Scenographic Light: Towards an understanding of expressive light in performance

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


In the expanded field of performance design research there is a growing understanding of the dynamic and affective capacities of performance materials, and how such materials may play a fundamental role in the audience experience of a given performance. Parallel to this research in scenography is a similar extension of the conception of the roles of light and dark in performance. Reconciling and extending these areas of research this PhD thesis posits the term ‘scenographic light’ to encapsulate the ability of performance light to actively inscribe dramaturgical meaning in space and time, arguing that light is capable of independently contributing to performance through its manipulation of space, time, and visuality. This doctoral research uses auto-ethnographic spectatorship as a means of identifying the unique contribution of light to performance. Employing a phenomenological framework to explore the dynamic role of light within performance, this study presents an ontology of light that is rooted in dramaturgical action. The experiential framework put forward in this research facilitates a theoretical discussion about the dramaturgical impact of light, revolving specifically around questions of how light affects other elements in performance, how it seems to perform as a material in itself, and how, in respect of these things, it can become a generative force in performance. By applying these questions to a wide range of contemporary performance practices I identify and articulate ways in which light can be considered a significant contributor to performance, working simultaneously with, but independently of, other elements in performance. The implications of this research invite an expanded view of the position of light in performance analysis, and suggest that the study of light may be productively aligned with explorations of audience engagement and affect.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Leeds
Publication statusUnpublished - 21 May 2018

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