SD SPRINGS INTO AUDIO - Stage Directions Magazine

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SD SPRINGS INTO AUDIO - Stage Directions Magazine

SD SPRINGS INTO AUDIO

• WIRELESS AUDIO CREATIVITY AT

SAN DIEGO’S OLD GLOBE

• Audio Accessories 101

www.stage-directions.com

M A R C H 2 0 0 7

Oregon Shakespeare’s

Libby Appel Looks

To the Future

Utah’s Canyons Nurture

Broadway Dreams


Table Of Contents

M a r c h 2 0 0 7

Features

16 Resource Roundup

Fire effects are a flashy way to heat up any stage.

30 Utah Dreams

In the canyons of Utah, a small theatre school builds

their vision. By Geri Jeter

40 The Toast of Ashland

After 12 years as creative head at OSF and 40 years total

in the American theatre, Libby Appel reflects on her wild

ride. By Iris Dorbian

Special Section: Audio

44 Combating Congestion

San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre’s wireless system has

mastered its bandwidth. By Gregory A. DeTogne

48 Speaker of the House

Speakers are black boxes, but choosing them doesn’t

have to be a black art. By Jason Pritchard

54 Ten Ways to Accessorize

The right accessories can change your life…and your

sound. By Bruce Bartlett

Spotlight: Philadelphia

34 Tasty Nut

The Walnut Street Theatre keeps the bar high and the

shows fresh, even after 200 years. By Kevin R. Free

38 Temple of Art

Temple University has a reputation to live up to, and

they do. By Kevin R. Free

Courtesy of Temple University

38


Departments

9 Letters

Our readers take on copyright.

10 In the Greenroom

The Baltimore Shakespeare Festival receives a

generous endowment, Signature Theatre moves into

new digs, and New York City has opened up funding

for arts throughout the city.

18 Tools of the Trade

All the “gotta-have-its” you can dream of

20 Light on the Subject

Brian MacDevitt’s lighting design takes The Vertical

Hour skyward. By Fiona Kirk

64 Curtain Call

The cast of Chicago had it comin’. By Iris Dorbian

20

Paul Kolnik

Columns

7 Editor’s Note

Springtime For Copyright By Iris Dorbian

24 On Broadway

For Nevin Steinberg, designing the sound for an

off-Broadway musical with a Latin hip-hop fusion score

had its challenges. By Bryan Reesman

28 Vital Stats

Tony Tucci carves a niche for himself in the world of

ballet. By Kevin Mitchell

58 Show Business

A current lawsuit is tilting to change property law

around new play production. What could this mean to

your theatre? By Jacob Coakley

59 TD Talk

Sometimes, an hour of calm talk saves days of

disgruntled labor. By Dave McGinnis

60 Off the Shelf

New books range from characterizations to cabaret to

the classics. By Stephen Peithman

61 The Play’s the Thing

Three plays based on classics and one newborn make

their way into the world. By Stephen Peithman

40

30

On our cover: Left to right: Andréa Burns,

Robin de Jesús, Christopher Jackson, Lin-Manuel

Miranda, Karen Olivo and Janet Dacal from the

off-Broadway production of In the Heights

Photography by: Joan Marcus


kimberly butler

Editor’s Note

In the January issue, we ran a news

item in our “Greenroom” column

about how the producer, choreographer

and design team of the

Broadway production of Urinetown

were threatening to file a copyright

infringement lawsuit against creative

teams behind the productions

at the Mercury Theater in Chicago

and the Carousel Dinner Theatre in Akron, both of which

had recently mounted their own productions of the Tony

Award-winning show. According to the Broadway team,

the Chicago and Akron theatres had exactly reproduced

elements of the Broadway choreography and design into

their respective productions. Though both theatres did

get permission to mount the show and use the score for

their respective productions, neither got permission to use

the “direction,” choreography and designs (set, lighting

and costume). The definitions of intellectual property are

very much in flux, but right now, in copyright legalese, it

doesn’t extend to directing and design.

The news item spurred a great deal of interest from

some of you readers, as evidenced by our letters column. Its

far-reaching implications are the subject of Managing Editor

Jacob Coakley’s inaugural column on theatre business (see

page 58). Clearly, it hit a nerve, rightfully so, where many

of you are concerned. So far, no lawsuit has yet been filed

against the Mercury Theater or Carousel Dinner Theatre.

But if a lawsuit does get leveled against both theatres, how

will this affect the way you stage musicals or plays that have

been done on Broadway? Will this make you extra careful as

to how you choreograph certain numbers? Or will this make

you steer clear of producing Broadway shows in your venue?

Please let us know.

Since I’ve been with Stage Directions, each issue has had

a “special section” that focuses on an aspect of theatre, be it

lighting, renovation, costumes, etc. In this month’s issue, our

special section is on audio; however, based on the changes

we’ve made with the editorial content the past few months,

the term “special section” is rapidly becoming a misnomer.

Whereas in the past our audio coverage was sporadic, save

for those months when we devoted a special section to it,

now our audio coverage is a regular staple. As with lighting

and other technical elements, you will see an audio article in

every issue, not just once every few months. Our mission is

to provide you with the most cutting-edge, practical, how-to

information on all aspects of technical theatre, and we intend

to honor that mission by making articles on lighting and

audio a regular occurrence.

Iris Dorbian

Editor

Stage Directions

Springtime For

Copyright

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007


www.stage-directions.com

Publisher Terry Lowe

tlowe@stage-directions.com

Editor Iris Dorbian

Editorial Director Bill Evans

idorbian@stage-directions.com

bevans@fohonline.com

Audio Editor Jason Pritchard

jpritchard@stage-directions.com

Lighting & Staging Editor Richard Cadena

rcadena@plsn.com

Managing Editor Jacob Coakley

jcoakley@stage-directions.com

Associate Editor David McGinnis

dmcginnis@stage-directions.com

Contributing Writers Bruce Bartlett, Gregory DeTogne,

Kevin R. Free, Fiona Kirk, Lisa

Lipkin, Kevin Mitchell

Consulting Editor Stephen Peithman

ART

Art Director Garret Petrov

Graphic Designers Dana Pershyn, Crystal Franklin

Production

Production Manager Linda Evans

levans@stage-directions.com

WEB

Web Designer Josh Harris

ADVERTISING

Advertising Director Greg Gallardo

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Account Manager Warren Flood

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Audio Advertising Manager Peggy Blaze

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Advisory Board

Joshua Alemany

Rosco

Julie Angelo

American Association of

Community Theatre

Robert Barber

BMI Supply

Ken Billington

Lighting Designer

Roger claman

Rose Brand

Patrick Finelli, PhD

University of

South Florida

Gene Flaharty

Mehron Inc.

Cathy Hutchison

Acoustic Dimensions

Keith Kankovsky

Apollo Design

Becky Kaufman

Period Corsets

Todd Koeppl

Chicago Spotlight Inc.

Kimberly Messer

Lillenas Drama Resources

John Meyer

Meyer Sound

John Muszynski

Theater Director

Maine South High School

Scott Parker

Pace University/USITT-NY

Ron Ranson

Theatre Arts

Video Library

David Rosenberg

I. Weiss & Sons Inc.

Karen Rugerio

Dr. Phillips High School

Ann Sachs

Sachs Morgan Studio

Bill Sapsis

Sapsis Rigging

Richard Silvestro

Franklin Pierce College

OTHER TIMELESS COMMUNICATIONS PUBLICATIONS


Letters

Oakland Weighs in

On Copyright

Stage Directions’ January 2007 “Copyright Breach?”

item, as referenced in the Greenroom column, made me

remember fellow directors and theatre people talking

about seeing Broadway shows over and over to “copy”

the choreography and direction. I never understood it

then and still to this day do not.

As an actor/director and playwright, I have often

wondered about theatres around the country that go to

a Broadway show or a road show and reproduce the choreography

and direction for their audiences. As a director,

I don’t want to do that. I want to make the show new

and fresh. If I am an artist, I don’t want to be one whose

work is found at the Ramada Inn every third weekend of

the month; I would rather it look like my work. Granted,

there are elements of any show that have to be there — it

just wouldn’t be the same show without it and the audience

expects it (e.g., running up the wall in Singing in the

Rain or tap dancing on coins in 42nd Street.) But the rest?

Come on! Plays aren’t meant to be the same every time

you see them — that is for the motion picture industry.

We are supposed to be creating theatre, not cloning

theatre. Let audiences find

good things in what we do,

not just come to see the same

old, same old.

James F. DeMaiolo

Oakland, CA

I like your magazine and

found the January issue

filled with articles of interest.

The “Copyright Breach?”

item in January’s Greenroom column should be of particular

interest to most regional theatres throughout the country.

Many producers hire people who have been involved

with the original Broadway production of a show they

plan to produce because they hope to replicate, as close

as possible, the original. That is what their audience pays

to see. Media coverage, print coverage, public television

productions, the Tony Awards, video recorders, cell phone

technology, etc., all make replicating the original easy.

During our 2006 production of The King and I, my

staff confiscated more cameras, video recorders and

cell phone recorders from audience members than

ever before. Still, production numbers from our season

appeared on Youtube!

I think artists who originate work need to protect

themselves up front before their work is available to the

public in any form.

Harriet Mason Schlader

Co-Producer/Choreographer

Woodminster Summer Musicals

Oakland, CA

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007


By Iris Dorbian

In The Greenroom

theatre buzz

Surprise Bounty

The Baltimore Shakespeare Festival is

feeling blessed these days. That’s because

it recently became the recipient of $1 million

to create an endowment fund. What

adds a special nuance and mystery to

this windfall is that the source originates

from two anonymous donors. According

to a January 9, 2007 article that appeared

in the Baltimore Sun, by J. Wynn Rousuck,

the paper’s theatre critic, the 13-year-old

not-for-profit theatre festival was starting

to chafe under its budgetary constrictions,

though it had been in the black the last five

years. But now, with this hefty sum added

to the company’s coffers, the administrators

are breathing a sigh of relief. “It gives

us a kind of stability that we never would

have had,” says Marilyn Powell, president

The Arlington, Virginia-based

Signature Theatre has finally gotten a

new space. After years of performing

in a substandard venue, the theatre

re-opened its doors in January in a

new $16 million facility in Shirlington.

Unlike the previous space, the new

digs “will offer more comfort for the

actors and theatergoers, as well as a

The exterior of Signature Theatre’s new space

Scott Suchman

of the theatre’s board.

In addition to giving the Baltimore

Shakespeare Festival a kind of financial

cushion against potentially drastic losses,

the donation may “serve as a fundraising

tool, especially with foundations and

corporations,” writes Rousuck. It also may

immeasurably increase the profile of the

festival in the community.

Though not named, the donors are

said to be a married couple who are

longtime patrons and fans of the theatre

festival. When Producing Director James

Kinstle heard about the bounty, he was

emotionally overwhelmed: “I had to hold

onto the table. I shook for a few minutes.

I was completely dumbfounded. Marilyn

began to weep.”

sophisticated technical setup that

will help give plays a level of polish

impossible during the company’s first

17 years,” writes Jacqueline Trescott

in the January 11, 2007 edition of the

Washington Post.

The new facility, built in partnership

with Arlington County, according

to the article, now houses two

black box theatres — one with 275

seats that can expand to 349, the

other with 99. It also boasts several

rehearsal halls with 10-foot ceilings.

Says Eric Schaeffer, artistic director

of the theatre, of the new rehearsal

studios, “We can tape out an entire set

on the floor. We never could do that

before.” At press time, the cast of Into

The Woods were doing a run-through

in one 2,500 square-foot room.

Other features of the new facility

include “a grand two-story staircase,

rising from the box office foyer to

the expansive lobby,” stairs painted

steel with a maple handrail and “an

abstract chandelier of 60 glass globes

from a silver plate.” VOA Associates

designed the interior.

New York City

Opens Up

Funding

In an interesting development, New

York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

announced on January 24, that starting

in 2008, he and the City Council will

make available $30 million in funding to

local arts groups upon passing an application

process based on merit. Currently,

the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs,

which will preside over this allocation,

has doled out $3.8 million in grants

to local cultural groups. According to

Mayor Bloomberg, his decision, which

was reportedly triggered by his and his

staffers’ fatigue with local arts lobbyists

jockeying for more money, will affect

1,000 arts organizations.

Unsurprisingly, the news was

hailed by some prominent Gotham

arts groups, writes Robin Pogrebin in

the January 25, 2007 edition of the

New York Times. Says Nancy Umanoff,

executive director of the Mark Morris

Dance Group: “I think it’s wonderful

that they’re depoliticizing the process.

It means that arts administrators can

go back to running their institutions

and not have to lobby politicians.”

This comes as a stark contrast to the

recent situation in Missouri where the

Kansas City Symphony filed a lawsuit

against the state of Missouri for not

receiving promised funding. According

to a January 12, 2007 article by Robert

Trussell in the Kansas City Star, Missouri

Governor Matt Blunt reportedly retaliated

by threatening to cut off all funding

to Missouri cultural organizations.

