Lighting Supervisor

  • Lighting Supervisor

At a resident theatrical company or on a large touring production, there is usually a lighting department supervisor. This person may serve simultaneously as master electrician or console operator, but is additionally responsible for managing the crew of lighting technicians and performing the administrative duties related to his or her department.


Like any place of business, a theatrical production or other live event has ongoing concerns like payroll, time sheets, scheduling, and equipment maintenance. The lighting supervisor takes on the role of a department head, responsible for approving the time sheets of his or her crew and seeing that payroll accounts accurately for the hours worked. Similarly, the supervisor is responsible for scheduling the lighting crew in coordination with the stage manager, production manager, and other department heads. He or she will establish department procedures for regular equipment maintenance and repair, and handles all purchases or gear rentals. Inventory tracking is typically a delegated task, but the supervisor will monitor the individual responsible and request regular updates in order to keep the department properly stocked with expendables—those odds and ends that are disposable and frequently used, such as gaff tape, fuses, gel, tie line, and batteries.

Yet another important function of the lighting supervisor is to maintain the aesthetic integrity of the show as it relates to all lighting and electrical elements (not including audio). He or she aims to sustain the lighting designer’s vision by ensuring proper focus of instruments, regularly replaced gels, and cues that are executed as designed by the spotlight operators and console operator. Periodically the lighting supervisor should watch the show from the audience to gauge the integrity of the look and offer notes on necessary improvements. This person should also offer continuing guidance and mentorship to junior crew members in an effort to grow the team’s skill level, therefore bettering the production as a whole.

Skills & Education

A degree in theatrical design, live show production, or a similar field of study is recommended, and formal training in theatrical lighting is required. The supervisor must be proficient in the use of multiple intelligent lighting consoles, as well as media servers and integrated show control systems. You should have the skills to troubleshoot and repair intelligent lighting fixtures, dimmers, and other electrical equipment to the component level, and to program that equipment via a lighting console. Courses in electrical engineering, and computer science are beneficial, but not a prerequisite. As lighting has a great deal to do with color as well as electricity, a good lighting supervisor should understand color theory and color temperature. Additional study of algebra and geometry is useful in calculating focus angles and beam throw versus distance.

What to Expect

Naturally, before you can become a supervisor, you must put in your time as a lowly technician. The typical entry-level lighting position is as a spotlight operator, but any role in the lighting department can lead to advancement with the proper skill and dedication. It may take several years before you are given your first opportunity to lead a crew, so only the most committed make it to the top. Lighting supervisors are typically electronics nerds who get excited over new widgets, better-performing lamps, and updated console firmware. If you don’t geek out over every new product introduced by VL or ETC, then this is not the job for you. However, if you are the gadget guru who can fix any gizmo and have been taking apart motherboards since you were 9, you’re a born lighting supervisor.


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