Book Review: Electricity For The Entertainment Electrician & Technician, 3rd Edition

Richard Cadena has been an internationally respected lighting designer, consultant, and author for many years. His previous critically acclaimed books, Automated Lighting: The Art and Science of Moving Light, Lighting Design for Modern Houses of Worship, and Focus on Lighting Technology, have been required reading for many graduate and undergraduate theatre lighting programs in North America and throughout the world. In addition, his books have served many professional designers, (this one included), in expanding their professional knowledge in the rapidly evolving technology of stage lighting design.

Why is this book so important? As explained in his preface, Cadena notes several unnecessary and tragic electrical accidents that occurred on stages. Unfortunately, some of these were deadly. Cadena vowed to do everything he could to educate students and professionals on electrical safety.

I am sure that just about every reader has experienced at least a mild electrical shock while working in the theatre. As an undergraduate I worked in an ungrounded theatre. Every time I grabbed hold of a pipe or a powered fixture, I could feel the stinging of electrical current running through my body. After several of these every-day frightening occurrences, a quick call to OSHA solved this problem.

Cadena’s third edition of his excellent text, Electricity for the Entertainment Electrician & Technician (published by Focal Press/Routledge) focuses on electrical safety, and thoroughly updates lighting designers and stage electricians in approaching modern lighting and electrical systems used in professional and educational theatre.

As in his earlier editions, Cadena covers in great depth and detail the technical elements of electricity from the basics to the advanced. This includes the foundations of electricity and electrical systems, electrical circuitry, DC and AC power, eElectrical loads, battery and generator power, electrical safety, grounding, overcurrent protection, modern dimming systems, portable power distribution, and prepping, setup, and monitoring electrical systems on a show.

Over the past decade, power and data distribution technology have advanced, along with new LED sources that require specialized power and control systems. The new edition of Electricity for the Entertainment Electrician & Technician updates these, and other substantial developments. Cadena clearly explains how these technologies are applied in contemporary show preparations, setup, and maintenance.

His writing style easily communicates the fundamentals and application of this advanced technology, with a clear connection to the reader. This reveals his great depth of technical theatre knowledge. As in his other texts, Cadena writes in a style that is easily comprehended by beginning students of lighting designs, as well as seasoned professionals. I joke to colleagues that technical books need to be written “for designers to comprehend”. Cadena has done just that.

At the conclusion of each of the 15 chapters that cover various areas of electrical technology and practical use, Cadena includes a series of questions and answers. These quizzes not only serve as a good review of the material, but it is also a great teaching aid for teachers of technical theatre.

Speaking of teachers, this book can be used as a text for just about all levels of lighting design students. Unlike many other lighting texts, Cadena explains complex technical foundations in a very clear and experienced manner. It is obvious that a wise educator and professional is the author. Teachers can easily select and incorporate chapters into their lesson plans.

Included in the numerous notable improvements in this edition, Cadena explains LED technology and LED dimming, IP ratings, and a chapter on electrical safety that includes an explanation of exactly what happens when electrify flows through our bodies, and how we can prevent that. Many real-world color photographs and diagrams are incorporated to support the text.

I must say that my favorite chapter is the last. In Chapter 15, Cadena takes the reader on a journey of a practical rock concert from the point-of-view of the stage electrician. He clearly explains the steps of planning and electrical load and distro, shop preparation, meetings, load-in, power tie-in, monitoring the power, and powering down.

Unlike previous editions, Cadena wisely moved a great deal of the physics, history, technical formulas, and some very useful practical “real-world” advice to the Appendices. This allows the teacher to pick and choose how much information to offer the student (based on their level of education).

Electricity for the Entertainment Electrician & Technician – 3rd Edition is a vital book for professionals, educators, and students alike. It covers all the elements of power and distro that stage electricians and designers need to understand and apply. This book will be required reading for my lighting students. In fact, I wish it was available when I was a student… because had I had access to this book 45 years ago, maybe that call to OSHA would not had been necessary.

David Martin Jacques is a professional stage designer for the past 45 years. He serves as Professor Emeritus at California State University Long Beach and co-hosts the popular podcast LIGHT TALK with The Lumen Brothers.


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