The supposed standoff has caused a

very tense situation to emerge between

other arts groups who fear their fiscal

future and Governor Blunt and his representatives.

At press time, although the Governor

did include money for the arts in his budget

proposal, the Kansas City Symphony

has not withdrawn its lawsuit.

10 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


industry news

AEA Finds

New

President

Effective March 19, 2007, John

P. Connolly will assume the post

of president of the Actors’ Equity

Association, the national stage

actors’ union. Patrick Quinn had

been named president last year

but he died before he was able to

take over.

Connolly currently serves as

president of AFTRA (the American

Federation of Television and radio

Artists). He will vacate that position

upon commencing his post

with Equity.

During the interim after

Connolly’s departure, Bob Edwards,

AFTRA’s serving national vice president,

will act as president until

another president is selected.

The two unions jointly issued

the official announcement on

Tuesday, February 6.

USITT will be holding its 47th Annual

Conference & Stage Expo March 14-17 in

Phoenix, Ariz. David Ira Goldstein, artistic

director of the Arizona Theatre Company,

will be delivering the keynote address. The

event will be held at the Orpheum Theatre,

which was built in 1929 as a Spanish Baroque

Revival playhouse; in 1997, it underwent a

$14 million renovation.

Highlights of the show include a trip

to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in

Scottsdale and professional development

workshops, such as the Advanced SFX

Master Class or Safe Speaker Rigging with

Rocky Paulson and Bill Sapsis.

Every year USITT presents the best in

design, production and technology in the

performing arts and entertainment industry.

For more information about the conference,

visit the Web site at www.usitt.org/phoenix.

12 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


courtesy of ETC

ETC Beefs Up Leadership

Middleton, Wisconsin-based ETC is expanding its management with three new

appointments. Steve Downs has been named vice president of quality and international

operations; Sarah Danke has been tapped for vice president of professional services,

and Bill McGivern has become vice president of manufacturing. The appointments are

effective immediately.

Says Fred Foster, CEO of ETC, “We are making these changes to adapt our structure to

the increase in our international business. We are building on Steve Downs’ experience

in overseeing the European operation by expanding his role to coordinating all international

operations at ETC. His responsibilities will include the extension of the quality systems

in our international companies. Sarah Danke’s and Bill McGivern’s appointments

allow us to bring professional services together for better

global coordination — from customer service to technical and

field service to quotations and product management — as

well as to further optimize our global manufacturing efforts.”

Prior to his new post, Downs worked on-site at ETC’s

Holzkirchen, Germany location for the past two and a half

years, serving as vice president of manufacturing and European

operations, as well as general manager of ETC GmbH. Bill

McGivern most recently directed ETC’s Manufacturing group

Sarah Danke

during Downs’ tenure in Europe.

And Sarah Danke, who has been

with ETC for more than 16 years, has

held management positions in customer

service, tradeshow coordination,

shipping and logistics, before

eventually becoming director of

ETC’s technical services department.

Steve Downs

Bill McGivern

Mark Taper Forum

to Renovate

Forty years after first opening its

doors, the Mark Taper Forum, the

circular theatre at the Music Center/

Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles

County, will close temporarily to allow

for an updating of its technical capabilities

and audience amenities.

The Music Center and Center Theatre

Group have announced that construction

on the Taper will begin in July

2007 and continue through mid-2008.

During the construction period, Taper

subscribers will be offered a four-play

subscription for the 2007-2008 season

that includes two productions in the

Ahmanson Theatre followed by two

productions in the newly re-modeled

Mark Taper Forum.

“When you work in the theatre,

you are generally focused on doing

the best possible work you can with

selecting and producing the shows

and then finding the audiences,”

said Center Theatre Group’s artistic

director, Michael Ritchie. “But it was

becoming increasingly clear to CTG

that the theatre itself, that beautiful

and unique Mark Taper Forum,

needed our focus, too. These renovations

will make the theatre so much

better — for our audiences and our

artists and our backstage crew. We

are grateful to the Music Center, the

county and our donors for helping us

make all these changes possible.”

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 13


changing roles

courtesy of ZFX

Inside ZFX’s “dojo”

ZFX, a special effects company, is opening a new facility

in Louisville, Ky. The new operations will focus on all preproduction

design, which includes costume and scenery

departments as well as the choreography and manufacturing

of ZFX’s flying effects.

A highlight for this new facility is the “Dojo,” a 4,000 sq

ft high-bay rehearsal space. There the company’s creative

personnel, who include a full-time choreographer, automation

specialists and flying directors, will use the dojo

to explore and brainstorm new ideas in

aerial choreography. Flying scenes can

be perfected and videotaped in the dojo,

as opposed to incurring high expenses in

the actual theatre where the flying will

take place.

Fennelly Takes

the Express

Bill Fennelly

Following a nationwide search, the

Atlanta-based Actor’s Express Theatre

Company has named Bill Fennelly as its

new producing artistic director. Fennelly

has more than 18 years of artistic and

directorial experience; most recently, he

worked as the associate director of the

Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys.

Says board chair Donna Darroch, “All

of us at Actor’s Express are thrilled that

Bill is joining us. He has a superb national

reputation and great vision for the future

of the company.”

In addition to Jersey Boys, Fennelly

recently collaborated with Cirque Du

Soleil founder Guy St. Amour on the world

premiere of Frankenstein that is set to

tour next year in preparation for hitting

Broadway in 2008. From December 2004

until last September, Fennelly served as

the resident director of the West Coast

tour of Disney’s The Lion King. Before this,

he was the Phil Killian directing fellow at

the Oregon Shakespeare Company.

“I’m elated to be moving to Atlanta and

joining the Express,” says Fennelly on his

new appointment. “I’m honored to lead

the company into its 20th season.”

courtesy of Actor’s Express Theatre Company

14 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


in memoriam

Chris PArry

Chris Parry, the British-born, Tony-Award

winning lighting designer whose credits included

Broadway, 22 productions for the Royal

Shakespeare Company and National Theatre in

England, and most of the top regional theatres

in the U.S., died January 16 of undisclosed

causes. He was 54.

Though Parry had been a prolific lighting

designer in the UK for years, he first vaulted into

prominence by winning a Tony Award for his

work on The Who’s Tommy. He also scored

two Tony nods for Les Liasions Dangereuses

and Not About Nightingales. In addition to

his theatre portfolio, Parry designed for

the Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand

Opera and Opera Theatre of Lucca in Italy.

He headed the design program at the

University of California at San Diego. He

was also owner of Axiom Lighting Inc., an

entertainment and architectural lighting design

firm, in San Diego, Calif.

“Chris was a brilliant designer and a wonderful

teacher,” said Charlie Oates, chair of the

Department of Theatre and Dance at UC San

Diego. “He will be greatly missed here and

throughout the world of theatre.”

He is survived by his son, Richard, and former

wife, Vivien Gregg, as well as his stepmother,

Noelle Parry.

Chris Parry

courtesy of USCD

courtesy of David Gersten & Associates

CURT DEMPSTER

Curt Dempster, who founded the NYCbased

Ensemble Studio Theater, which

served as both a laboratory and launching

pad for new American plays, died January

19 of undetermined causes. He was 71.

The artistic director of EST for 36 years

until he died, Dempster spent the most

of his tenure nurturing and championing

new plays. Among the plays developed at

EST were Christopher Durang’s Sister Mary

Ignatius Explains It All For You and Shirley

Lauro’s Open Admissions.

According to the New York Times

obituary written by Campbell Robertson,

Dempster was such a vocal advocate

of bringing new American plays to the

American theatre that “at a 1987 symposium

on Broadway and American playwrights,

he proposed a five-year boycott of

all foreign plays.” Under Dempster’s artistic

direction, EST has produced hundreds of

new works per season, including many in a

fall play festival, dubbed Octoberfest, and

in its spring marathon of one-act plays.

Prior to inaugurating his theatre,

Dempster worked as a stage manager

and acted in a number of productions,

such as Peter Weiss’

The Investigation on

Broadway and an Off-

Broadway revival of

Arthur Miller’s A View

From the Bridge with

Robert Duvall and Jon

Voight.

Dempster leaves no

immediate survivors.

Curt Dempster in

his youth

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 15


Resource Roundup

& Fire Ice

Need to incorporate a fire effect in your next show? Perhaps one of the following companies

can provide what you need. For a comprehensive listing of companies that specialize in fire

effects, however, please refer to Stage Directions’ Theater Resources 2006-2007 Directory.

Calbor Enterprises Two, Inc.

818.760.3222

www.pyro-fx.net

Since 1973 this L.A.-based

company has designed

pyrotechnics specific to

the needs of a production.

They service indoor and

outdoor theatrical events,

feature films, television,

music videos and commercials.

Calbor Enterprises

belongs to the following

organizations: Alliance of

Special Effects Operators,

Inc., National Fireworks

Association, National Fire Protection

Association and Pyrotechnics Guild

International, Inc.

Jauchem & Meeh Inc. Special Effects

718.875.0140

www.jmfx.net

Based in Brooklyn, New York, Jauchem

& Meeh provides pyrotechnics for

theatre, film and television. Services

encompass equipment, crew, consultants

and designers. Jauchem & Meeh

offers simulated fire effects for sales or

rentals that include silk flames, flicker

candles, electric campfire and small

fireplace kits.

Le Maitre Special Effects, Inc.

519.659.7972

www.lemaitrefx.com

For more than 25 years, Le Maitre

has provided simulated flames and

indoor pyrotechnic effects for theatre,

rock concerts, cruise ships, television

and theme parks. Based in Groveland,

Florida and Ontario, Canada, Le Maitre

offers Le Flame, which provides a realistic

flame effect with the use of light,

A fireball is a great example of a staged fire effect.

air flow and fabric; and Le Torcia, a

stage torch that has an adjustable

flame height and is butane-powered.

Luna Tech, Inc.

256.725.4224

www.pyropak.com

Founded in 1972, Luna Tech fuses

modern technology with the art of

pyrotechnics. Headquartered in

Owens Cross Road, Ala., Luna Tech

specializes in creating indoor fireworks

and other pyrotechnic effects.

They will provide licensed, insured

and experienced technicians to execute

what you need. Clients include

Euro Disney, Feld Entertainment, the

NFL, Warner Brothers, Tina Turner and

Ozzy Osbourne.

Pegasus Theatrical, Inc.

248.353.6130

www.pegasustheatrical.com

For more than 20 years, Pegasus

Theatrical has provided special effects

to the event and entertainment

industries. Based in Southfield, Mich.,

Pegasus Theatrical offers equipment

Jauchem & Meeh

for rental and sales, such as

Le Flame. They also provide

products for fire department

training. Clients

include theatres, churches,

restaurants, clubs and

bowling alleys.

Orlando Special Effects, Inc.

407.648.1867

www.orlandospfx.com

This full-service special

effects company has been

serving the entertainment

industry for more than 15

years. Specializing in custom-designed

effects, Orlando Special

Effects provides flame and fire effects

as well as indoor/outdoor fireworks

and pyrotechnics. Customers run

the gamut from movies and family

entertainment centers to circuses and

haunted attractions. From tiki torches

to large volcano eruptions, Orlando

Special Effects can design and install

it. All fire systems conform to national

codes and standards as well as N.F.P.A.

160.

Pyrotek Special Effects, Inc.

800.481.9910

www.pyrotekfx.com

For more than 25 years, this award-winning

company has provided special effects

to theatres, sporting events, corporations

and tours. Among its pyrotechnic effects

are Colored Flame effects, Prism Flames,

Fountain & Gerb Effects and Dragon Tails.

Performance Magazine named this company,

based in Ontario, Canada, Pyrotechnic

Company of the Year in a readers’ poll,

while PLSN lavished it with similar honors

when it presented the Parnelli Awards in

2003, 2004 and 2006.

16 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


Tools of the Trade

Spring Awakening

The change in season brings a slew of new products.

Media Numerics’ RockNet 300

Audio Distribution Network with

Yamaha M7CL plug-in interface

Media Numerics unveiled its latest

audio/data distribution/contribution

network, RockNet, which is designed

for the theatre, concert, club and touring

markets, at AES last fall. RockNet is

easy to install and can be configured

by front panel push buttons to link up

to 99 devices into a single network of

160 audio channels. It supports standard

Cat5 infrastructures and requires no third

party products, breakout panels or special

cables or connectors. RockNet’s special

features include streamlined redundancy

concept on the device and network level,

dual power supplies and lockable IEC connectors.

System checks can be performed

in seconds without a computer. For more

information, visit www.medianumerics.

com or www.rocknet.us.

Alcons Audio’s Cinema Ribbon

Monitor System

Alcons Audio, a Dutch company that

manufactures sound systems for film,

installation and touring, recently unveiled

its Cinema Ribbon

Monitor System (CRMS),

which is a hybrid surround

system. Each system

consists of a separate

mid-high frequency

section, featuring

one RBN401 pro-ribbon

driver high frequency

with non-vented 8-inch

mid-frequency and a

low frequency 15-inch

section with low powercompression

4-inch voice-coil. The midhigh

frequency section is specifically

designed to act both as mid-high frequency

section for the main/front system,

as well as full-range surround system.

