Lights, camera ... action! Interview with Luis Perdiguero, director of the Postgraduate Course in Stage Lighting Design

Imagine the situation. We are at the door of a large theatre following the premiere of a highly anticipated work. Once the show is finished, people start to file out of the theatre. What will the audience’s first comments be? We will probably hear many “the leading actor’s performance was spectacular”, some “the director perfectly managed to bring the original text into the contemporary world”, and even a few “the costumes and decorations were very well made”. Anything else? No? No "the light was incredible" or "the play between light and shade was amazing"?

Despite what many may think, light is a key element in performing arts, including theatre, music and dance. Maybe at first very few people see how essential lighting is in a stage performance, but after giving it some thought we can soon realise that none of the other factors could stand out so much without a good design of light and shade on the stage. Light is the great hidden protagonist on stage. It is a unique creator of atmospheres; it is in itself a visual art.

And this is what is taught by Luis Perdiguero and other specialised teachers in the Postgraduate Course in Stage Lighting Design that he directs and that is part of the Master in Lighting Design.


Luis studied Audiovisual Communication at the Complutense University of Madrid and outside teaching works as a Technical Director and Lighting Designer. Since 1990, he has focused on the field of theatre and some of the shows in which he has worked are now touring Spain, such as Los esclavos de mis esclavos, Tarzán el Musical and Triángulo Azul. We spoke with him so that he could give us his opinion about the future of his profession and for him to tell us more about the course that he directs.

The world of stage lighting is very broad and is moving forward by leaps and bounds with new technologies. How has it evolved and in what direction?
New technologies have been introduced in all aspects of our daily lives and performing arts are no exception to this evolution and, more specifically, lighting for shows is one of the drivers of this development. New lighting equipment, new work tools, creative processes developed by newer applications, a prior approach to the proposals before they are started up, cost savings in production etc. In short, they help light to be seen before it materialises on the stage.

What does stage lighting encompass? Are we only talking about light?
Light is everything on the stage. Like a brush on a painting, light helps a space to come alive. Knowing it, interpreting it, feeling it as part of our creative identity will allow everything that it touches to have dramatic meaning. The power that light has to transform, texturise and build a space allows us not only to light it up, but also to illuminate. We are not only talking about light; stage lighting mean space, depth, colour, atmospheres, feelings, and sensations. Light is our dramatic brush.

What aspects of a stage does a Lighting Designer control and why is it so important?
Lighting designers are the people responsible for bringing together the creative aspects of a show, giving them dramatic unity through atmospheres created by light. A show’s Lighting Design searches for its meaning and creates a reality. A costume, a set design and even a sound space can be wonderfully defined by the creative atmospheres provided by lighting or the effect as a whole can be ruined. Mastering these aspects is a fundamental part of a lighting designer’s work.

Who is the Postgraduate Course in Stage Lighting Design aimed at? What professional opportunities will be available to the students?
The course is aimed at those people who want to use lighting as a tool for expression and to use it to create their own identity through a meaningful language. People with degrees and diplomas and professional experience in the artistic field and visual arts, stage directors, show producers, performing artists, show technicians, architectural lighting designers, plastic artists etc. It will be a course which, through the best working professionals and designers, will establish the foundations for designing lighting for shows.

One of the newest aspects of the course is the teaching of WYSIWYG - What You See Is What You Get - what is it and why is it so important?
When we talk about new technologies and lighting, we are talking about tools which provide us with advances when working with light. When we talk about WYSIWYG, we are talking about a lot more. Light used to be in our thoughts, now light is visible in a virtual reality.
Many stage directors are surprised when they are able to see the lighting in their show before it reaches a stage, even before it starts to be set up. But in the same way that the technician is surprised by having all the information of the show broken down in detail or the producer sees how the production costs are reduced by the forecasts made before the stage is set up.
As creators, it allows us to test, play, work, improvise, make a prior design in a 3D reality which exactly matches what will later be seen on the stage. It even allows us to make a prior recording of the show in order to be able to build upon a very tight working base, to the extent that it is often what will eventually be used on stage with minimal adjustments.

Today, an application whose use is essential. Not being involved in this way of working is an unforgivable creative ignorance.

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