The Importance of Colors in Theatre

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In theatre, colour matters. It is more than just costuming and lighting. It is about presentation, of giving the illusion of grandeur. It is about telling the story in subtle cues and little ways, helping the action on the stage. A lack of understanding of the role of colour is a failure to grasp the complexities of theatre.


However, can’t really discuss colour without also covering lighting. The two go hand in hand.


Consider this. When a performance starts, the lights dim everywhere but the stage. This is to not only make sure that the actions there are well-lit but to draw attention to it. Humans are visual creatures by nature, and so are drawn to what we can see over what we can’t.


One reason theatre colours tend to be more subdued is that of the people that go to the shows. They are there, dressed to impress. We know better than to get in the way of that.


Colors are important to a theatre’s appearance. A place that looks shabby attracts a crowd that is shabby. It’s why we call Prime Painters Perth whenever we see an area that needs a touch-up. We want to look our best at all times, so we can draw the best patrons.


Most theatres don’t use patterns or prints in its d├ęcor. Instead, we use simpler colours. Red is typical, but there’s also a wide assortment of neutral tones and shades.


Now, you might be wondering “Why red?” Why is red so prominent a colour in the design of a theatre?


Red evokes specific things in the mind.


It brings up warmth, angry, excitement, power, passion, fire, blood, emotion. In other words, it stirs up all the feelings that a theatrical performance wants to elicit. The use of red is to help bring the message on stage and make it more visceral to the people watching.


It helps that red is also a colour that stirs excitement and intensity in people.


In theatre, the use of the right colours can also make things “pop” more, in a visual sense. For example, using red as background makes images stand out more in the foreground. In contrast, green tends to be used as a more sedate, harmonious colour; perfect for setting a more relaxed mood.


Color also factors into costuming.


We associate black with corruption, with evil, or at least some degree of questionable morals. In contrast, white is associated with purity and goodness. Slap these colours onto someone and you have a handy visual hint of the character’s morality, which you can either subvert or play straight.


The use of the right colour can enhance a character, make a performance have more visual punch. It all plays on perceptions and how people interpret a colour. Pink on a male character can signify that he has more feminine traits than you’d expect.


Of course, as with the black and white example, the costume designer is free to subvert or play with this as much as they desire.