This unique design results in a very uniform

sound stage throughout the entire

listening area. For more information,

please visit www.alconsaudio.com or

www.proribbontechnology.com

Lectrosonics’ IFBT4 Transmitter

Lectrosonics recently introduced its

new IFBT4 (Interruptible Fold Back) basestation

transmitter, which replaces the

analog IFBT1 unit. The IFBT4 is a 250 mW

Digital Hybrid Wireless transmitter for

IFB and other types of radio links such

as camera

hops, relay

stations and

delayed loudspeakers.

It is

c o m p a t i b l e

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Phone: 570.603.0432

Fax: 570.603.0433

Email: testfabric@aol.com

Fabrics Prepared for Dyeing for Creative

Costume and Set Design

Testfabrics, Inc. is your primary source for quality undyed

and resin-free fabrics, specifically prepared for dyeing,

printing and painting.

WE STOCK:

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synthetics, and blends in both knits

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color development

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manufacturing

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WE ACCEPT:

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18 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


with all Lectrosonics 100, 200, 400 and

IFB receivers. The IFBT4 is designed for

use in theatre, broadcasting and film

and can be used as part of a stand-alone

system or patched directly into intercom

systems. For more information, go to

www.lectrosonics.com.

The SeaChanger Wash

Color Engine

The SeaChanger Wash Color Engine

is a CYMG hexachromic color changer

that turns ETC Source Four ellipsoidals

into dichroic wash lights for theatrical,

worship and architectural installations.

The SeaChanger Wash consists of the

four-filter CYMG color engine and a

Fresnel lens barrel that attaches to the

reflector housing of any Source Four

ellipsoidal. Its manual zoom allows users

to adjust the field of view from 20° to

70°. Color transitions from 0-100 percent

saturation in less than one second are

possible. Each SeaChanger is a self-contained

unit with an internal power supply

and is controlled via four-channel

DMX, RDM device or its front-panel

membrane keypad with three-digital

LED display. The SeaChanger Wash is

compatible with 575W or 750W HPL and

HID lamps; it will accommodate a variety

of stage lighting accessories. The

SeaChanger Wash uses dichroic filter

technology to create a palette or stable.

Its xG “Extreme Green” filter combines

with the CYM color wheels to produce

hexachromic colors, expanding the

available gamut to include deeper reds,

blues and greens. To find out more, visit

www.SeaChangerOnline.com.

American DJ Accu Fog 1000

American DJ recently introduced its

newest moving-head fog machine, the

Accu Fog 1000. An addition to American

DJ’s Accu Series of professional intelligent

fixtures, the new fogger is designed

for concerts, productions and clubs. The

1,000-watt unit uses its moving-head

mechanism to rotate 360 degrees and

expels fog at a rate of 10,000 cubic feet per

minute. The Accu Fog 1000 can be used

upright, hung or mounted upside-down

for various effects. The fogger operates in

three different modes: five DMX channels,

seven DMX channels or

sound-triggered auto

programs. Other features

include full 360-degree

pan and 265-degree tilt.

The Accu Fog 1000 has

a suggested retail price

of $1,099.95. For more

information, log onto

www.americandj.com.

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 19


Light On The Subject

By Fiona Kirk

All photos: Paul Kolnik

A n Evening

A scene from The Vertical Hour

to Remember

LD Brian MacDevitt’s quest for the perfect night sky figures prominently

in the Broadway production of The Vertical Hour.

One of the most affecting lighting designs of the season has

to be Brian MacDevitt’s work in David Hare’s The Vertical

Hour on Broadway. The set for the exterior scenes is simple:

a large English Oak tree, a table, some chairs. But behind it soars

an enormous, open sky that slowly changes color over the course

of two acts, from a rich baby blue to an indigo dusk, followed by a

violet sunrise edged with pink and ginger. As the characters argue

and cry over life, love and politics, MacDevitt, a two-time Tony

Award winner for The Pillowman and Into the Woods, conjures up a

magical yet realistic night sky. In the second act, when a character

remarks upon the “the softness of the dawn,” the audience, too, is

mesmerized by the beauty and stillness of the moment.

MacDevitt had a strong reaction when he first read the play. “It

made me feel like I needed to do something, like join the Peace

Corps,” he says. “The play is so complex; it shows a lot of grey

areas, that they’re all flawed people and there aren’t any heroes.

But there’s so much courage in there.”

Directed by Sam Mendes, the production, which features set

design by Scott Pask and costume design by Ann Roth, stars

Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy. “It was a dream come true to have

that kind of talent and do a play with such integrity on Broadway,”

says MacDevitt. “It was a first-class team.”

MacDevitt walked away from his first meeting with Mendes

feeling exhilarated, challenged and slightly worried. Mendes

told MacDevitt that the sky couldn’t just be a piece of fabric with

lights focused on it, but had to appear to emit light. MacDevitt

had created gorgeous skies before, most recently in The Color

Purple, where he utilized 30 moving lights just to create stars and

clouds. But in the Music Box Theatre, there would only be two feet

between the cyc and the back wall of the theatre, leaving very little

room for equipment. “I was sweating it out,” recalls MacDevitt.

“I didn’t want to come up short. Sam is not a person who accepts

less than excellence, so it was a real jolt.”

But MacDevitt wasn’t one to back down from a challenge. He’d

studied lighting design with the legendary William Mintzer at

Purchase College, and was inspired enough to choose a career in

design. “Mintzer taught us to come up with a personal interpretation

of the material, and then try to illustrate that through lighting,”

says MacDevitt. “At the same time, don’t hammer anybody

over the head with it. Mintzer taught us to think like a director.”

After graduating from college, MacDevitt worked briefly as

Mintzer’s assistant (“I wasn’t so good in the co-pilot seat,” he says),

and then started working for Troika, a non-union touring company.

His first Broadway credit was the forgettable What’s Wrong

with this Picture? which closed after a week, but that was quickly

followed by the Broadway transfer of Manhattan Theatre Club’s

Love! Valour! Compassion! and MacDevitt’s career on the Great

White Way soon flourished.

20 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


Julianne Moore in The Vertical Hour

“You have to be a really good team

player, a good collaborator, and really

Zen,” says MacDevitt about being a lighting

designer. Vertical Hour was no different.

Set designer Pask came up with the

idea of using an 80-foot-long, 40-foot-high,

curved cyc, and MacDevitt and his associate

Jen Schriever got to work researching

cyc material and equipment options.

MacDevitt’s initial idea was to make the

sky very stylized: a white light with a warm

glow to it. But once he’d attended rehearsals

and observed how natural the actors’

performances were, he decided that it

would be better to embrace realism.

MacDevitt used 160 PAR lamps to light

the cyc from above. He experimented with

deep purple gels, but the effect was too

“musical theatre” for his liking, and he

eventually settled on two types of blue

gels for the lamps: a soft daytime blue and

a very dark night blue. At the bottom of the

cyc he placed three rows of 40 ministrips,

each two feet in length. In order to make

the sky both intense and clean, each row

was assigned one color: white for the daytime

scene, dark blue for night and, right

along the edge of the deck, a pale amber

for daybreak. MacDevitt used a bounce

drop to minimize the imperfections of the

light, as well as a rear projection screen to

erase any shine.

“I’d just finished doing Tom Stoppard’s

Coast of Utopia, which was an epic show,”

says MacDevitt, “but it was so much easier

than Vertical Hour. It was just really hard

to get the sky perfect. You can try

something in the studio, but when you

put it on a dimmer and place it next


Light On The Subject

to another color,

both colors completely

change.”

MacDevitt credits

his crew, including

house electrician

Lee Iwanski

and production

electrician Brian

McGarity, with

helping to smooth

out any glitches.

Many of the evening

scenes appear

deceptively simple,

but are full of cues

that leapfrog each

other in order to

Andrew Scott in The Vertical Hour

light the actors subtly

as they move

around the stage. MacDevitt’s lighting

design captures the look and feel of night,

while at the same time providing natural,

warm tones on the actors’ faces and bodies.

Small lanterns hung from the branches of

the tree add ambience to the setting.

For MacDevitt,

lighting Vertical

Hour was a lesson

in experimentation,

patience and the

color blue. But for

the audience, it’s

an evening spent

watching the sun set

and rise, a lesson in

the power of light.

[Just before

press-time it was

announced that

The Vertical Hour

would end its limited

run on March

11, three weeks earlier

than originally

scheduled. It was expected to close in the

black. -ed]

Fiona Kirk is the former managing editor

of Stage Directions and a freelance writer

living in New York City.

Check Out The Specs

LIGHTING FIXTURES

192 Source Fours @ 575W

260 PAR 64s

25 Strand 8” Fresnels @ 2Kw

10 Arri Sun 12+ @ 1.2Kw

10 DMX-controlled dowsers for Arri Sun 12+

20 Birdies

10 300W minis 10 frosted

STRIPLIGHTS

120 MR-16 striplights

@ 750W

33 Altman Econo

Cyc single cells @ 650W

10 Nanostrips 1

Cir @ 750W

A partial list of

equipment used by

Brian MacDevitt for

The Vertical Hour

at the Music

Box Theater

MOVING LIGHTS

5 Source Four Revolutions @750W

9 10-degree Auto Yokes @ 750W

EFFECTS

1 MDG Atmosphere Hazer

1 Jem fan

DIMMING & CONTROL

1 ETC Obsession II

5 ETC Sensor racks

22 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


On Broadway

By Bryan Reesman

Scaling the

Heights

all photos: jOan Marcus

For Nevin Steinberg,

designing the sound

for an off-Broadway

musical with a fusion

score had its own

inherent challenges.

This month we go off-Broadway to the 37 Arts Theater to

visit a new musical called In the Heights, which tells the stories

of residents in a Latino neighborhood in Washington

Heights and how they keep their heritage alive while adapting

to a different culture and their pursuit of the American Dream.

With lyrics and music by star Lin-Manuel Miranda, the bilingual

tuner, which opened last month, features dynamic staging and a

clear and vibrant sound mix full of Latin sounds, show tunes and

hip-hop. It also showcases lively, inspired performances from

the cast, particularly Miranda as grocery store owner Usnavi and

Olga Merediz as Abuela Claudia, the matriarch of the neighborhood.

The show’s sound designer Nevin Steinberg, one-third of

Broadway’s omnipresent Acme Sound Partners, recently talked

to SD about working on this colorful, energetic and invigorating

tale of life in upper Manhattan. It’s certainly been a labor of

love.

Stage Directions: In The Heights has a very clear mix, in which

everyone and every instrument can be heard. How challenging

was it to take on a show with a Latin jazz/rock orchestra

and a large ensemble cast? What was the approach you took

in designing sound for the show?

Nevin Steinberg: Glad to hear that you appreciated the clarity

of the mix. Brandon Rice, our engineer, has been doing a great job

on the console. Working with non-traditional music in the theatre

is always a challenge, be it rock, pop, or in this case, a Latin/hiphop

fusion. But it also provides us with an opportunity to renew

our ideas about how to communicate the material to an audience

in the most effective way. On Heights, it was clear early on that

the hip-hop and Latin score was going to require great attention.

It’s been a bit like going back to school. Listening research in

all styles and a deep

familiarity with the

inner workings of

the score are key. Of

course, the composer

has already brilliantly

organized these

sounds and words, so

finding the focus in

each tune has been

very fulfilling.

What kind of console

are you running,

how many

inputs are you

using, and what

outboard gear do

you have?

We are using

Stage Research SFX

Pro Audio Show

Control to drive a

Left to right: Andréa Burns, Robin

de Jesús, Christopher Jackson,

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Karen

Olivo and Janet Dacal perform a

number from In the Heights

Left to right: Robin de

Jesús and Lin-Manuel

Miranda

Yamaha PM1D version 2 digital mixing system, and we’re almost

full up to the 96 inputs available. Outboard gear consists entirely

of TC Electronics M3000 reverbs for the band and vocals.

What kinds of wireless mics are you using on the actors and

why? Which mics are in the pit?

We use Sennheiser 5212 wireless transmitters paired with

the EM-3532 receivers. This is a very small package that sounds

24 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


Lin-Manuel Miranda

(center) and the

In the Heights ensemble

Left to right: Andréa

Burns, Karen Olivo, Mandy

Gonzalez and Janet Dacal in

the “No Me Diga” number.

great. The new transmitter has better

functionality than the previous version

and has shown itself to be very reliable.

We put DPA 4061 lavalier microphones on

the cast. They are the best sounding miniatures

that we’ve heard, and they continue

to prove themselves very durable

in the most hostile environments. In the

pit, we like to mix it up. DPA 4021s, 4006s

on reeds and brass; SM-57 and AKG-414B-

ULS for electric and acoustic guitars; and

Shure SM-98, EV RE-20, SM-57, Neumann

KM-184, KM-140 and AKG-414B-ULS all

over the drums and percussion rigs. It’s a

very nice sounding selection of mics.

