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:
NONE OF THE FOLLOWING MAY BE REPRODUCED
WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR ©
- 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.
- 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.
- To prevent this from happening again, you send the broken locks
and all their keys to metal recycle, intending to buy a new lock
and keys for the next tour so as to completely replace the old.
However, in your haste and frustration (and unknown to you), one
of those keys you recycled several thousand kilometres before
arriving home was actually your house key. So after an exhausting
tour and a longing for your own bed, you discover while standing
in a sea of suitcases on your doorstep that you are locked out
of your house... and you have already sent the taxi away;
... Oh, and your cell phone battery is dead.
- 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
- 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 frame short.
- The number of Masters of Ceremony at the lectern will always be one
more than for what you have allowed, so one of them will always be
- Trying to get around this, you decide to light for more than
the supposed number of MCs. Of course whenever you do this,
there will always be fewer than was stated to you. As a result,
excess light extends well beyond the lectern, unnecessarily
diluting the rest of your carefully thought-out looks.
- 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.
- The available dimmers will always turn out to be one channel fewer
than the number your design specifies, resulting in frequent swap patches.
- 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
- The single light for which you have no spare lamp is the only one
that will burn out.
- It will be the most critical light in the production.
- Even if you do have a spare lamp with you, the burn-out will
have happened just after the start of the show when you have
no way to get to the unlit fixture.
- The number of available headsets will always turn out to be one
fewer than the number of followspots you are required to call.
- The night when one spot operator fails to show will coincide
with the failure of one of those headsets, so you will still
be one short.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- The likelihood of you missing an important lighting cue is directly
proportional to the size of the audience.
- It is also proportional to the importance of
the people in that audience.
- ... and is also proportional to the significance of
the artists on stage.
- The only place open to eat after your show will have closed 5 minutes
before you arrive.
- The 24-hour gas station or convenience store at which you end
up will have nothing in stock that you like at that hour.
- After spending money on unwanted, prepackaged, overpriced gas
station food, you find out that the promoter is providing meals
for the crew -- at any hour of the day!
- The 5-minute repair you decide to tackle two hours before a show will
end up taking two hours and 5 minutes.
- Because the show is 5 minutes late starting, it concludes 5
minutes late, so when you finish at the end of the night, the
one place available at which to eat will have closed 5 minutes
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Because it took longer to pack up, the one place available for
a meal will have closed 5 minutes before you arrive.
- 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
- The management is finally able to supply a cot but
it jams and will not open, so you end up sleeping
on the floor.
- Because of all the time wasted with the uncooperative cot,
you just get to sleep in time for your wakeup call.
- 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.
- Many of the crew have cell-phone cameras, but the latter's
inability to be able to record accurately in low-light
conditions means that the resulting images betray your
stories of grandure and become an embarrasment.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- This charity show, you would now prefer to blow off, will fall
at a point when a substitute lighting director is unavailable.
Or if a substitute is available, he or she is unacceptable for
either the charity gig or for the one day you would miss of
the potential production of your career. Thus, you are unable
to agree to light the desired gig.
- The charity show is on some airport-less island where ferry
service is only available every seventh day. Although the
potential show of your career is scheduled to start the day
after the charity gig, the island's boat will leave for a week
the morning of the evening you will be finished, so you are
still unable to accept work for the desired show.
- 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
- Because you wasted so much time trying to find something to do,
the one available restaurant in the hotel will have closed 5
minutes before you decide to go there.
For More Serious Thoughts: