articles Home

Lighting candles on cue

At the wave of an actor's hand, first the fire in the fireplace blazes into life, then the candles in sconces on the stage left wall flare up and remain lit. Pictured are David Wharff, SR, and Chris Polo of the Kent County Theatre Guild, playing with fire in a tech rehearsal.

If the embedded player doesn't work for you, click here to activate your RealPlayer and watch the video.

This one was a lot of fun to play with. The idea was to have real candles light when an actor waves at them. In a small theater like ours, light bulbs just weren't going to cut it.

After some experimentation, our effects guy at the Kent County Theatre Guild, Claude Warnick, came up with a perfect solution. He took the heating elements out of an old hair dryer and attached them to the candles near the wick. Prior to each performance, we "charged" the elements with a match head. The heating element would ignite the match head, creating a beautiful flare, and the match head would then light the candle wick. Voila!

Some of our initial experiments were done using model rocket engine igniters, but we didn't have a whole lot of luck with those. Strands of steel wool seemed to work, but they tended to burn through and we didn't want to have to rebuild the candles every night.

If you've used this method, or something similar, please let us know.

The Community Theater Green Room
© 1999 - 2007 Chris & Mike Polo
All rights reserved.