What kind of speakers are you using and

where are they placed in the theatre?

Most of the speaker rig for the FOH

is hung overhead from a forestage truss.

Since there is no proscenium — the

scenery extends for the entire width of

the 75-foot stage — and because of the

extended width and shallowness of the

seating areas — there are three speakers

for each position, all flown from the main

truss. The bulk of the system consists

of L-ACOUSTICS ARCs, Meyer MSL-2As,

Meyer CQ-1s and 2s with Meyer USW-1

subs. The front fills are d&b E-3s, and

the delay speakers are Meyer UPM-1Ps

and EAW UB-12s. Onstage monitoring

are EAW JF-60s in grates in the floor and

overhead, and UB-12s from the sides and

all over the upstage sides of the scenery.

We also have a small effects system made

up of Meyer UPA-1Ps for onstage sound

effects.

I’ve noticed there’s a large A/C system

at the 37 Arts Theater. Was it problematic

in designing the show?

I wouldn’t say the HVAC has been

problematic, but it has certainly required

some attention. We’ve done extensive

listening tests, and with the cooperation

of the building engineers, we were able to

make some modifications to the airflow

that have lessened its impact.

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 25


On Broadway

Mandy Gonzalez

and Christopher

Jackson share a

tender moment

at sunrise.

The brief radio broadcast excerpts in the

show usually start in the main speaker

system, then shift to the boom box.

Is there a transmitter in Graffiti Pete’s

boom box?

That boom box is a marvel of theatre

technology. My assistant, Nick Borisjuk, has

worked some real magic with it. I hate to

give away the details, but I can tell you that

there’s a Shure PSM 600 wireless personal

monitor receiver in the boom box.

Are there any elements of the show that

have been changing during previews and

anything you’re still working out?

You saw our fifth preview, so we’re

really just getting started. The show is

changing every day. New musical numbers

are going in next week, as well as new

orchestrations and new sound effects. It’s

an exciting and exhausting time, and nothing

in the show is going to escape scrutiny

over the next three weeks. Of course,

we are tweaking the reinforcement system

and our approach to mixing the show on a

nightly basis during previews.

What new challenges have you faced with

In the Heights that you have not experienced

on other shows you’ve done?

Heights is truly a unique sound. The

challenge of this score — its roots deeply

embedded in classic musical theatre and

moments of real flash with salsa, hip-hop

and reggaeton — is the most exciting part

of working on the show.

Bryan Reesman is a freelance entertainment

writer and avid theatergoer based

in New York whose work has appeared

in the New York Times, Premiere,

Playboy and Billboard. He can be

reached at www.bryanreesman.com.

26 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


Vital Stats

By Kevin Mitchell

Up Close with Tony Tucci

A lighting designer carves a niche for himself

in the world of ballet.

Current Home: Ballet Austin Repertory, Austin, Texas

About the Organization: Founded in 1956 as the Austin

Ballet Society as a volunteer organization.

Incorporated and renamed in 1982.

Also Works With: Washington Ballet, Bruce Wood Dance

Company, Louisville Ballet and Dallas Black

Dance Company

Career Began: New York’s Hudson Ballet,1970s, where he

started as a company carpenter and sound

technician.

Projects of Note: Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project,

Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella, Alvin Ailey Dance

Theatre’s Carmina Burana and Christopher

Bruce’s Kingdom.

Tony Tucci

Next Up: The Taming of the Shrew

Equipment: High End Systems

From Ballet Austin’s Light/The Holocaust & Humanity

Project, for which Tucci designed the lighting.

Couldn’t Work Without: John McKernon’s Lightwright

software — “that and a really good assistant, to help

with the drawings.”

What is Changing: “We’re using more

robotics.”

Concerns: “The thing that is most

alarming is the time frame

to stage shows is shorter and

shorter. I think it’s a problem for

new people coming to do this

kind of work.”

Reason for Getting Up in the

Morning: “I love working with

dancers. They are the most

intelligent of the artists I’ve ever

worked with.”

28 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


Utah

all photography by Jeff Speer

Dreams

The craggy park entrance, replete with

waterfall, to the Tuacahn Center for the Arts

A small arts high school in Utah has high

aspirations for its theatre program.

Tucked away in a small red rock canyon in Ivins, Utah, a small

community just outside St. George, is Tuacahn High School

for the Performing Arts (THS). It is an unusual location for

a performing arts high school; nevertheless, THS has the distinction

of being the nation’s only charter high school affiliated with

a professional arts organization. It is situated on the same site as

the Tuacahn Center for the Arts, home of the Summer Festival of

Theatre, where students work alongside show producers, directors

and designers.

THS is a part of Washington County School District, home to

five large high schools, yet THS is not part of the traditional district

because it is a charter school. It is a bit remote — located off the

beaten path and nestled in the palm of Padre Canyon, part of the

picturesque Snow Canyon State Park. According to Jan Shelton

Hunsaker, the school’s vice principal and artistic director, THS is

where it is precisely because of the location. “If parents and students

are interested in what a school has to offer, they will move

heaven and earth to get their child into that school,” she says.

“We feel that Tuacahn offers many things that no other school in

Washington County has to offer. The grand location is just one of

those things.”

From the outset in 1995, the Tuacahn Center for the Arts

pursued a dual mission of providing quality arts education in

conjunction with its commitment to providing family entertainment.

Initially, the Tuacahn Amphitheatre was a summer/fall

By Geri Jeter

enterprise. Through the years it has grown into a year-round

destination and, on August 23, 1999, the performing arts high

school opened its doors.

THS combines a rigorous college preparatory program with

intensive instruction in five disciplines or “academies” — theatre,

dance, music, musical theatre and technical theatre —

where students work directly under a teacher/mentor as they

go through high school. Enrollment at Tuacahn has steadily

grown since the beginning. The school reached its maximum

capacity during the 2002–2003 school year and now maintains

a waiting list.

The trademark of THS is its rigorous academy program — one

with an enviably low 18:1 student/teacher ratio. Seventy-five percent

of the students are local; the remainder comes from all over

Utah and beyond. In its eight years, more than 80 percent of the

graduates have entered higher education. Although a very young

school, THS has, from the beginning, won or placed in almost

every performing arts competition or event available to the students.

Recent awards include a First Place Sweepstakes at the Utah

Shakespearean Festival Competition where students successfully

competed against schools seven or eight times larger.

THS has an open acceptance policy. Because it is funded by

the state of Utah, it is not allowed to hold auditions. Therefore,

enrollment is open to any student who wants to apply. Out-ofstate

students apply and get accepted just like the Utah students

30 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


— by submitting an application online

and then hoping to get “pulled” in the

spring lottery. Utah state residents are

funded by the state government; out-ofstate

students pay approximately $5,000 a

year to attend.

The school is very proud of its Theatre

Tech Academy, which involves four years

of classes emphasizing design and resumé.

The students start out in the Technical

Theatre One class and advance through

Technical Theatre Three, a class they can

repeat if they wish. Additionally, students

are required to pick up an advanced art

class and put in 20 to 30 hours of lab

work on a project each quarter. Most of

the students work on crews until they are

good enough to apply to be crew chief

for a project — for example, costume

crew chief or set design. Regular production

meetings are held just as they would

in a professional theatre. Everyone has a

role, and everyone is expected to act like

a professional.

Students have many performance

opportunities in their classes and during

the high school performance season, all

of which are considered preparation for

the Tuacahn mainstage. Dozens of students

have spent summers earning a good

wage working on the build or running

the mainstage shows. THS students have

immediate access to all the professional

equipment — mics, boards, anything on

campus — as long as they are trained by

a Tuacahn professional to use the equipment.

They have many opportunities

to work with the professional staff on

the amphitheatre productions, and this

unique privilege prepares them for various

careers in the arts.

Currently the school is upgrading its

technical equipment and facilities. Both

lighting and sound boards are being

replaced in the high school’s main theatre,

and the old boards are being moved

to the smaller black box theatre. Just like

any other theatre school, the students

and faculty wish they had everything

needed for the entire student body to

learn on state-of-the-art design computers.

However, reality dictates that the

students shift around so that the younger

students can learn basic programming,

editing, mixing and design on older apparatus,

while the older students run shows

and make soundtracks, videos, etc., on

the newer equipment.

Plans are in the works for a new indoor

theatre that would seat about 1,000 and

would run year-round. This building will

The Tuacahn

Amphitheatre set

during the Festival of

Lights

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 31


The stage is set

for the radio

play The Best

Christmas

Pageant Ever

Check Out The Specs

Following is the equipment inventory

for Tuachan High School’s two main theatres:

Tuacahn Amphitheatre

(1,920 seat) Equipment List:

Audio

Digidesign VENUE Console with an additional

sidecar and two stage boxes

Dolby Lake LP4D8 system processor

Main P.A.: L-ACOUSTICS dV-DOSC stereo

line array

Front Fill: EAW JF80s

Stage Foldback: EV DeltaMax 1122s, JBL

Control 1s

Effects Speakers: EV DeltaMax 1152s, EV

MT4 stacks

Crown MacroTech Amplifiers on Crown

IQ & IQwic networks

Additional processing: EV Dx38s,

SoundWeb, BSS 8810

Playback: Denon CD players, HHB CD

burner, Richmond Audio Box

Wireless Mics: Shure U4 series Recievers

and Transmitters with Countryman B3,

B6, E6; audio technica AT892 microset

and DPA 4067 mic elements

Lighting

ETC Expression console with Emphasis

software

ETC SensorRack dimming system

ETC Source Four, PAR 4, PAR 64 lighting

instruments

High End Systems Studio Spot

Intelligent lighting systems

Wildfire UV lighting

Spotlights: Lycian M2 longthrows, Lycian

SuperStar 1.2s, Strong Trouperettes

Hafen Indoor Theatre

(320 Seat) Equipment List:

Audio

EV Dynacord 32x4x4x3 mixer

Crown 810 system processor

Main PA : EV DeltaMax 1152s

Stage Foldback: EV T22s, EV FM1202s

Crown Macrotech Amplifiers

Audio-Technica AT3000 series wireless

mic systems with AT892 microset elements.

Effects Processors: Yamaha SPX990, TC

Electronic M-One

Numark CD playback

Lighting

ETC Insight console

ETC SensorRack dimming system

ETC Source Four, PAR 4, PAR 64 lighting

instruments

Lycian Midget spotlights

house a new black box theatre, 10 additional

general classroom spaces, drama

classrooms and additional dance studios,

a music conservatory and rehearsal

spaces. As the high school is both a

performing arts and college preparatory,

the school administration wants to

increase enrollment to 350, up about 100

students from current numbers, so that

the students have more course offerings.

The students need more advanced and

honors options, but currently the school

does not have the space.

The school administration has lofty

ambitions for the school. “Eventually,

we would like to be known as the “Little

Julliard of the West,” says Hunsaker. “We

certainly have the faculty and staff for it;

now we just need the classroom space.”

According to Hunsaker, existing plans put

the project near completion in the next

five to seven years.

Geri Jeter is a freelance writer living

in Las Vegas specializing in the performing

arts.


Theatre Spotlight

By Kevin R. Free

Tasty

Nut

All Photos by brett thomas

David Elder (on table) and ensemble in Windy City

For nearly two centuries, and after many internal changes, quality

reigns supreme at this landmark venue.

There is so much more to the Walnut Street Theatre, considered

America’s oldest continuously operating theatre, than

meets the eye. Designated a national historic landmark in

1964, Walnut Street is the home for populist entertainment

in Philadelphia. A lively array of standard and contemporary

Broadway-style fare is performed on its 1,078-seat proscenium

mainstage, which include this season’s Windy City, 42nd Street,

Of Mice And Men, Enchanted April and Carousel. Entertaining

thousands of people is a large enough job, and Walnut Street

has met the challenge for 190 years, but in recent years, under

the helm of its president and producing artistic director Bernard

Havard, its studio, apprenticeship and outreach programs have

grown by leaps and bounds.

Actors all over the country desire to perform onstage at the

Walnut Street because of its rich history. Few of them are aware that

they could also perform in the theatre’s Independence Studio 3.

It is a black box space

that used

to be a rental space for other theatres in town, such as the Arden

Theatre, to produce shows. Now The Independence Studio 3 has

its own season, also with five shows. The small theatre is more

than 90 percent subscribed, as is the large space downstairs, but

the offerings are very different. Thomas Miller, a spokesperson

for Walnut Street, describes the shows in the Independence as

“more artful than the populist entertainment downstairs.” The

Independence Studio 3 has 80 seats and can accommodate inthe-round

or thrust staging. This year, there’s a mix of standard

fare (The Mystery of Irma Vep) and world premieres (Bookends), all

directed and designed by different people.

