Implementing New Technology: LED Stage Lights

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Stage LightingWhile the magnitude, environment and pay scales differ, professional theatres and school theatre education programs often face similar challenges. The decision to implement new technology like LED stage lighting is one example.

Evolutionary Theme. Later this week, the Educational Theatre Association (EdTA) opens its annual conference in Minneapolis. “The Evolving Theatre Classroom” is the theme. According to the conference website ( the conference…

“…will examine how theatre education can adapt and thrive in an environment of tighter budgets, more rigorous standards, teacher accountability, and developing technology…”

Budget-Technology Negotiation. The conference theme resonates with Dan Schmidt, Theatre Director at Blue Valley Southwest High School, Overland Park, Kansas. Schmidt has attended past EdTA conferences and considers them worthwhile.

This fall, Schmidt’s administration halved his $1,000 requisition request for new incandescent/tungsten halogen lights, citing tight budgets.

“These bulbs cost between $30 and $50 each,” he notes. Schmidt raised the question of investing in LED bulbs and fixtures instead, which have greater upfront cost but lower energy consumption and maintenance costs due to less frequent changeovers. He recently assisted Emporia State University’s theatre department with a LED-bulb implementation proposal, showing how cost-effective and ‘green’ LED bulbs were. (To read an article about calculating the costs of LED bulbs, click here)

Between Rock and Hard Place. Many smaller professional theatres and theatre education programs are caught between a proverbial rock and a hard place, according to Schmidt. They want to upgrade to LED lights, but can’t swallow the upfront costs. Maintaining the status quo costs less in the short term, but costs more down the road.

“It’s like buying organic food,” Schmidt explains. “Should I buy the organic food that costs more but is healthier for me, or should I just eat normal food and pay the higher health costs in the future?”

Renting for Show. Schmidt recently rented four LED instruments (the full light) at $30 each for an October repertory show. While he would have preferred purchasing them, he understands the importance of building his case slowly, with real-world situations.

“I want to showcase the LED lights to our principal, so he can see the differences, including feeling how safe they are to the touch,” explains Schmidt. “This will help my future proposal become real-life and tangible.”

Schmidt applauds the EdTA conference for delving into real-world challenges theatre folks are facing. “Technology discussions sometime can get too theoretical and general, without enough specifics,” he concludes.

Question. Have you implemented any LED lighting in your theatre? How did you justify the investment? Any recommendations for building the case?

2 responses to “Implementing New Technology: LED Stage Lights”

  1. We are a small, rural, community theatre group that has been performing everything from dinner theatres, musical revues, broadway musicals and dramatic productions. Without a performing arts facility, our shows can be held in a vacant storefront, a hotel banquet room or an arena…none that are equipped with theatre lighting. Any lighting equipment that we use needs to be portable, easy to use with little to minimal maintenance required. We’ve recently moved into the digital realm and purchased twelve Selecon LED lighting instruments. This was a huge step for us in that it was as a large upfront cost, one the board struggled with. It was important that our audiences could heard and seen. We justified the expense because we are confident that down the road our consumables (bulb and gel replacements) will drop dramatically. These instruments are dimmerless so we’ve saved in that area too. The technicians love them because they are cool to the touch and color spectrum is amazing. We are now budgeting for additional LED’s to our inventory.

    • Your Performance Partners says:

      That’s a great real-life example. Thanks for sharing! We’d love an update from you in a year or so.

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