Atlantic Illumination Entertainment Lighting

Murphy's Laws
Entertainment Lighting

As one progresses through a career lighting the
performance stage, some misfortunes will ultimately
befall one. Here is a humourous look at a few of these.

(For those of you not familiar with Mr. Murphy and his laws,
essentially the name is representative of the fact that
anything that can go wrong, at some point will.)

Here are two dozen plus examples:


  1. You decide to do a computer-aided lighting design and are so into trying to keep up with the looks flooding from your brain that you fail to save the work at any time. After several hours of creativity not seen for a decade, you attempt to save your work but the system blue-screens just at that instant.

  2. You double and triple check to make sure you have the keys for every locked item you are taking on tour. This is because the last time, a lock had to be destroyed in order to open a drawer for which no key had been packed. However, for this tour you have forgotten that the lock has now been replaced and the key you packed is for the old, destroyed lock. So the new lock has to be deliberately broken the first day of the tour.


  3. You carefully measure to the millimetre every piece of gear so as to be sure it will all fit into the truck. After the vehicle is packed and you are ready to leave for the tour, you realise that you have neglected to allow space for your extra suitcase and some other personal items. Thus, you end up having to wear the same clothes for the duration of the tour, and the schedule is so tight that you can't find the time to shop for more.

  4. The one crucial gel colour you choose to use in a show will be the one of which your on-hand stock is exactly one sheet short.

  5. The number of Masters of Ceremony at the lectern will always be one more than for whom you have allowed, so one of them will always be under lit.


  6. The chain hoists you specify for a show are based upon someone's adamant statement of the venue's ceiling height. Of course, it will turn out to be three metres higher than the length of the chains -- and neither you nor the venue will have a suitable ladder.

  7. The available dimmers will always turn out to be one channel fewer than the number your design specifies, resulting in frequent swap patches.

  8. After load-testing the circuits in a small venue that only has 15-amp, U-ground wall outlets available for power, you are satisfied that the electrical breaker limit will not be exceeded by the lights you connect. During every rehearsal, power is steady with no interruptions. Yet on opening night with a paying audience, one breaker trips continually throughout the performance. It turns out that an actor in a dressing room has innocently plugged a hairdryer into a previously-hidden outlet. This ordinarily would not be a problem except some thoughtless electrical designer has connected it with one of the ones used by you in the performance area.

  9. The single light for which you have no spare lamp is the only one that will burn out.


  10. The number of available headsets will always turn out to be one fewer than the number of followspots you are required to call.


  11. Although you have brought extra worklights, they have been handed out to needy musicians and to others that never seem to be aware that it will be dark backstage. Shortly after you give out the last one, your only lighting console worklight fails and you end up having to do the show with a flashlight between your teeth.

  12. You will be the only person who does not get the revised script. (Lighting people are the last to get anything, if they even receive it at all.)

  13. It has been promised that you will get a credit. If your name actually makes it into the program, it will be mis-spelled or mis-attributed. In the case of an announced credit, the MC will misplace the paper with your information, or will find it in a little-used pocket after he gets home.

  14. The likelihood of you missing an important lighting cue is directly proportional to the size of the audience.


  15. The only place open to eat after your show will have closed 5 minutes before you arrive.


  16. The 5-minute repair you decide to tackle two hours before a show will end up taking two hours and 5 minutes.


  17. When disassembling a light for a major overhaul, any small part dropped will always end up underneath a larger object -- and be inaccessible when finally located. Blocking that inaccessible area will only result in that small part finding another inaccessible place in which to roll.

  18. The "experienced" members of the crew, as were promised to you, will not know clockwise from counter-clockwise, or a flat washer from a lock washer. To make it worse, they will have to be personally shown what to do because they never learned to follow verbal instructions. This is, if they even show up and are not drunk.

  19. The strike crew assigned to you will always appear at the end of your show on time and be sober -- except for any night where you barely have enough time to pack up, travel to the next gig, and get set up there.


  20. The hotel room you specify for yourself and a crew member (whom you belatedly discover to have taken an unwanted romantic interest in you), turns out to only have one bed. You are not interested in a liaison with this crew member and so you issue repeated requests to the management for a room with two beds. They go unfulfilled because it is their busy season and none are available. Thus you end up with an apprehensive night of no rest.


  21. The lighting design of which you are most proud never gets recorded because, in your exuberance, you forget to pack your camera. Due to the fact that you told everyone you were providing a camera, no one else brings one and so in the future, the show is only seen in people's memories. These of course falter over time, so no one completely remembers the great design you created.


  22. Since you have been having so many troubles with Mr. Murphy, and also not getting as much work as you'd like, you decide to go back to theatre school to study an area of the industry having very few qualified persons. Of course, by the time you receive your degree and get certified, the field is overflowing with qualified personnel, so you still can't find any work.

  23. You have been contracted to light a revival of a major show you designed and operated in the 1990s. It is specified that the lighting is to be exactly the same as it was at that time. Being smart back then, you saved every lighting plot, cue, and board setting from that era of your career on to both floppy discs and zip-drive cartridges.

        They were carefully packaged and sealed, then stored in a bank safety deposit box for the day when they might be called upon to save you eons of work. Sadly, an enthusiastic hobbyist has placed his very expensive and exceptionally large collection of refrigerator magnets in the box adjacent to yours.

  24. The one time after you bindingly agree to light a one-night, no-pay, no-glory charity show will be the time when the production you have waited all of your career to light will be offered to you.


  25. The one day you have off during a six-month tour will see you in some small village with no Internet or cell services, on a Sunday when there is nothing open, during the storm of the century so you can't go outside, staying in a hotel with no bar, no entertainment and no gambling... and the only television channel is in some language you don't understand.


For More Serious Thoughts:
Lighting Essays

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