After Independence Studio Theatre became another space

for them to produce their own shows, the Walnut Street opened

fifth floor spaces to other theatres in town. There are more

than 150 professional and semi-professional theatres in the

Philadelphia area, and “only a few of them have a permanent

place to play,” says Miller. With a six-floor complex connected

to its four-floor production wing, Walnut Street has the space to

help other fledgling theatres perform in small venues

as they carve out their own niches in a town

already burgeoning with culture.

Another program that goes unnoticed at the

Walnut Street Theatre is the company’s children’s

theatre program. There are four or five kids’ productions,

all based on children’s books. “The idea

is for parents or grandparents to read the books to

their kids and then bring them here to see the plays

onstage,” explains Miller. Two plays are touring

shows produced by ArtsPower or Theatreworks, and

two others are produced by the Walnut Street and

cast with actors from their apprenticeship program.

The theatre offers affordable subscription plans for

these shows as well ($12 – $14). For families who

cannot come to the theatre to see them, Walnut

34 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


From West Side Story

produces additional children’s plays that

tour to more than 150 schools every

academic year. Young actors/teaching

artists act in these plays and also conduct

workshops with young students in

topics that range from bullying and conflict

resolution to basic theatre games.

Not only are they building an audience

for the future of their mainstage productions,

but they are also educating the

theatre artists of tomorrow.

Committed to educating artists of

all ages, the Walnut Theatre’s Training

school for kids and adults is one of the

most popular in the Delaware Valley.

Classes are taught by topnotch theatre

professionals.

Another surprising and exciting program

at Walnut Street is their adopt-aschool

initiative. The theatre adopts a

school and develops a theatre program

with its teachers and students. The school

is entitled to free workshops, touring

productions and invitations to see dress

rehearsals at the theatre’s mainstage. At

their current adopted school, teachers

have converted a storage space into a

small theatre space for students to learn

and perform. Walnut Street has participated

in the adopt-a-school program

for almost 15 years.

The Walnut has had a very colorful

history in its nearly two centuries

of existence. In 1809, it began as an

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 35


Jamie Torcellini and ensemble in Beauty and the Beast

equestrian circus and later on was converted to a legitimate theatre.

From 1941 to 1969, the venue was owned by the Shubert

Organization and became the pre-Broadway stop for a number

of legendary productions that included A Streetcar Named Desire

starring Marlon Brando, Mr. Roberts starring Henry Fonda, A Raisin

in the Sun starring Sidney Poitier and A Man For All Seasons starring

Paul Scofield. In 1969, a non-profit organization purchased

the Walnut Street to save it from the possibility of being torn

down. During the 1970s, the Walnut Street existed solely as a

presenting venue. But that all changed in 1983, when under new

leadership the Walnut Street became a not-for-profit regional

theatre. Since then, it has produced more than 200 plays, including

28 world premieres.

The theatre’s annual budget is approximately $12 million; yet

36 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


Theatre Spotlight

overall, the economic impact on its community is estimated to

be that of $25 million.

In 1998, the Walnut Street implemented a major renovation

of its mainstage area. Seating, carpeting and sound equipment

were all upgraded. The house became ADA compliant while the

exterior façade was repainted and refurbished. Recent renovation

projects include restoring the mainstage grid, which enabled the

Walnut to install more elaborate sets without harming the historic

integrity of the space. A grant from the Pennsylvania Historical

and Museum Commission funded the effort.

Another recent technical overhaul involved upgrading the

mainstage lighting gear. The aim was to allow more creative

latitude with the lighting for its various productions. The lighting

renovation was paid for, in part, by a grant from the Philadelphia

Department of Community and Economic Development.

The Walnut Street theatre staff of 60 is busy with all of its

programs, but they are not without help. Young theatre professionals

from their professional apprenticeship program as acting

apprentices are their educational touring company and are often

cast as understudies in Walnut Street Productions.

When you attend a show at the Walnut Street theatre,

you see that the theatre concentrates on maintaining

quality and connecting that quality to the audiences

of tomorrow. For more information, visit the Web site at

www.walnutstreettheatre.org.

Kevin R. Free is an actor living in New York City. His oneman

play, Face Value, was given a grant by the Henry Street

Settlement, and his commentaries have been featured on the

NPR show News & Notes.

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 37


School Spotlight

By Kevin R. Free

Temple of Art

This Philadelphia school excels in training the designers and technicians of tomorrow.

All photos courtesy of Temple University

From the Temple University production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Thinking outside the box is key for students at Temple

University’s 40-year-old undergraduate theatre department.

Though students do take courses in their major,

be it design/technical, stage management or acting, they are

required to round out their education with non-theatre courses

as well. Is the school pushing its students to have contingency

plans in case a life in the theatre doesn’t work out? On the contrary,

the department strives to empower its students to make

positive choices about arts-related careers.

The bachelor of arts degree begins with a series of “theatre

core” courses, including a class for majors and non-majors

called “Creativity: Basic.” The class offers instruction in artistic

self-expression. Classes in the design/technical/stage management

curricula run the gamut from “History of Costume

and Architectural Décor II” and “Scene Painting” to “Creativity

in Lighting” and “Stage Management I.” Students wishing to

major in one of these areas need to meet with the design

faculty to plan a course of study consistent and specific to

their interests.

The actors and designers in both the BA and MFA programs

are offered intensive work in university productions, all with

an eye on relatedness to “creative communication and lifelong

learning,” as put forth in the program’s mission statement.

There is a thesis program wherein students produce a one-act

play festival, doing everything from choosing the works, casting

the works (often having to cast themselves), producing

the plays, designing sets, lights, sound and costumes for the

festival, and publicizing it. Professors act primarily as advisors

for this program, sending students back to the drawing board

several times in the process.

Speaking of productions, there are five on the mainstage

in the 2006-2007 academic year, and the department chose

a diverse list of plays: Ragtime, The Musical; Our Lady of 121st

Street; The Importance of Being Earnest; The Devils; and Ma

Rainey’s Black Bottom. Patricia Allen, director of marketing for

the theatre department, is proud of that diversity. “Temple

is one of the most diverse schools in the country,” she notes,

“and that shows up onstage. Because Temple is located in the

heart of north Philadelphia, where many people of color live,

the theatre department wants to represent the diversity of the

community around them onstage. There is even a class in slam

poetry being offered this year.”

Productions are staged in two theatres: the Tomlinson

Theater, a 450-seat proscenium (which can be converted into

a thrust) and the intimate Randall Theater, which is ideal for

smaller productions. The Tomlinson Theater has a large fly

system with an 80-foot grid, 24 counterweight line sets and a

hydraulic orchestra pit. The Randall Theater has a dead hung

pipe grid and flexible seating.

In addition to the two main theatres, the department has

several rehearsal studios, a fully equipped scene shop, a thriving

prop shop, a recording studio and a light lab where special

effects and lighting research are performed.

Alas, poor Yorick! Students sink their teeth into Hamlet with this production.

Because students are encouraged to express themselves

creatively, there are countless student productions, studio

presentations and class performances (not to mention the

One-Act Play Festival). It is the hope that theatre majors will be

cast in these shows, and many of the theatre folks involved sign

contracts — just like in the professional world. Further, many

students work on productions outside of the theatre department

at professional theatres in the area.

For many years, Temple’s MFA program has been a magnet

for the finest theatre design and technical talent in the

38 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


School Spotlight

country. The theatre department offers

specialized study in scene design, lighting

design, costume design and costume

construction. Admission is by portfolio

review. Each MFA candidate can customize

their own course of study, based

on their particular interests, and finish

it in three years, while they maintain

their professional careers. Alumni have

found work in some of the country’s top

theatres, such as the Kennedy Center,

the Mark Taper Forum, Circle-in-the-

Square, the Guthrie Theater, New York

Shakespeare Festival, Lincoln Center,

Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Yale

Repertory Theatre.

Though technically a school of the

commonwealth, tuition ranges from

$10,180 annually for in-state students

to $18,224 for out-of-state students. The

fees for graduate and part-time students

vary according to the number of credit

hours a student takes. Scholarships

and financial aid are available. For more

information about the theatre department,

visit the school’s Web site at

www.temple.edu.

Gear Alert

Below is a list of the lighting and sound equipment used in Temple University’s 450-seat proscenium venue:

Audio Gear

Soundcraft K2 24 channel mixing console

G5 Macintosh running QLAB by figure53

M-Audio firewire 410

Crown CKS800 Amplifiers

Behringer CX 3400 Crossover

Symetrix 532 Dual Graphic Delay

Symetrix 402 Signal Delay

Shure DFR11EQ Feedback Reducer EQ

DBX 266xl Compressors

Yamaha REC500 Reverb unit

Speakers

JBL MS125S Subwoofers

JBL MS115

JBL Control 29AV ‘s

JBL Control 5’s

OAP T-152’s

Wired Mics

SM 58s

SM 57s

AT853RX hanging mic

RE90h choir mic

Sennheiser 421s

Wireless Mic systems

Shure SLX wireless mic 14/93

Shure UC wireless 14/93

Lighting

Expression 3 lighting board

50 ETC 50° Source Four

80 ETC 36° Source Four

80 ETC 26° Source Four

100 ETC 19° Source Four

20 ETC 10° Source Four

48 ETC Pars Source Four

60 Altman Lighting 1k Fresnels

26 Altman Lighting PAR 64 cans

26 Altman Lighting 6x12 ERS

20 Altman Lighting 6x16 ERS

42 Altman Lighting 6x9 ERS

6 Altman Lighting 8’ PAR 64 striplights

10 Altman Lighting 4.5X6 ERS

6 8’ L&E lighting ministrips

2 High End Systems Studio Spot 575

3 High End Systems Studio Color 575

2 Advanced Lighting Systems Live LED 100s

28 Wybron CXI color scollers

1 Pocket Console DMX by BCI

1 Figment Palm DMX by Interactive

Technologies

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 39


The Toast of Ashland

By Iris Dorbian

After 12 years as creative head at OSF and 40 years

in American theatre, Libby Appel reflects on her wild ride.

In her nearly 12 years as artistic

director of Oregon Shakespeare

Festival, Libby Appel has made

an indelible mark on the American

theatre. Not only has she enhanced

this Ashland-based classical repertory

company’s profile both domestically

and globally, she has attracted

world-class theatre artists to its

fold, such as Frank Galati, Robert

Schenkkan, Ming Cho Lee and Don

Holder. She has also made some

advances in the world of technical

theatre by expanding the area of

sound and composing as a major

design element for OSF productions.

A former educator with 20

years of experience, Appel can’t

help but betray her roots. At OSF,

she established the FAIR program

(which includes the prestigious Phil

Killian Directing Fellowship) as a

way to educate the future generation

of theatre artists.

Appel, who will be turning 70

this year, is stepping down from her post this November to

concentrate on semi-retirement. Recently, Appel took time

from her schedule to share some thoughts about her career

with Stage Directions.

Stage Directions: How did you get started? What was your

training?

Libby Appel: In the 5th century BC, I went to the University

of Michigan, prior to them actually having a theatre major. I had

to be a speech major — I actually had to take classes in elocution

and speech defects. I had to take all that stuff, but I was able to

concentrate on theatre.

Were you always interested in theatre?

Yes, I was. I’m a born New Yorker, and my parents — neither

of them were artists in any way — loved to go to the theatre,

so from the time I was very small they took me to Broadway. As

soon as I earned babysitting money, I used to take the subway

in from Brooklyn or Forest Hills when my family moved there

Courtesy of OSF

and see shows. I was stagestruck.

I did high school theatre and stuff

like that.

Did you have any idea what

particular area you wanted to

go into?

I had an extraordinarily lucky situation.

I, of course, was an actress in

high school and college. That’s kind

of where you start. I was a competitive,

ambitious person, but I knew

I wasn’t very good. I had an acting

teacher in my junior year in college

at Michigan who said to me, “Libby,

you ought to take a directing class.”

I took it the next semester, and it

was as if I had fallen into exactly my

right skin. I had found myself completely

the minute I took the class. I

remember the first thing I directed:

a one act by Tennessee Williams

called The Lady of Larkspur Lotion. It

Libby Appel

was quite successful, and my teachers

were very supportive. Then, in

my senior year, I concentrated on directing projects. I got married

immediately after graduating — in those days you did — it

was 1959, and I had children immediately. Then when I was 30, I

went back to graduate school. But for eight years I wasn’t doing

theatre or anything except taking care of babies.

What graduate school did you go to?

I went to Northwestern University.

For directing?

Yes. I graduated from there in 1969. The minute I went back

to graduate school, I was very clear that my kids were now old

enough — my daughter was in nursery school, and my son was

in kindergarten — and that my life was now moving toward a

career. I wasn’t going to abandon my family or home, but I knew

I was set on a path.

What was your first professional job in theatre?

After Northwestern, I [spent a year] directing plays in Chicago.

40 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


Andree Lanthier

From the OSF production of Bus Stop, which was directed

by Libby Appel: Virgil Blessing (Mark Murphey) performs

for the impromptu variety show as Bo Decker (Danforth

Comins) chafes about how to win Cherie’s favor.

