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scene design and stage lighting

The Eighteenth Century

With the Enlightenment in the mid-18th cent. there was a revival of classicism, and the unity of place was strictly observed by designers. They experimented with strong darks and lights and tried for the first time to infuse their designs with atmosphere. Toward the end of the century the curtain was first lowered to change the scene, and the scrim (gauze drop that becomes transparent when lit from behind) came into use.

Lighting became a problem only when the theaters were entirely enclosed. At that time lights (torches, candles, oil lamps) and reflectors surrounded the stage, and footlights came into use. Later chandeliers and candelabras became fashionable. Much use was made of colored lights made with mirrors reflecting colored water; shadows were painted on the flats. The auditorium itself was not darkened for the performance.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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