lesson One

  • Pass out copies of the text lesson Theatre Lighting: History & Design.
  • Read the introduction and the first section titled 'Shedding Light on the Story.'
    • What was the first form of lighting for ancient storytelling?
  • Next, read the section 'Advances in Power Sources.'
    • Where and when were candles used to light theatres?
    • What two items did they fill?
    • What are footlights?
    • In the 1780s what replaced candles?
    • What replaced oil lamps in 1816?
    • What replaced gas lamps in the 1870s?
  • Now read the section 'Innovations in Lighting Fixtures.'
    • The calcium light is better known by what name?
    • When did it become popular?
    • What powered carbon arc lamps?
    • When were they used?
    • What powers incandescent spotlights?
    • When were they first used?
    • Are they still used in modern times?
  • Next, read the section 'Innovators in Lighting Design.'
    • For what was Adolph Appia known?
    • For what was Maude Adams known?
    • For what was Abe Feder known?
  • Lastly, read the section 'Lesson Summary', recap the entire lesson, and answer any relevant questions.
  • Have your students take the lesson quiz to demonstrate understanding.

Lesson Two

Pass out copies of the text lesson Theatre Lighting: Equipment & Terms

  • Read the introduction and the first section 'Let There Be Light!'
    • For what three things do lighting professionals utilize their equipment?
  • Now read the section 'Basic Terms.'
    • What are lamps and related fixtures?
    • For what is a cyclorama used?
    • What are patterns?
    • What are gels?
    • What are shutters?
    • How is a snoot utilized?
  • Next, read the section 'Equipment.'
    • What are the four types of equipment common to lighting systems?
    • What is accent lighting?
    • What is the difference between ellipsoidal spotlights and followspots?
    • What is wash lighting?
    • What five fixtures are used for wash lighting?
  • Finally, have your students read the section 'Lesson Summary', review the whole text lesson, and answer any pertinent questions.
  • Have your students take the lesson quiz to demonstrate their understanding.

Activity One (optional if available)

  • Inform your students you will be visiting the school theatre to view the different types of lighting.
  • Arrange in advance for someone from the theatre department who has lighting expertise to meet you there.
  • Ask your students which type of lighting is available that was also discussed in the two text lessons (each theatre may be different)
  • Ask your students if they have any final comments or questions about theatre lighting.

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