Then in 1970, my husband, who was a painter and working in

the family business, told me he was going to stop working in the

business and that I would have to earn a living. [I got lucky] and

got a job teaching acting and directing in the Goodman Theatre

and School of Drama in Chicago. I don’t know why they took

a chance at me because I had no experience as a teacher. But

they did. The dean of the theatre school liked me and said they

needed someone. I taught there for six years. And I directed at

the Goodman and the Court Theatre, also in Chicago. I did a lot

of work in the area. Then I was asked to be the head of the acting

program at Cal State Long Beach, and that’s what brought me

out to the West Coast.

I was there for five years, and then I was appointed the dean

of theatre at California Institute of the Arts. So I had 20 years of

teaching. I was directing, but my primary career was teaching.

Then in 1988, I came to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to

guest direct a show because I was doing all the Shakespeare

Festivals out in the West by then. I got here, did a show and came

back from it and said to my husband, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m

giving up the teaching.” I left my job as dean within a year and

started freelancing. The rest is history.

Again, I got incredibly lucky. When I started to freelance, I was

doing seven shows a year, and then I was appointed the artistic

director of the Indiana Repertory Theatre in 1991.

Would you consider that to be the turning point in

your career?

Frankly, I think the real turning point was when I went back to

doing this show here in ’88 and said, “I’m done teaching. I can’t

stay in this career anymore,” and took this huge chance. I was still

the sole supporter of our family, and I was giving up benefits, a

steady salary, a very high position in academia as the dean of

theatre — I was taking a huge risk. It was definitely the Oregon

Shakespeare Festival that turned it around for me

I loved Indiana. I had a marvelous time there for four years,

but as soon as this position [as artistic director of OSF] became

available and they asked me in 1995 if I was interested, I couldn’t

resist. This was my favorite place where I had worked in my life.

You’re leaving OSF — looking back on your tenure there,

what do you consider to be the most challenging and

rewarding aspects of what you do as an artistic director?

It’s got an enormous administrative responsibility — it’s a

really hard job. But if you want to really run a theatre, I just don’t

think there’s a better place on earth because here, you have a

company of artists in residence and the most loyal audience in

the world who really are intelligent and are interested in you

doing groundbreaking work.

Why do you think they’re so responsive?

It’s actually been built into their genes. There are people who

have been coming here for 50 years. These are people who have

brought their children and their grandchildren and their great

grandchildren. I can’t tell you how many people have said to me

over the years, “You know, all I need is King John and Henry VIII to

complete my canon.” (laughs). This year I finally did King John, so

I did complete some people’s canon. We did it in a small theatre,

and it was an extremely successful show artistically, and we had

an audience of 94 percent attendance. Now you tell me where

in the world there’s going to be a 94 percent attendance over six

months of playing 100 performances of King John?

After you leave OSF this November, what are your

future plans?

I plan at the moment to really retire. I’ve had a major career in

theatre for over 40 years.

42 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


So you really want to retire?

I do. I mean I would never leave this job if I had still had the

energy to keep that responsibility. I still want to direct, but not

constantly. I certainly don’t want a freelance schedule again.

One or two shows a year. I hope I’ll be asked to do them around

the country. I have some writing projects. I’ve started to adapt

Chekov’s plays from literal translations; I’m doing Cherry Orchard

this season. But I really feel it’s time for someone younger to take

over the reins. I really thought I would die in the saddle, but I can

see I’m ready for more of an inner life.

Perdita (Nell Geisslinger,

front) is consoled by her

lover Florizel (Juan Rivera

LeBron) in the OSF production

of The Winter’s Tale

directed by Libby Appel.

Jenny Graham

Professionally, what are you most proud of?

I don’t know if others would agree, but I guess I’m most

proud of my work as a director. My mother used to say the most

important thing in life is to fulfill your potential, and I feel I’ve

been on that road of fulfilling my potential for some time. Here

at the Festival I’m extremely proud of the advances we’ve made:

the new play work that we’ve done, the diversity of the company,

the high level of productions that’s been happening the

past 12 years since I’ve been added. There are a lot of things I’m

proud of here, but I’ve got to say I’m most proud of having had a

career in the theatre and probably affecting other people’s lives,

particularly women.

What’s your advice to young women who want to tread a

similar career path?

Stay true to what you believe and what’s in your heart. Don’t

let anyone stop you.

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 43


Special Audio Section

The Old Globe Theatre at night

Combating Congestion

Pablo Mason

How wireless systems thrive in the

face of adversity at San Diego’s

Old Globe Theatre

By Gregory A. DeTogne

Old Globe staff member Trevor Hay wearing an HME wireless headset

Wireless systems are ubiquitous these days, with everything

cutting the cord from portable navigation systems

and handheld Internet-enabled devices to specialized

two-way business radios. As cables and connectors uncoil into

our collective repository of all things forgotten but properly

recycled, it should come as no surprise that sound design for

theatre has benefited on many levels from advances spawned by

the “Wireless Age.”

Admittedly, wireless systems are not new in theatre. Since their

introduction in the early ’80s, wireless microphones have been

used onstage in form factors ranging from traditional handheld

devices to micro-tiny lavalier transmitters hidden along an actor’s

hairline. Behind the scenes, wireless intercom has served in an

equally important capacity, offering stage managers communication

capabilities with working crews, and individual crewmembers

specialized channels of communication for dedicated talk among

themselves.

Early wireless systems had their advantages and disadvantages.

On one hand, freedom of movement was gained exponentially.

On the other, sound quality wasn’t quite as good, and the range of

operation was short. With time, these problems were conquered.

Today, the sound and performance of better wireless systems is of

premium quality. As a result, wireless challenges facing contemporary

sound designers are of a different sort, often arriving from

an increasingly hostile outside world, where bandwidths allotted

by the FCC for the operation of professional wireless systems

44 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


Norbert Leo Butz (left) and John Lithgow in The Old Globe’s

world-premiere production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

are under constant siege from competing

devices seeking to fulfill expanding needs.

Like our highways, congestion is the norm

within these frequency spectrums, as wireless

operators vie for shrinking space.

Such are the obstacles frequently confronted

at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre,

which began as a venerable room first

built in 1935, modeled after Shakespeare’s

Globe in London. Rebuilt in 1982 after

an arsonist’s flames destroyed the original

landmark structure in 1978, the Old

Globe has risen to prominence among the

nation’s regional theatres with recognition

by a special Tony Award, selection of its

production of Skin of Our Teeth as the first

PBS satellite telecast of a live stage production,

a visit from Queen Elizabeth II, several

notable Broadway transfers and recordsetting

subscription ticket sales.

According to Old Globe sound director

Paul Peterson, when wireless operation

goes wrong in San Diego, it’s like getting

struck by lightning. Lying in the shadow of

Balboa Park, the Old Globe Theatre complex

is surrounded by high concentrations

of RF activity coming from a multitude

of sources, including broadcast television

signals from both the U.S. and Mexico.

All of it represents potential interference,

with threats of “hits” taking out portions of

the theatre’s own wireless signals, or even

rendering them totally useless.

“HDTV is well on its way to becoming

the worst problem,” admits Peterson,

dreading February 17, 2009, the day the

FCC has marked as the official date when

all broadcasters will be required by law to

make a complete transition to the digital

format. “We already have to be very careful

of how we allot our wireless frequencies in

the theatre to make sure that not just our

wireless mics are being affected, but also

that our intercom systems aren’t getting

stepped on as well.”

Keeping the Old Globe’s internal intercom

needs on-track these days is a PRO850

wireless system from HM Electronics, Inc.

(HME). Calling nearby Poway, Calif. home,

HME has been a major player within the

professional communications marketplace

for more than three decades. Appreciated

among users for its extended operating

range and flexibility to configure and

expand to meet unique needs, the PRO850

has a wide frequency response and offers

low distortion performance. Of significant

importance within the wireless wars, it also

incorporates simultaneous dual-channel

operation and employs a frequency agile

design offering auto-frequency selection.

For those unfamiliar with the particulars

of wireless operation, frequency agility

refers to the ability of a system to operate

among different frequencies. Within the

crowded world of RF traffic, this is a feature

that can be used to carry out the synthesized

scanning of hundreds of different

transmit and receive frequencies until the

best performing frequencies are located.

Wireless systems with auto-frequency

selection perform this service automatically

with the press of a button.

The Old Globe’s PRO850 system is cen-

Craig Schwartz


Special Audio Section

Craig Schwartz

The cast of The Old

Globe’s annual holiday

production of Dr. Seuss’

How the Grinch Stole

Christmas!

tered around a pair of base stations housed

directly onstage and eight lightweight

headset transceivers. “With its frequency

agility and auto-frequency selection, the

PRO850 can adapt to whatever comes

its way in terms of competition,” notes

Peterson. “We’ve obtained some dramatic

improvements in performance compared

to the outdated system it replaced as well,

most significantly in the area of operating

range. We wanted our stagehands to be

able to freely roam just about anywhere

and still be in communication, and to that

end, the PRO850 gave us what we needed.

Our basement is filled with concrete walls.

When you went down there before, you

were out of range after taking two steps on

the stairs down. Now we can go anywhere

downstairs, and even into the parking lot,

and still not lose communications. Our

crews are on a very loose leash.”

Complementing the HME PRO850 system

within the Old Globe’s working RF

plan are 10 (soon to be 12) new channels

of UHF-R wireless microphones, provided

by Shure, Inc., which recently joined 10

channels of existing U1A and U1B wire-


less (also from Shure and owned by the

theatre for the last nine years). Serving

performers onstage, the Shure wireless,

like the PRO850, is frequency agile and

incorporates auto-frequency selection.

Beltpack receivers worn by onstage talent

are generally used with headworn lavaliere

mics, while Beta 58A-equipped handheld

transmitters are kept at the ready for

announcements and other needs.

Another wireless item of note in use at

the Old Globe is a Shure PSM 600 system.

Normally used for personal monitoring of

live, onstage concert performances, at the

Old Globe this PSM 600 sees duty running

wireless loudspeakers bringing sound

reinforcement to special effects.

“The PSM 600 can be used for a lot of

things,” explains Peterson. “For example,

we’ve wrapped a receiver in a blanket

wired to a loudspeaker that gave voice

to an effect simulating a baby crying.

We’ve done the same thing with other

sounds using loudspeakers hung overhead

or behind walls. The deceit comes in

quite handy at times, and is an ideal aural

illusionist’s tool. Used skillfully, you can

bring a fair degree of spatial trickery to

sound as well.”

In his role as sound director at the Old

Globe, Peterson’s responsibilities are twofold:

he is both the department head and

resident sound designer. As part of his

former role, his duties include administrative

and budgetary concerns. In the latter,

he designs about 60 to 80 percent of the

theatre’s productions in any given year.

“Regardless of what hat I’m wearing,

my goal is to ensure that we’re ready

to serve any production that comes our

way,” he says. “Wireless systems are a

big part of any performance, and for that

reason, they have to be dependable, night

after night. The systems we have are very

compatible with one another and provide

us with the rock-solid reliability we

demand. When a visiting company arrives,

I want them to look around and know we

have them covered. With a reputation

like ours at stake, there’s no other way to

approach this job.”

Gregory A. DeTogne is a freelance writer

and publicist who lives and works north of

Chicago in Libertyville, Ill.

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 47


Special Audio Section

Speaker

oftheHouse

A center cluster line array

hangs over the stage at the

Holland Performing Arts Center

in Omaha, Neb.

Need help in finding the right speaker?

First, you need to get the scoop on the

various types and which may be right

for your theatre. By Jason Pritchard

Choosing speaker systems for theatre can be a daunting

task. As a designer, one would hope that design intent

would dictate equipment choice, but often we are limited

by available equipment, budget or both. Understanding

the concepts behind speaker system designs can go a long

way in assisting the designer in choosing individual components

wisely.

For purposes of this discussion, it is important to make a distinction

between individual types of speakers and how those

individual elements come together to form a speaker system.

Speakers are like Legos, they come in all sorts of shapes and

sizes and can be combined in many different ways.

Speaker Types

There are two main types of speaker cabinet. One type is

your standard speaker cabinet, which encompasses the majority

of products (including trapezoidal cabinets), and the other

is line array. Standard and trapezoidal cabinets can be used as

individual cabinets or in conjunction with other like cabinets

to form horizontal, vertical or two-dimensional arrays. Line

arrays are meant to be used in a multiple cabinet vertical

array configuration. The advantages to standard trapezoidal

products are their ability to be used as stand alone or arrayed

devices, in both short and long throw applications, while line

arrays tend to be a more efficient long throw device.

Standard and Trapezoidal Cabinets

Trapezoidal cabinets can be used as individual elements

in a sound

system or A self-powered “standard

c o m b i n e d trapezoidal” speaker.

with other

like cabinets

to form an array. Speaker manufacturers express the coverage

of speakers in degrees. That relates to the average high

frequency dispersion of the cabinet. Low frequencies are

generally less directional, whereas the high frequencies can

be more easily controlled. Speakers with greater horizontal

dispersion are better suited to short throw applications (the

sound doesn’t have to travel very far to reach a listener and

still be intelligible), whereas speakers with narrower dispersion

are designed for longer throw applications (the sound

will have to travel a longer distance to reach the listener).

