The Magic’s in the Glass

Guest Author: James Davis
James K. Davis is a lighting designer currently working as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Lighting Design at Wofford College. James has worked for various theatre companies in Kansas, Illinois, New Mexico, and Iowa. You can see more of James' work on his website:

For a production of The Tempest at Western Illinois University, I needed to create a world that complemented the “geode design,” constructed by scenic designer Tammy Honesty – while still playing with the magic that was at the heart of the play.


After hours of research for the “right look,” I decided to explore how a Rosco Prismatic would look on the white model. I discovered that Prismatic #43805 Blue Water had the potential to deliver the colors and textures I was seeking. From there I began to integrate other Rosco Effects Glass Gobos into my research, which revealed a theme that collaborated with Director, Dr. Jeannie Woods’ analysis of the Geode representing “the transcendence of the baser elements into enlightenment.”

Tempest2The set design included a beautiful canvas cyc that I filled with animated lighting effects to tell this show’s powerful story. I created a visual representation of Prospero and Ariel’s power by projecting Rosco ColorWave #33103 Magenta Ripple, which was spinning inside a Twinspin gobo rotator, onto a sheet of Mylar. The reflected effect was streaked across the cyc to create an enchanting effect for the scene.

Tempest3I also needed to find a way to convey Caliban’s vindictive nature to the audience. By reflecting R43807 Warm Contrast off the Mylar and onto the cyc, I was able to create an ominous presence behind the actors on stage as Calliban received his first drink of the nectar of the gods.

I loved how successfully these Effects Glass Gobos created harmony between the set and the director’s vision. One of the significant Prismatics I used throughout the design was R43805 Blue Water. In order for that gobo to work with my color choices, I chose R09 Pale Amber Gold and R3411 3/4 CTO as my warm gels, and R366 Jordan Blue and R75 Twilight Blue as the cool colors. I found that these particular colors complemented the lavenders and greens in the Blue Water Prismatic gobo. With the mixture of these colors and templates we constructed a majestic layer on top of the costumes that continued to enrich the magic of the play.

Photo Credit: WIU VPC