David Warfel
Lighting A Bright Afternoon
In An English Country House

For a production of “Misalliance” at the University of Illinois, I needed to create a bright afternoon in an English country house. It really needed to be the appearance of no color throughout the show.

Since “no color” doesn’t really exist –even lights without gel have some kind of measureable color – the challenge then becomes a bit more like answering an unanswerable question: finding the right no color.

Fortunately, our perception of color is relative. We can be convinced that just about any color is “white” based on what other colors we see. That makes choosing a natural color palette easier. We don’t really have to match daylight, so long as there are no real windows in our space to give us away.

Roscolux Colors Used:

Roscolux Colors

See all Roscolux colors

RoscoSun 1/8 CTO

Choosing a narrow and unsaturated color palette can add sparkle to a production without being slavish to realism. I made heavy use of director Kathleen Conlin’s term “magic realism” as license to embellish the space with a neutral palette of color.

Light coming in from the windows was tempered with R3410 (RoscoSun 1/8 CTO). This tinged the “sunlight” warmer than in reality, but appeared to be without color to the untrained eye.

The sunlight in a real room would then have bounced off the walls, assuming some of the color of the wall paint. Since this production was in a three-quarters thrust arrangement, there were no interior walls. This gave me the freedom to imagine a wall color. The resulting”bounce” light was then colored with R3216 (1/8 Blue), another pale tint that just slightly alters the temperature of the light.

Roscolux #3208
1/4 Blue

Combined with R3208 (1/4 Blue) for the sky-light, these three colors gave a subtle jewel-like appearance to the scenery and performers without anyone suffering from a blue face or orange hair.

I used another favorite of mine R61 (Mist Blue) for the fill light.

Magic Realism also played out in the fringes of the design with R3315 (Tough ½ Plusgreen). It would be a stretch to claim that sunlight was reflecting off plants deep in the room and casting tinged shadows in true realism, but the use of this subtle color was important to extend sparkle all the way to the audience.

Finally, the color in cyc was R68 (Sky Blue), probably every theatre designer’s favorite cyc color. Hey, when it works, it works!

Biography: David Warfel
David practices lighting design at the convergence of theatre, architecture, and digital media. His eclectic interdisciplinary practice is evident in the variety of work that spans from New York to Los Angeles, from off-loop Chicago to on-the-strip Las Vegas. Multiple seasons with the St. Louis Black Repertory, media and light for Chicago's American Blues Theatre, and projects at the Luxor, MGM Grand, and Rio casinos in Las Vegas join designs for the Hyde ParkArts Center, loft residences, and summer stock to round out a busy but boredom-reducing career.