Manufacturers will often have the same cabinet available in

both short and long throw configurations.

Line Arrays

Line arrays are designed to be used in a vertically stacked

arrangement. Line arrays and trapezoidal cabinets are very

different in terms of the design of components, especially

the high frequency horns. Where the vertical dispersion of a

trapezoidal cabinet might range from 30 o to 90 o , the vertical

dispersion of a single line array cabinet is only about 5 o . The

idea is that the cabinets couple with each other to produce a

more efficient array, and the vertical dispersion of the array

is determined by the number of cabinets in the array and the

48 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


Jason Pritchard

A line drawing of the placement of

speakers for various systems

angles between them. Line array is not

new, but has experienced a resurgence

of interest lately. Line arrays are often

marketed as the solution for any problem;

however, they are better suited to

long throw applications, or applications

where vertical control takes precedence

over horizontal control. A line array

is functionally a single speaker whose

horizontal coverage is fixed and whose

vertical coverage is based on the shape

of the array. Line arrays tend to be more

difficult to use due to the complexity of

the way the individual elements couple

with each other based on the angles

between the cabinets. Sophisticated

tools are required to predict the coverage

of a line array system.

SYSTEM TYPES

If one has limited equipment, time,

budget or other resources, one of the

best things that can be done is to keep

it simple. Placing the speakers in the

theatre for maximum audience coverage

and minimum spill on the stage,

then presenting a mono signal through

the system, will often create the best

audience experience.

Small amounts of panning can go

a long way. We’ll call this mono-plus.

For example, a little gentle panning of

chorus vocals under a lead vocal can

really help with the clarity of the lead

vocal. The panning should be gentle,

keeping in mind that the panning in

this situation will vary the mix for each

different person in the room and in different

ways.

Stereo System

A stereo system places the speakers

on the left and right of the proscenium

opening. In the Audio Dictionary, by

Glenn D. White, stereo is defined as “…a

sound system that provides the listener

with an illusion of directional realism…”

As far back as 1933, Bell Labs was doing

experiments using multiple speaker systems

to try and achieve some level of

directional realism. The result of these

experiments and subsequent patents

on the subject was this: to achieve some

degree of directional realism, signals

from overlapping sound systems must

reach the listeners’ ears at roughly the

same level and roughly the same time.

Altering the level or arrival time of the

signals has the effect of artificially shifting

the perceived location of the sound.

As it turns out, attempting to present a

stereo image in a large space is more

challenging than one might think.

LCR System

An LCR system consists of speakers

placed left and right of the proscenium

with an additional speaker or speakers

centered above the proscenium. The LCR

system has a lot in common with a stereo

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 49


Special Audio Section

A top and side drawing of a trapezoidal speaker

box, showing the horizontal (top) and vertical (side)

spread of audio dispersion from the box

system. Sometimes a system with speakers

to the left, right and a center cluster is

not an LCR system and the three clusters

are being used to merely obtain basic

coverage for the room. Sometimes the

left and right clusters are used together

to obtain even room coverage, and the

center by itself has whole room coverage.

A true LCR system will be designed

so that, individually, each of the three

clusters of speakers are capable of covering

the entire room by themselves. When

this is the case, a properly designed and

tuned LCR system can be a fantastic tool

for the designer. Coupled with a console

that offers LCR panning or some clever

bussing on a console that doesn’t, sound

can be reasonably placed throughout

the three speaker systems. Check out

the side bar on LCR panning on page 52

for more info.

Perhaps the greatest advantage for a

theatre is the center cluster. Having the

ability to place a speaking part or lead

vocal in the center does wonders for

clarity if the supporting music, underscore

and other elements are placed

to the sides. This only works if each

of the three clusters cover the entire

Jason Pritchard

room, keeping in mind the rules of time

and level. If the system cannot be put

together to be a true LCR System, mono

may be a better way to go.

A/B Systems

A/B systems are potentially the most

complex, most expensive and time-consuming

to set up and tune. An A/B system

refers to a system that is essentially

two speaker systems placed right next

to each other. The most common is to

do an LCR or some semblance of an LCR

system, and double it. For every speaker

coverage area, two speakers are placed

to cover the same area. Different signals

can be routed to each speaker; rather

than mixing those sounds electronically,

the sounds are mixed acoustically.

It’s a lot of trouble, but there is a point.

If the production is using individually

miked actors working in close proximity

to each other, mixing the signals electronically

can produce the unwanted

side effect of phasing. The phasing that

we hear when two signals are electrically

combined is created when one

signal gets electrically summed with

the same signal, but slightly out of time.

Electrically, the two signals are correlated

with each other, just out of time

with each other. Sending each signal

to its own speaker effectively de-correlates

the signals, and that de-correlation

makes it more difficult to hear the

phase problems. A/B systems can also

be used to add clarity and definition to

a production by using one system for

the band or orchestra and the other for

the actors or singers. Each P.A. can be

tuned differently to accommodate the

material it supports.

Extended Systems

Front Fills

The front few rows of seats are usually

quite close to the stage. The first row

of coverage from the main P.A. could

be a few rows behind the front row. An

audience member sitting front and center

could be looking at an actor a few

feet away and hearing that actor’s voice

come from 20 feet to the left or right.

To combat the problem many designers

will install some small speakers on the

50 March 2007• www.stage-directions.com


KNOWING WHEN TO INVEST

IN NEW SPEAKERS

The useful life of an un-abused speaker is actually quite long. Speaker

drivers, in and of themselves, haven’t changed much in the past 20 years.

What has changed is the way we process signals before they get amplified

and sent to the speakers. Powerful digital processing now allows for correction

of anomalies in speaker performance that were not correctable a few years ago.

Power amplifier technology has also advanced, and many newer speakers have

custom processing and amplification built-in.

The primary things to look at when considering a new speaker purchase are:

• Age – Sometimes they have just reached the end of their useful life.

• Function – With the selection of form factors and options available,

perhaps there is a product that simply wasn’t available a few

years ago that will now solve a specific problem.

• If you’re looking to replace a “bad sounding” speaker system,

consider that maybe the speakers themselves are OK, and the design or

implementation is not quite right. The speakers are part of a much

larger entity that is a sound system. Sometimes a simple wiring

mistake is hampering the true performance of the system.

front edge of the stage to fill in image

for the few seats that are missed by the

main P.A. Sometimes just a little bit of

reinforcement is needed down in front

to improve intelligibility and image.

Under Balcony Fills

Often in theatres with balconies, the

P.A. can’t punch all the way to the rear

of the sections under the balcony overhang.

Also, if a center cluster is used

above the proscenium, these speakers

can be completely obscured by

the balcony. In these situations many

designers choose to hang some small

speaker cabinets from the ceiling at

the front edge of the balcony. These

speakers are generally used to reinforce

any signals being sent to any

of the main speaker positions. They

can also be time delayed to make the

arrival times of the signals line up. A

theatre with a balcony is like dealing

with three separate rooms. There is the

space in front of the balcony, the space

under the balcony and the balcony

itself. Compromises usually have to be

made when it comes to spaces like this,

sacrificing directional realism in favor

of even coverage.

FX Speakers (Practicals)

These can fun. They involve placing

speakers on or in the set to provide

focus for sounds that should emanate

from the performance space. In smaller

spaces one can get away with using well

placed speakers on the stage for sound

the set should make. In larger spaces it

is a good idea to supplement onstage

FX speakers by folding some of the FX

into the main P.A., or perhaps just some

parts of the main P.A. This helps avoid

having the onstage speaker at unrealistic

or ridiculous levels, while helping to

maintain the focus of the sound coming

from the stage space. Care should

be taken when placing special effects

speakers in the audience for the same

reasons. Surround speakers can also fall

into the category of FX speakers.

Subswoofers

Subwoofers are specialized speaker

cabinets designed to produce only low

frequency information. They can be


Special Audio Section

LCR

PANNING

Some mixing consoles offer LCR

panning as an option. A standard

stereo pan pot smoothly moves a

signal between two speakers. There

are a couple of different types of LCR

pan pots. The first pans through all

three speakers in turn. With the pan

pot turned hard left the sound is

panned hard left; when the pan pot

is center the signal is routed only to

the center speaker; and when panned

right the sound is routed only to the

right speaker. This type is best used

with a true LCR system. The second

method begins the same, with a hard

left pan being routed only to the left,

a center position would route the signal

to all three speakers proportionally

and hard right routes to only the

right speaker. This method is better

suited to a system that uses all three

speakers to obtain whole room coverage.

Different manufacturers have

variations on this, so be sure to read

about how your particular equipment

handles the pan pot.

used to supplement or extend the low

frequency response of a system. They

can be part of the main P.A., or they can

be used as FX speakers for extra lowend

punch on specific sound effects.

There is a lot to consider when

discussing speakers, types and placement.

Having an understanding of the

options and concepts can give the

designer a real head start toward efficient

use of resources.

Jason Pritchard is head of audio for

Cirque du Soleil’s production of LOVE at

the Mirage in Las Vegas.

52 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


Special Audio Section

470

10

1 2

SHIELD

3 470

Ways to Accessorize

FEMALE XLR 470 2 1

CONNECTORS

3 SHIELD

TO MICS

MALE Need XLR a short primer on audio gadgetry? Read on.

1 2

CONNECTOR

SHIELD

3

470

TO AUDIO SYSTEM

By Bruce Bartlett

Sometimes, little audio boxes and circuits can help you out in a big way. Audio accessories can match equipment levels,

cure hum and RFI and help troubleshoot a sound system. Let’s look at some gadgets that solve audio problems.

Direct Box

Suppose you want to connect an electric bass or synthesizer

directly to a mixer mic input, omitting the mic

and its potential feedback. The bass or synth has a high-Z

unbalanced signal, but the mixer mic input is low-Z balanced

(XLR). You want the bass guitar to be loaded by a

high impedance, and you want the mic input to be fed by

a low-impedance signal. A direct box does the job (Figure

1). Inside the direct box is a transformer or active circuit

that matches the impedances and balances the signal. You

set the ground-lift switch on the direct box to the position

where you monitor the least hum.

A Google or Froogle search will turn up many directbox

models. The Radio Shack A3F XLR Jack-to-¼” Plug

Adapter/Transformer, part no. 274-016, is a minimal-quality

but usable direct box without a ground-lift switch. On

the other end of the spectrum is a Countryman Type 85

active D.I.

cable with the shield not connected in the male connector.

Plug it in-line with the audio cable connecting the two

devices.

Sometimes the lifted shield makes the cable pick up radio

frequency interference. If that happens, solder a 0.01 microfarad

ceramic capacitor between the lifted shield and pin 1

in the male XLR connector (Figure 2, bottom diagram).

Some people try to break a ground loop by putting an

Fig 2:

A cable

ground-lift

adapter

electrical 3-to-2 adapter on the AC power plug. Never do

that. The adapter lifts the third-pin safety ground and can

create a shock hazard (hot chassis) if the power cord is

damaged.

Fig 1:

A direct box

All illustrations courtesy of Bruce

Bartlett

Cable Ground-Lift Adapter

Suppose you connect two balanced line-level devices

that are plugged into widely separated AC outlets and

you hear hum. The cause might be a ground loop: a cableshield

connection between two chassis that are at different

ground voltages. You can break that ground loop with

a cable ground-lift adapter (Figure 2). It’s a short XLR mic

Transformer-Isolated Ground-Lift Adapter

The ground-lift adapter just mentioned is for balanced

equipment only. If you hear hum when you connect balanced

and/or unbalanced devices, try one of the following

devices: Shure A15BT bridging transformer (shure.com,

pro audio products, accessories) or Ebtech Hum Eliminator

(ebtechaudio.com).

Connector Adapters

Other essential tools are adapters or cables that match

one type of connector with another. For example, you

might want to connect your mixer’s phone jacks to a

sound card’s mini phone jack or to a CD player’s RCA jacks.

Build or buy the adapters you need.

54 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


Balanced-To-Unbalanced Adapter

(Pro/Semipro Level Matcher)

Sometimes you have to connect professional gear to consumer gear. Those two

types of equipment work at different signal levels and have different connectors. For

example, you might use a professional mixer (with a +4 dBu output level) driving a

consumer-type recorder that accepts signals with a –10 dBV level.

Fig 3: Wiring

balanced out to

unbalanced in. The

resistors form a 12

dB pad to match

the balanced +4

dBu output to the

unbalanced –10

dBV input. Bottom:

Same, with an isolation

transformer

added to reduce

hum.

There’s a 12 dB difference between those two signal levels, so the mixer can easily

overdrive the recorder. The 12 dB pad shown in Figure 3, top, attenuates the +4 level

down to –10, preventing distortion in the recorder. The wiring shown also converts

the signal from balanced to unbalanced.

