Natural Light: Natural light was used in open air theaters from the Greeks to Early Modern English theatre.


Candles and Torches: Indoor theatre began to use candles, which were frequently placed in chandeliers and sconces. Throughout the performance, the candles would need to be trimmed and relit. They used dipped candles, which are made by dipping a wick in melted wax repeatedly. Torches were also used.


Oil and Kerosene Lamps: Oil lamps slowly burn oil to make light. The Argand oil lamp (1780) added the cylindrical glass covering to act as a chimney. In 1850, it was replaced with kerosene lamps, which used kerosene as the fuel and a wick as the light source. Kerosene lamps could be mounted or handheld.


Gas Light: Illuminating gasses are combined and ignited. Gas lighting became a major source of stage lighting, despite the many fires it caused. Limelight, a form of gas lighting, was bright white light created by holding flame made with hydrogen and oxygen to quicklime.

Lighting Containment and Projection


Lamps: Around 70,000 BC, the first lamp was made from a shell filled with moss. It was soaked in animal fat and ignited. Lamps have been made from terra cotta, pottery, alabaster, and now metal.

Footlights: By 1670, theaters began using footlights, installed across the front of the stage.


Borderlights: A row of lights above the stage to light the entire stage.

Striplights: A row of lights placed in a reflectors in the wings to light specific parts of the stage.

A modern lighting unit with reflectors. 

Reflectors: Inigo Jones reflectors to intensify the light sources. Reflectors are metal or other reflective materials designed to position light specifically.

Dimmers: In 1638, Nicola Sabbatini creates dimmers, metal cylinders that lower over the candle to control the amount of light.

Color and Lighting


In 1545, Sabastiano Serlio developed light coloring by using liquids in bottles. He used red wine (red), saffron (yellow), and ammonium chloride in a copper vessel (blue). Colored fabrics, teas, and other dyed liquids can change the color of light. Today, we use gels, a thin, transparent colored material placed in front of the light.

Biodegrading Materials
  • Paper Towel: 2-4 weeks

  • Paper bag: 1 month

  • Newspaper: 6 weeks

  • Cardboard: 2 months

  • Paper: 2-5 months

  • Milk Carton: 3 months

  • Cotton glove: 3 months

  • Rope: 3-14 months

  • Cotton T-Shirt: 6 months

  • Plywood: 1-3 years

  • Wool Sock- 1-5 years

  • Plastic-coated Paper Milk Cartons: 5 years

  • Polyurethane Caulk: 5-10 years

  • Lumber: 10-15 years

  • Grout: begins to breakdown after 15-20 years

  • Insulation:

    • Batt insulation (fiberglass or cellulose): 15 to 20 years

    • Housewrap, wrap tape and spray foam: 80  years

    • Loose-fill, foamboard, cellulose, fiberglass, rock wool: 100 years

  • Silicone Caulk: 20+ years

  • Leather Shoes: 25-40 years

  • Nylon Fabric: 30-40 years

  • Foamed Plastic Cup: 50 years

  • Tinned Steel Can: 50 years

  • Foamed Plastic Buoy: 80 years

  • Batteries: 100 years

  • Aluminum Can: 200-500 years

  • Hairspray bottle: 200-500 years

  • Plastic bottle: 450 years

  • Engine blocks: 500 years

  • Disposable Diapers: 550 years

  • Sanitary Pads: 500-800 years

  • Fishing line: 600 years

  • Plastic Bags: 10-1,000 years

  • Computers & electronics:

    • Glass: 1 million years

    • Aluminum and wires: 200-500 years,

    • Rubber: 50 years

  • Plastic Jug: 1 million years

  • Glass: 1-2 million years

  • Styrofoam: 1 million years to forever

  • Tinfoil: does not biodegrade


The corrosion of metal is dependent on the environmental conditions, the type of metal, and the area and density of the piece. In Act 2, some metals may have developed rust, but it is unlikely that infrastructure would impacted. By Act 3, nature would reclaim it’s space and infrastructure could collapse as the metal weakens. Concrete building will begin to collapse after 20 years.

In this documentary (go to 25:00), you can see exactly what would happen to a city 20 years after a nuclear disaster, because it has happened in Pripyat, Ukraine. After the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion in 1986, the town was, and still is, deserted. For more recent photographs, you can look at this photographer’s visit in May 2017.

  • Facebook - Black Circle
  • Instagram - Black Circle