How to Busk a Stage Show

In the stage lighting industry, busking often means running a show on the fly. Here's how to pull it off.


  1. 1
    Go into the venue at which you will be busking in. Before going anywhere near the lighting console learn the venue. Have a walk around, learn the stage - What elements are there which could potentially need to be lit?
  2. 2
    Now have a look at the venue's lighting plan. If the venue does not have a lighting plan make a quick sketch of the rig or at least go round and have a look at what lighting equipment is rigged. It may also be worthwhile asking the venue manager if there are any other fixtures in the inventory which are not rigged. If not can any fixtures be refocused or repositioned?
  3. 3
    Depending on the time scale and type of production you may want to sit in on a rehearsal. If you can't for some reason - skip straight to the next step. Sitting on a rehearsal is beneficial, no matter what production you are lighting. However sitting in on rehearsals is more important in some genres than others. For example sitting in on a piece of drama is more important than sitting in on a band show's rehearsal. When sitting in on a performance be sure to learn the style of show. Is it calm or loud and proud? This could be reflected in your lighting style. If the performance has a script don't be afraid to take notes on ideas, areas of the stage that needs to be lit and ideas of the director/performer. Even if the performance does not have a script, take notes in a notepad. It will help!
  4. 4
    Turn on the lighting desk. Go through all the fixtures seeing what area of the stage they light. Check - do they all work? Do you need to change burnt out gels? Replace lamps? You need to check the stuff. Sometimes fixtures you saw earlier and wanted to use - may not even be plugged in. If so you need to work out if it is important.
  5. 5
    If you are using a desk in one or two scene preset you are now ready to run the show. However if you are using a more advanced desk - it is programming time. The key thing here is to think of flexibility. This is important whether you are using sub-masters, pallets or any other media. For example if you have moving lights in your rig you can create more effects easier by instead of programming "Mac 500 wild spin with rainbow" - program it to 2 separate sub-masters "Mac 500 wild spin" and "Mac 500 rainbow" so you can create more lighting effects.
  6. 6
    What memories to create? Well it really depends on the rig, the show and you! Program the basic sub-masters (the ones which will wash the stage in light) moving onto the more specific sub-masters and moving light sub-masters. Example of a light of Subs for a Stage show: Full Stage, Downstage Left, Downstage Centre, Downstage Right Upstage left, Upstage Centre, upstage Right (all the stage colour washes, some useful moving light gobos, Moving light - Upstage wash, Moving light - Downstage Wash
    • For a band lighting it would be similar but possibly with more moving light sub-masters.
  7. 7
    Use pallets to control colours of moving lights, colour scrollers and LED fixtures. You can use pallets for colour and beam shape - saving sub-masters for position, Chases and Generic lights).


  • Are you running auxiliaries (such as smoke machines) from the lighting desk? Or are they run separately? This you should find out before the show - if you are using anything like that.

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Categories: Performing Arts