“My oh my, I can’t believe it’s physics!”

by Daniel Sarstedt | 1 May 2018

A theatrical lighting system is a brilliant “real world” extension of the physics lab.

First published in the September 2005 Scene issue “The ISTA triangle”.

My thoughts on this article in 2018:

Wow. It is so interesting to read that article after so many years. I still teach units on technical theatre and the interdisciplinary nature of this unit is still completely relevant, I feel. However, the thing that strikes me most is how rapidly technology has progressed since I wrote the original unit. First of all, the focus on basic physics is to a large extent made redundant by modern theatrical lighting with its LED fixtures, full digital control, moving fixtures and so on. The original unit focussed on Ohm’s Law and while that aspect of physics still applies as a necessary area of knowledge for a theatre technician, new safety procedures and the “intelligent” nature of modern lighting boards means many of the procedures are now automatic. Instead of focusing on Ohm’s law, I would look for other avenues of interdisciplinary collaboration with the physics course. Especially the ability of modern LED fixtures to change colour instantly is interesting. Applying the theories of light and colour from physics to theatrical lighting would be interesting and conversely a theatrical lighting system is a brilliant “real world” extension of the physics lab.

This unit links physics and drama by allowing students to apply theoretical knowledge of electrical power obtained in the physics course to a practical and creative task in the drama course.


  • To understand how Ohm’s Law applies to working with lighting equipment.

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