Creative Solutions In Lighting A Prop

For lighting designers, including the big time, Broadway-level guys, it isn’t always about the big rigs, moving lights and elaborate cue lists. It’s more about creative solutions…and knowing what’s available.

Clifton Taylor fits any designer’s description for “big time, Broadway-level”, as you can see on his website: But he is as much prized by directors for his innovative production ideas as he is for his lighting.

Clifton Taylor

The New York Philharmonic offered a four performance staging of the opera “The Cunning Little Vixen”. This was, after all, in a concert hall and the orchestra occupied most of the stage space. One of the scenic highlights utilizing the minimal available space on stage was a group of sunflowers. These remarkable props engaged not only the audience but the critics as well. The New York Times review began with this:

“The New York Philharmonic might want to keep some of the tall sunflowers that loom from the back of the stage at Avery Fisher Hall in its enchanting production of Janacek’s anthropomorphic opera, ‘The Cunning Little Vixen,’ which opened on Wednesday night. The hall is rather drab, and the fairy-tale flowers would dress up the place. Also, on nights when Philharmonic concerts are less than inspired, a remnant of Doug Fitch’s lovely Janacek production would remind listeners of one of Alan Gilbert’s boldest artistic ideas. “

The Cunning Little Vixen – The New York Philharmonic

Taylor was responsible for lighting the production. But his skill and knowledge were critical in making one of those sunflowers come alive. Here is Clifton Taylor’s description of the problem – and the solution:

“We needed a magical sunflower for the New York Philharmonic’s production of the opera ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’. The very large sunflower had to be ‘picked’ by one of the characters (from a patch of similarly over-sized flowers and carried around the stage in a fluid and dancerly way. The stem had to be flexible and pliant and, at a certain moment in the opera, the face of the sunflower had to light up.”

Prop designer Lee Clayton standing next to a magical sunflower.

“Prop designer Lee Clayton (pictured) created the sunflower using fiber optic piping of various widths from the base of the stem out to the face of the flower. For illumination we employed a HO+ 3″ round Rosco LitePad and a Rosco DMX dimmer.”

“The LitePad was simply taped to the stage where the singer could place the stem of the flower on it at the right moment. The prop worked beautifully in each performance. It didn’t require any battery, LED or wireless DMX technology and was very lightweight. Also, because of the low profile of the LitePad, we didn’t have to cut into the deck or worry about it being a trip hazard for the performers. We were very happy with this solution.”

Rosco’s LitePads are widely used in film and television lighting. But innovative theatrical and event designers, as this example shows, happily borrow from any discipline they can to make their productions shine.



About Joel Svendsen

Content Marketing Manager: Joel's Rosco career began in Rosco's Hollywood office in 1999 – first in sales covering the Western US and the Los Angeles Film & Television market, and then as Product Manager for Rosco's Film & Television Products. Joel's knowledge about Rosco's products and how they're used in each of our different marketplaces makes him well suited for bringing the stories in Spectrum to life.