ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library

Attention Getting Techniques:
The use of light in the Theater

In a message dated 8/18/2007 9:55:11 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, res(at) writes:
Hi Bill,
... I was hoping to share some thoughts with you. My degree is in Anthropology, thus I have been trained to compare culture. So, of course, for me the juiciest parts of the lessons concern Deaf Culture. Having read you argue both sides of a coin and sometimes dismiss the overzealousness of "The Deaf Cultural Police" I felt compelled to point this out.
Blinking the lights to get the attention of a crowd has been utilized by the hearing community since, well, lights were blinkable. Generally speaking it was most often used before the implementation of the annoying, tapping of the microphone gained popularity (talk about an offensive attention get-er). But the blinking, or dimming of lights is still commonly used in the theater to inform the audience that the performance will resume shortly.
Though I am not a member of the Deaf Community, I imagine that this comparison may be an appropriate guidepost to politely gaining the attention of a room and valid rebuttal concerning privileges reserved by the DCP.
Thanks for sharing your "theater" comparison. The key word is "politely." 
There are parallels between appropriately dimming the lights in a theater and doing so in a Deaf environment.
1.  It should only be done by someone who has been in the environment a substantial amount of time and therefore has a knowledge of how to do it "politely."  Most theater lighting operators have spent an outrageous amount of time hanging around in theaters.  They practically live there. They've been part of the audience many times when other people adjusted the lights to announce the next act would begin soon. They also respect the equipment because they know how much it costs and how "breakable" it tends to be.  They are unlikely to abuse the equipment or their relationship to the cast and staff because they want to continue in their role.
2.  The lights should not be "down" for more than a moment.  To leave the lights off in a theatre when people are standing or walking in the aisles would be physically dangerous.
3.  If being used to communicate "it's time to start the next act" the lights should not be flashed wildly. But simply "blinked."  The goal is to communicate, not to annoy.
4. Lighting directors only dim the lights when the whole audience needs to be informed.  They do not blink the overhead lights to get the attention of just a few people.  For getting the attention of a few people they use some other more appropriate method.

Also See: Attention Getting Techniques (general discussion)
Also see:  Discourse / Conversation Negotiation Techniques


Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy DONATE (Thanks!)
(You don't need a PayPal account. Just look for the credit card logos and click continue.)

Another way to help is to buy Dr. Bill's "Superdisk."

Dr. Bill's new iPhone "Fingerspelling Practice" app is now available!   CHECK IT OUT >

Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)   CHECK IT OUT >

Bandwidth slow?  Check out "" (a free mirror of less traffic, fast access)   VISIT >