Great advancement has also been made in the methods and principles of stage lighting. Even the location of the operator regulating the stage lighting has been changed in the advanced European theatres. In these theatres the light switchboard is underneath the stage apron, adjacent to the orchestra well. From that point the operator, by lifting a small trap similar to the old-fashioned prompter's traps, may view perfectly his light effects and control them.
Many theatres depend for their lighting upon storage batteries, because a steadier light and more realistic effects may be obtained in this manner. These, however, are generally used only in ordinary theatres for reserve or emergency purposes.
An Italian painter named Fortuny has invented a system of indirect stage lighting that has met with such success that it probably will be universally adopted. In this system the light is furnished by powerful lamps, stationed on the reverse side of the hanging borders, and reflected from variously colored silk banners, whose position is changeable, placed behind these borders These indirect rays give a fuller and softer light and have the advantage successfully of dissolving or mixing colors. This device is also employed to illuminate without shadows the canopied horizon, to which allusion has already been made. This innovation provides atmospheric enveloping light, as contrasted with the old-fashioned direct light that struck objects on the stage and projected their shadows beyond.
There can also be no doubt that illumination mainly by footlights is a passing phase in the advanced theatre. Where footlights exist it is better to arrange three horizontal continuous rows of tubular incandescent lamps of red, white and blue, similar to those described for auditorium cove lighting, than to employ the ordinary tri-colored incandescent bulbs in common use.
The method of projecting light from above, and from reflected side-lights, is now used in advanced theatres to replace the glaring footlights.
In the same manner, stereopticons are employed to introduce storm or cloud effects on the canopied horizon, with realistic lightning flashes if desired. In most American theatres 40-watt lamps are used for footlights, arranged with eight lamps to the foot, and colored red, white and blue in regular sequences of these colors, to produce single or combination effects. The footlight trough should be from two to three feet wide, and the exposed surface should be painted a dull black or dark green, so as not to reflect the glare of the footlights up into the balcony.
Each theatre in America also has about six rows of border lights, encased in reversed galvanized iron troughs suspended by extension chains, and set six or seven feet apart. The border lights for illuminating the stage should be at least two feet longer than the proscenium opening, the first row being about two feet shorter than that opening. Border lights are also arranged in three colors.
Every stage should be provided with incandescent stage sockets in each entrance, right and left, and with several conveniently distributed arc pockets. There should also be a sufficient supply of bunch-lights and strip-lights, with connections, all arranged with interchangeable sockets for the introduction of colored bulbs.
For the sake of increased protection from fire it is better to install all electric wiring according to the code prescribed by the National Board of Fire Underwriters, useful extracts from which are here included: