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The Full Story

Lighting and Sound
for The Nutcracker

How does the team prepare the lighting and sound and other technical effects for The Nutcracker? Read on to find out:


Early planning...

Tech meetings start soon after casting is complete in August.  All our crew heads get together to start talking about the plan for this year’s production – what is needed, what we already have, and what new things we are doing to freshen up the show. 

Lighting is a big part of the audience experience.   It needs to help set the scene while also highlighting the dancers.  Hundreds of stage lights are used during the show so planning for this must begin early – with discussions about colors of set pieces and costumes, scene changes, and understanding “blocking” (the locations of dancers during various parts of the show).

Our lighting designer, Ken Fox, starts attending run-throughs of various parts of the show a month or two before the production, as soon as the scenes start coming together.  He and our Artistic Director, McKenna Sevruk, also meet to talk through her vision of the show – who enters and exits where and when, at what point in the show does she plan to have stage curtains opening and closing, where blackouts need to be used and if there are certain colors or “moods” she may have in mind for various scenes.  From these meetings and observations, Ken starts to build a “cue list” – a series of instructions for the Performing Arts Center lighting and sound technicians that specifically call out what needs to happen and when.  For a ballet, these cues (instructions to start, stop or change lighting or sound) are usually precisely timed to the music or with dancer entrances or exits.

Image: Dancers warm up under the stage lights

Sound and Rigging

Sound design involves capturing high-fidelity recordings of the score and cutting out unused sections, adding or extending tracks, or adjusting the speed and timing to match the director’s vision or choreography.

Rigging cues are also planned out to coincide with lighting and scene changes.  The fly system consists of counterbalanced battens (horizontal pipes suspended on ropes) that can be moved up and down to raise and lower scenery hung from them, hiding or bringing pieces into view.  Stage curtains, scenery flying in and out, and even our “snow” is all operated by a rigging technician just off the stage and timed precisely with other cues to ensure a seamless experience for the audience.

Image:  Ken edits an audio track waveform in preparation for the production

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Production Week

When we get to the theatre, audio tracks are uploaded and prepared, the lighting for each scene is programmed into the light board so cues can be called up in order during the performances, and we start rehearsing the scene changes with lighting, sound, rigging, stage technicians, and the dancers.  This takes many individual scene rehearsals as well as full run-throughs to ensure everything is just right for opening night.

We can’t wait to see it all come together this year – and we hope you’ll get to see it too!


Image: In the Tech Booth at the theatre - controls for lighting, sound and other effects

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