Balcony Rail – From Handrail to Lighting Position.

A Balcony Rail is also one of the first modern lighting positions installed in a proscenium house.  Much like the Box Boom, it was a quick solution to finding a place to hang lighting fixtures as front light so designers could go beyond foot lights being the only source of illumination.  To understand what a Balcony Rail is, think of splitting the phrase up.  It’s on the balcony and it is a rail to hang lights on.  Many balconies had hand rails made out of pipe to begin with, making them a quick, natural place to hang a light.  As time went on, it became apparent that the lights were now blocking the view of the audience in the balcony.

Front view of a typical Balcony Rail

Front view of a typical Balcony Rail

Folks started hanging the units off of side arms on the rail towards the stage to lower the lights.  Then, they also found ways to hang a pipe on the actual architecture of the face of the balcony keeping the light out of the eyes of the balcony audience.

Front light is often complained about, because it can be a flat position of lighting.  I happen to agree with that, but I believe there are many uses for the position beyond “area” lighting.

Here are some that I like…



  • Amazing place to do some template texture washes.
  • If you have to light a front / show drop or curtain from bottom to top.
  • Can help to fill in the front lighting of a down stage scrim.
  • Great place to hang a video monitor for the cast to see the out of site conductor.
  • If you really want to tone with a deep saturated color.
  • You need to cover that really far downstage center spot with the same color as the box boom washes
  • You have a text gobo that needs to be “dead on” to not be skewed.
  • View from under a packed Balcony Rail

    View from under a packed Balcony Rail


  • Pittsburgh Playhouse Balcony Rail

    Pittsburgh Playhouse Balcony Rail












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