I don’t know how it found its way to my backstage, but I came across a booklet from Apollo Design that really show the company has a sense of their customer’s needs and seek to add value to their products. They have what they term Playbooks which provide a scene by scene break down with gel and pattern suggestions of some of the most popular plays high schools and community theatres perform.
They admit that the options they offer are among the safest choices a lighting designer can make. They also can’t offer guidance about placement of instruments and intensity of light since they can’t know the needs of every theatre. But for the high school teacher who has volunteered to direct the fall play and knows nothing about choosing gel colors, the booklets can remove quite a bit of anxiety. Even if you aren’t directing any of the plays they cover, you can get a sense of how the design theory you might read in a text book has been put into practice in specific instances.
You can download pdf versions of specific Playbook sections here. As an example of the general guidance they offer, for The Glass Menagerie, the notes state:
“Smoky, red glow” – mentioned in the Amanda and Tom argument scene. The colors should not be malevolent or suggest violence. It should be a subtle indication of frustration and tension”
Another example is in scene 3 the booklet provides guidance for different colors on the fire escape, living room, bedrooms and dance hall.
Although their skills far outstrip those of the people who would use these booklets, my technical crew thought the booklets were a great idea and have been thumbing through them for the last week.
We did get a little chuckle though from their political correct renaming of Bastard Amber, one of the most often used gel colors around. It was created by mistake when a guy was trying to create a batch of regular amber. Bastard Amber ended up being generally a better color choice and more widely used than regular Amber. The two leading gel manufacturers, Rosco and Lee both have the color in their swatch books.
Apollo on the other hand calls the color Fatherless Amber. Given that they have a Dominant and Submissive Lavender, we can’t imagine they are complete prudes.
If you want to have a bit of fun, ask your tech director if you can see their gel swatch books. You can find some amusing names for colors in there. Given that Rosco and Lee have created proprietary colors that the other hasn’t been able to reproduce, you can have fun looking through both. Like some famous painters who have created their own paint shades, lighting designers have asked that unique colors be created for them and so you will find some colors named after notable theatrical folks. Be warned that there are also a lot of mundane boring colors in there as well though you will probably wonder at the contradiction of shades like No Color Blue.