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 ©
- CAD 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.
- The Pack 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
time to shop for more, or to launder.
- Key Order When on the road, if you are the keeper
of the keys, no matter in what order you place the various rings of keys
inside your pocket or waist wallet, the set you want at any given time will
always have worked its way to the bottom.
- Colour Choice 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
- Extra MC 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.
* 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 planned looks.
- Trim Height 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.
- Channeling The available dimmers will always turn
out to be one channel fewer than the number your design specifies, resulting
in frequent swap patches.
- Tripping After load-testing the circuits in a small
venue that has only 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 to that same circuit an
outlet located in the performance area.
- Spares Inventory 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.
- Headsets The number of available headsets will always
turn out to be one fewer than the number of followspots you are required
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.
- Worklights 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.
- Script You will be the only person who does not get
the revised script. (Lighting people are the last to be given anything, if
they even receive it at all.)
- Credit It has been promised that you will get a
credit. If your name actually makes it into the programme, 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.
- Cues 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
* ... and is additionally proportional to the significance of
the artists on stage.
- Food 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!
- Repair The 5-minute fix 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
- Parts Loss When disassembling a light for a more
involved repair, any small part dropped will always find its way underneath
a larger object -- and be inaccessible when finally located. Blocking that
inaccessible area will have the future result of other small parts finding
additional places in which to roll and become inaccessible.
- Stage Hands 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.
- More Stage Hands The strike personnel 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.
* Because it took longer to pack up, the one place available
for a meal will have closed 5 minutes before you arrive.
- Accommodations 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.
* 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.
- Memories 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 seen only
in people's memories. These of course falter over time, so no one completely
remembers the great design you created.
* One saving thing might be that most of the crew have cell-phones
with built-in cameras; however, the inability of their phones to
record accurately in low-light conditions means that many of the
resulting images betray your stories of grandure and become an
- Key Blues You have double and triple checked to make
sure you have keys for every locked item accompanying you on tour. This is
because during your last series of gigs, 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 this 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 all broken locks
and their keys to metal recycle, intending to buy new locks 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.
- Academics 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.
- Saving Your Designs You have been contracted to light
a revival of a major show that you had first 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
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.
- Wrong Choice 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
* This charity show, that 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 this
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 third day. Although the
potential show of your career is scheduled to start the day
after the charity gig, the island's boat will leave on the morning
of the night that you will be finished, so you are still unable to
light the gig of your dreams.
- Time for Yourself The one day you have off during a
six-month tour will see you in some small village with no Internet or
cell phone service, 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.
* Because you took 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: