Academy of Production Technology

Professional Development for Theatre
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Broadway Green Alliance Lighting Workshop

Posted by Richard Cadena on March 3, 2012 at 4:40 PM

When I was first invited to speak at the Broadway Green Alliance Lighting Workshop at New York University, I thought I heard that there would be another guest speaker, a Beatle by the first name of James. I was hoping that the rest of his name would be Paul McCartney, as in James Paul, but it turns out, it was James Bedell, the New York City-based lighting designer. But that was actually much better since it was, after all, a Lighting Workshop, not a music workshop.

James spoke about “frugality of design,” pointing out that stage lighting levels has steadily increased over the years for no good reason. The human eye is an incredible instrument that adjusts according to the contrast it sees, and since lighting designers control the environment, we don’t need to use an excessive amount of light to illuminate the stage.

I once had a conversation with Jules Fisher in his office about the same thing. He showed me his original lighting plot for Chicago on Broadway from 1975. He pointed out that today’s shows are much brighter than they were back then. We pondered the reasons for this lumen inflation, and we both agreed it was unnecessary. Lighting design is about creating aesthetically pleasing pictures, and as James pointed out, some of the most striking scenes are the most simple ones, sometimes requiring only a single light source. Check out James’ blog at

For my part, I presented a template for evaluating the environmental impact of lighting products. I also collated data from Mike Wood’s ( product reviews in Lighting & Sound America showing the lumens per watt for various luminaires.

You can view our presentation slides at

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