Lighting Control Positions

This page contains information on the position of lighting controls systems in theatres, generally in the second half of the Twentieth Century.

London Theatres 1961

Information from: Reid, Francis. Yesterday’s Lights: A Revolution Reported. Cambridge: Entertainment Technology Press, 2005.

This information was gathered by FR while researching a new control system for Glyndebourne.

Theatre Control Position Notes
London New Theatre [Now the Albery Theatre] Not stated, but probably Strand CD. 154 ways Control room, rear of stalls p.43 “Dimmer bank situated at fly floor level. Desk in room at back of stalls. View of stage impaired by overhanging balcony – curious feeling of detachment from stage and impossible to see faces of characters on rostra, even when downstage.”
London Aldwych Theatre (Royal Shakespeare Company) Strand CD/TH/II, 120 ways OP box, next to stage p.44-5 “Dimmer bank under stage.Console situated in OP box next to stage, giving a side view of apron stage and restricted view of main stage – but feeling of contact with the stage. Also, being on the opposite side of the stage to the stage manager in the prompt comer, operator and SM have view of the entire stage area between them. Nevertheless, console operator cannot judge total effect of his lighting.”

German, Belgian and Austrian Theatres 1961

Information from: Reid, Francis. Yesterday’s Lights: A Revolution Reported. Cambridge: Entertainment Technology Press, 2005.

This information was gathered by FR while researching a new control system for Glyndebourne.

Theatre Control Position Notes
Hamburg Staatsoper AEG 240-way thyratron board installed in 1956 Control desk in cabin off the stage right lighting tower. Master desk here and also duplicated in lighting box at the rear of the auditorium. p.46-7 “Watched Act 4 from FOH lighting box. Master desk not used but cues given by microphone with timing counted down by microphone. from box to backstage.”"Last cue would have been much smoother if done from a position where the operator could see the stage.”"Cues operated from the backstage lighting cabin, talked down by the beleuchtungsinspektor from the FOH box. He did not use his own masters and this seemed a pity as some of the fading seemed visually rough to me although operated strictly to time.”
Hamburg ThaliaTheater Refurbished 1960 Schauspielhaus playing drama repertoire. Siemens Mag Amps, 120 ways, 4 presets Control room at rear of circle.
Berlin Deutsche Oper, opened 1961 Lighting control desk in cabin on OP perch – far too small, with control boards built vertically rather than horizontally which seems to make operation more difficult … A small master desk faces the stage with a view whose restriction varies with the type of scenery. This master desk is repeated in the producer’s box at the back of the auditorium. p.50 “Seemed to me to be too many uncoordinated control desks in flys, on stage, under stage, etc. Co-ordination so bad that I suspect there is too much departmental independence in performance.”
“The extraordinary thing is that there are master faders in the production box but (as in Hamburg) they don’t use them.”
Vienna Staatsoper Bordoni (as per the old control at Glyndebourne). 280 ways. PS Perch. “with master control at the onstage end from where chief operator has excellent view.” p.51 Illustration of Bordoni board.
Nuremberg Schauspielhaus
“recently converted from a cinema”
Siemens Mag Amps, 4 presets Electrics control room is FOH centre behind stalls
Nuremberg Opernhaus Bordoni, but about (1961) to change to a Siemens Mag Amp. “The control room is being constructed at the back of the circle by enlarging a room at present used as a production box.
Stuttgart Staatstheater “Board is an ancient AEG auto-transformer, (160 ways, 110 volts)” On the prompt side perch. “Impressed by the sensitive operation of the board. Despite its age and inconvenience, the two operators got good results; limited perhaps but well executed within the limitations of the equipment.”
Mannheim Nationaltheater – Grosses Haus Siemens Mag Amp, 240 ways, 8 presets “Control room at back of stalls with superb view of the stage.” “Watch performance of Lohengrin from here: quite an elaborate plot with a good deal of projection of swans and heavenly rays. Impressive to see such a complex plot so relaxedly handled by one operator. Almost converted to a Siemens board tonight but logic prevails and I still feel that it is just a large board made small rather than the new control philosophy that must develop from the possibilities of all-electric dimming.”
Frankfurt Schauspielhaus Bordoni “The board is a motorised Bordoni with the speed controls and motor switches in a tiny cabin within the orchestra rail so that the operator has a complete, if rather low and close, view of the stage.”
Cologne Opernhaus Siemens Mag Amp End of perch
Münster Stadtheater AEG, 120 ways FOH (but not specified exactly where)
Brussels Monnaie ADB tracker wire, auto-transformers Cabin on OP Perch
Liege Opera ADB Mag Amp Perch cabin

UK Theatres, late 1960s

Information from: Reid, Francis. Yesterday’s Lights: A Revolution Reported. Cambridge: Entertainment Technology Press, 2005, pp.81-3

This information was gathered by FR while a freelance LD.

Theatre Control Position Notes
Liverpool Empire 96 way Grandmaster Perch Flood battens and Acting Area floods over stage, plus 12 Patt 43 on No.1 bar.
Eastbourne Congress Theatre 72 way PR Rear of stalls 12 Patt 223 on No.1 bar, then battens.
Golders Green Hippodrome Grandmaster
Brighton Theatre Royal 120 way Major grandmaster
Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham 120 way CD Rear of stalls
Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon 144 way electronic FoH

N.B. The original source contains more details of lanterns, etc., than shown here.

UK Theatres, misc.

Theatre Control Position Notes
Birmingham Hippodrome MMS, 120 ways (the first theatre installation of MMS, 1974. Stage box Ref. Reid, Francis. Yesterday’s Lights: A Revolution Reported. Cambridge: Entertainment Technology Press, 2005, p.104. The position “gives the operator a tremendous feeling of involvement in the show.”
Manchester Palace Theatre Light Palette, 240 ways. Control room at rear of auditorium Ref. Fred Bentham, “Pitlochry, Manchester and Puddledock”, Sightline, 15:2 (Autumn 1981), London: ABTT.