Spatial Geometry and the Circuit of Energy

Certain spatial geometries have been widely viewed, in various cultures and historical periods, as having particular potency:

Architecture depends upon Order, Arrangement, Eurythmy, Symmetry, Propriety, and Economy. (Vitruvius 1960, 13)
Eurythmy is beauty and fitness in the adjustments of the members ... where they all correspond symmetrically. (Vitruvius 1960, 14)
Geometry is the language of man [meeting the] necessity for order. (Le Corbusier 1930, 72)
A regulating line is an assurance against capriciousness: it is a means of verification which can ratify all work created in a fervour. (Le Corbusier 1930, 75)
A high proportion of successful theatres are set out according to the principles of what has become known as ‘sacred geometry’. The word ‘sacred’ should not suggest that a faith must first be embraced if one is to understand its power. Nor should ‘geometry’ suggest the rigid straitjacket of a grid which forces form into inflexible patterns. Rather should one think of it as a system of dynamic spatial harmony, dynamic because theatre space is to be arranged not for repose but to encourage the movement of energy, spatial for obvious reasons and harmony because it is concerned with proportions analogous to the harmonies in music. (Mackintosh 1993, 161-2)
Schechner regards it as axiomatic that three primary transactions comprise the theatrical event: (1) between performers, (2) between audience members, (3) between performers and audience. The position of detached subject vanishes from this conception of theatre because no-one can stand outside these transactions. At stake here, fundamentally, is the subject-object relationship. (Wiles 2003, 3)
In the theatre, due to the live presence of both spectators and performers, the energy circulates from performer to spectator and back again, from spectator to performer and back again. (McAuley 2000, 246)
If you stand on the stage of a “proper” theatre, there is a circuit of energy flowing out to the audience and back to the performer again. [In the Olivier theatre of the National Theatre, London] the circuit wasn’t completed. The energy going out of me did not come back. Instead of being recharged, like a dynamo, I felt like a battery running down. (Albert Finney in Mackintosh 1993, 154-5)
Although this energy flows chiefly from performer to audience the performer is rendered impotent unless he or she receives in return a charge from the audience. This can be laughter in a farce, a shared sense of awe in tragedy and even a physical reciprocity to the achievement of dancer or actor. The energy must flow both ways so that the two forces fuse together to create an ecstasy which is comparable only to that experienced in a religious or sexual encounter. (Mackintosh 1993, 172)
Facial expressions are much less involuntary responses to inner stimuli than social signs [and] the distinction between genuine, spontaneous expressions and simulated, deceptive expressions is far from clear-cut. Happy people smile more in the company of others than when alone … and viewers of films react more demonstratively when observed by others than when unobserved. (Bogue 2003, 87-8)

To connect the lighting artist into the circuit in order to heighten her or his sensitivity to the audience’s response, s/he must not only be positioned so as to experience the activity of the stage as a representative spectator might experience it, but also be able to see the facial expressions of spectators; furthermore, to be a fully participating element in the circuit, the lighting artist must be able to be seen by the audience.

I love watching the lighting operator as part of the performance and always have. Equally, as a lighting operator, I’ve always enjoyed being part of the performance, both in terms of controlling things ‘live’ (rather than just pressing ‘go’), and being appreciated by the audience. For this reason I used to love the old control position in the centre of the circle at the Southampton Mayflower, surrounded by and completely exposed to the audience. I felt more connected with the show as a whole because of that ‘lift’ from the crowd. Of course, whether they appreciated having this noisy device with its clicky keys and bright screen in the line-of-sight from their expensively purchased seats is another matter, and for whatever reason (I suspect the economics of having more tickets to sell, and when the ‘older generation’ electrician that loved and defended it gave way to younger technicians who’d rather watch TV or play video games while notionally ‘running’ the show) that control position is gone. (Rob Halliday, lighting designer and programmer, personal email)