If you hear hum with this connection, add an isolation transformer as shown in

Figure 3, bottom. Twist all the leads to prevent hum pickup.

Need to connect a consumer-device output to a pro-device input? Use the wiring

shown in Figure 4. Twist the leads.

You might not need to use those circuits. Many pieces of equipment have a +4/–10

Fig 4: Wiring unbalanced

out to balanced

in. Bottom:

Same, with an isolation

transformer

added to reduce

hum.

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 55


level switch. Set the switch to the nominal

level of the connected equipment. Another

option is to use a +4/–10 converter box,

such as the Ebtech Line Level Shifter (ebtechaudio.com).

I recommend the article “Sound System

Interconnection” on the Rane Web site

(www.rane.com/note110.html). It describes

how to connect balanced and unbalanced

equipment and prevent ground loops.

RFI Filter

Suppose you make a connection

and hear a radio or TV station over

the house speakers. Some radio frequency

interference is getting into

your cables or equipment. Shure

makes an A15RF RFI filter that plugs

into a balanced audio cable. To find

out more, visit www.shure.com/

P r o A u d i o / P r o d u c t s / A c c e s s o r i e s /

index.htm.

Cable Tester

If you lose a signal or hear hum,

the cause might be a faulty cable.

The first step is to replace the cable,

then test the suspected cable with a

cable tester. Some audio cable testers

are the ART Cablecop, Behringer

CT-100, Ebtech SWIZZ-CT, Hosa CBT-

375, Sescom CT-7, Rolls CT-1 and

Whirlwind Tester.

Tone Generator

This device comes in handy when

you need to troubleshoot your sound

system. It produces a mic-level tone

that can be fed into balanced mic

inputs. For example, the Shure

A15TG Tone Generator is a batterypowered

700 Hz signal source.

Contact Cleaner

Dirty or oxidized contacts in connectors

can result in distorted or

crackly signals. It’s a good idea to

clean all your connectors periodically

with a contact cleaner. Two of the

best are DeoxIT and DeoxIT Gold by

Caig Labs (www.caig.com). DeoxIT

Fader Lube is specially formulated

to clean and lubricate crackling faders,

switches and potentiometers.

56 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


Special Audio Section

Microphone Combiner

If you have more microphones than inputs, the combiner shown in Figure

5 can help. It’s a passive mixer. By combining every two mics to a common

input channel on your mixer, you can employ several microphones, but halve

the number of inputs required. Of course, you give up individual control of

each mic fed to the combiner. You might prefer to use a small outboard mixer

instead.

Note the resistors in the combiner. If they were omitted, each microphone

would see the output impedance of the other microphone — 150 to 250 ohms.

This low-impedance load can degrade low-frequency response in a dynamic

mic, or can create distortion in a condenser mic. The 470-ohm resistors present

Fig 5:

A mic combiner

circuit (passive

mixer)

a minimum load of 940 ohms to each microphone, so that each mic is unloaded.

Some commercial mic combiners are the Samson Audio S-Combine, Pro Co

MC-2, Whirlwind IMCOM, Audio-Technica AT8681 and Rolls MS19.

Line-Level Splitter

Suppose a camera crew wants to shoot a video of your production and

they need an audio feed off your mixing console. The goal is to send them

the mixer’s signal without creating a ground loop between your mixer and

theirs. What’s needed is a line-level splitter. This can be either a Y-cable with

a ground lift or a line-level transformer splitter. Connect the mixer output to

the splitter input. Connect the splitter’s two outputs to:

• Your system’s graphic equalizer (which feeds the power amps).

• The video crew’s mixer.

One example is the Whirlwind LBS Line Balancer/Splitter. It splits a linelevel

signal to two destinations and has transformer balancing and isolation

for one or both of the outputs. Each output has a ground-lift switch. Inputs

are female XLR and ¼” TRS, while outputs are male XLRs. The ProCo IT-1

Isolation Transformer Unit is similar, but with ¼” TRS and XLR outputs.

Those balancer/splitters also can connect to a mixer’s unbalanced phone-jack or

RCA jack output and provide a low-Z balanced signal. The balancing improves noise

rejection when unbalanced outputs feed balanced inputs.

Hopefully these gizmos will provide some quick fixes in difficult situations.

Bruce Bartlett is a senior microphone engineer for Crown Int., the

holder of numerous audio patents and the author of Practical Recording

Techniques, published by Focal Press.

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 57


Show Business

By Jacob Coakley

Follow the Money

The recent showdown between the Broadway team of

Urinetown and two Midwest theatres points to a larger issue

that could have a lasting impact.

By now, most of you have probably heard about the imbroglio

between some of the creatives on the Broadway production

of Urinetown and two out-of-town productions

of the show, one by the Carousel Dinner Theatre in Akron,

Ohio, and one by Blue Dog, LLC, a corporation formed by Tom

Mullen, director of the show in Chicago, for the purpose of

producing Urinetown there. Ronald H. Shechtman, a lawyer

hired by Broadway director John Rando, choreographer John

Carrafa and others on the design staff served these two agencies

with cease and desist letters, alleging their productions

were nothing more than plagiarisms of the Broadway show. In

response, both Tom Mullen and the Carousel Dinner Theatre

have launched separate suits against Rando and his partners

for declatory judgments stating they did not violate copyright

or trademark.

It is impossible to totally separate the more philosophic

issues of copyright (Should directors have copyright on the

first staging of a play, and if they should, does it infringe on

an author’s copyright? Why is a designer’s work on a premiere

entitled to be intertwined with the intellectual property and

licensing of a play if a different designer could do it completely

differently?) from a discussion of the practical business implications

of these suits, but for the sake of argument let’s say

that there will be one of two outcomes from these lawsuits: 1) a

production of a play where the direction will now be classified

as intellectual property; and 2) status quo. Author retains sole

authorship of the play.

I think we can skip reviewing the business implications of

what would happen if the status quo remains. But if it’s decided

that directors do have intellectual property in a production,

contracts will have to change.

Currently, when a play is produced, a licensing fee is paid to

the author, who owns sole copyright in a play. Most of the time

the production agency that originally produced the show gets

a cut of this licensing fee (how much depends on individual

contracts, level of production, etc.). As Ralph Sevush, executive

director of business affairs at the Dramatists Guild puts it,

“Producers get a share of the author’s future subsidiary revenues

because of the value added by the nature of the production.”

Of course, the original production would not have been

possible without a director.

“Writers agree that directors should be paid in a way

that’s commensurate with their contribution,” he adds. “And

we agree with directors and their union that they’re not.

They’re not being paid by the producers commensurate to

their contribution.”

As it stands, it’s a two-way fight for money resulting from

licensing a play. The author gets paid, and they give a cut of

the revenue to the producer. The producer, depending on the

contract, may or may not be required to pay the director. But

if the directors can assert a claim of intellectual property, then

they no longer have to negotiate with producers for a cut of

the pie (which they’ve been unsuccessful at on the Broadway

level). They would be entitled to a share of the pie, triggering

a three-way fight over money between writers, producers and

directors. The two weakest members of that trifecta would be

the directors and the authors; this means the producers’ cut

would most likely stay the same, and the writers would be the

ones losing money. Which probably explains why Sevush is

against any sort of formal recognition of directorial copyright.

“They don’t really have a serious claim for any kind of copyright

ownership,” Sevush says. “They’re simply using that as

leverage, as a wedge for their handful of Broadway members

to get a share of the author’s subrights.”

But the fact that cease and desist letters were filed at all

shows how serious Rando and the Society of Stage Directors

and Choreographers are about getting more Broadway

money. Barbara Hauptman, executive director of the SSDC

has publicly supported the Broadway director and design

team in this case, against other members of the SSDC who

directed the out-of-town productions. Hauptman did not

return phone calls to comment.

For his part, Shechtman doesn’t concede so easily to

Sevush’s explanations. “Copyright is just evidence of property

right. There are other legal theories [about property rights] as

well,” he says, though he didn’t elaborate on what those were.

The sad part about all of this is that as the directors and writers

are engaged in this strategic end game over rights, most

of the financial offices of the theatres I spoke with found this

suit to be a non-issue. Next month I’ll share reactions from the

financial director at Manhattan Theatre Club, the production

manager of Berkeley Repertory Theatre and a board member

at a performing arts high school, and explore how this suit has

impacted their business, as well as check in with Tom Mullen

and the Akron Carousel Theatre to see how this lawsuit has

affected their ability to put on a show.

Keep me in the loop: jcoakley@stage-directions.com

58 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


TD Talk

By Dave McGinnis

Breaching

the Great Wall

Sometimes, it just takes a little

talk to smooth out the world.

Many technical directors lament

the seeming inability of administrative

staff to comprehend the

position. A TD in Texas I used to know

had a frightening, but entirely plausible,

experience with precisely this.

The artistic director of the theatre in

question wanted a star curtain made out

of Christmas lights. The TD immediately

set about pricing what it would cost to

get his hands on a star curtain, and the

best option turned out to be to rent

one. The AD could not comprehend how

it could possibly be more expensive to

build it than to rent it, as the materials

themselves, while expensive, didn’t add

up to the cost of the total rental. This

was true, but this was not an academic

theatre. All crews were paid, and this

expense usually came out as the largest

for an entire production budget. The AD

simply didn’t know.

These are the nuances of tech direction

that many artistic personnel seem to

lack, but they are not malicious, and they

do not intend to make a TD’s life harder.

How, then, do we open lines of communication

between personnel who speak

disparate languages?

The Drive-By Meeting

As a TD, it is entirely likely that your

office is located somewhere in the vicinity

of the basement. While this facilitates

proximity to the stage or shop, it impedes

your access to administrators. It will often

help to engage in what I call the “drive-by

meeting.” These meetings take very little

time out of your day and can remind the

AD that you are present, that you do exist

and that you work.

Instead of sneaking in through the

back door because it’s closer to the coffee,

enter through the front door closer

to the office. Stop by the AD’s office for

a quick run-down of the day’s upcoming

activities. Ask any questions you may

have. This way, you know anything that

you need to know before you’ve even

reached your office.

Make sure that these meetings take

place in person. Do not accept “I sent you

an e-mail” as a response. E-mails may give

us quick answers to our questions, but

they usually omit some necessary detail

that can only be gleaned in person.

A Little Training Never Hurt

This refers back to that concept of no

malicious intent on the part of artistic

staff. Many seemingly ridiculous requests

made by artistic staff usually stem from a

lack of comprehension of what actually

takes place in the shop, and the worst

mistake that a TD can make is to answer

any request with, “You can’t do that.” This

common response immediately creates

an atmosphere of contention and can

give rise to the bully rumors to which too

many TDs fall prey.

For instance, I was once in charge of

hanging a lighting rig for a high school

facility when, one day, the theatre director

told me that she needed hard front

light in the far upstage areas. This was

an understandable desire, but the space

could not accommodate it. Because the

attic portals over the house were too

narrow, we would have to cut into government

property to extend the possible

beam angles of any fixtures hung there.

The circuits that existed in the space were

already at maximum wattage draw, so no

more power could be taken from them.

Also, unless the school had the means by

which to purchase, rent or borrow more

fixtures, there were no more ellipsoidal

fixtures to be hung, either.

I could have said this request was

impossible and walked away. It would

have been the truth, but the working

environment would have suffered with

a number of my techs and her students

caught in the middle. By simply explaining,

in detail, what kept us from being

able to reach this goal, I not only kept the

director happy with a negative answer,

but I also shared a bit of knowledge that

she could later draw upon before asking

for something else.

The big trick to clear communication

between the office and the shop is understanding.

I like to think of directors as tightrope

walkers. They need somebody there

to catch them. You can’t do that if you’re

yelling and walking the other way.

Let me know what you think about this article

or any other TD-relevant issues by e-mailing

me at dmcginnis@stage-directions.com.

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 59


Off The Shelf

By Stephen Peithman

Pick and

Choose

New books range from characterizations to cabaret to classics.

This month’s roundup of recently published titles covers

a wide range of topics and concerns, from improvisation

to producing plays, from the New York cabaret

scene to classic interpretations of great American plays.

“Performers, like neurosurgeons, wire brains together,”

writes Charna Halpern in Art by Committee, pointing out that

in improvisation, the power of connections and callbacks is

basic to the actors’ work. Building on her earlier book, Truth in

Comedy, Halpern shows how performers can move up to more

advanced levels of improvisation. Although Halpern does not

repeat the points made in Truth in Comedy, she does refer

to them from time to time, so you might want to familiarize

yourself with the first volume before tackling this one. [ISBN

1-56608-112-2, $22.95, Meriwether Publishing]

According to playwright, director and composer Elizabeth

Swados, improvisational theatre is the perfect creative outlet

for junior high and high school students, if they have the tools

and guidance to make the most of what she calls “this natural,

yet rigorous” art form. And that’s exactly what she sets out to

do in At Play: Teaching Teenagers Theater. Swados begins

with the role of the teacher/director, then moves on to voice,

movement, characterization and the act of improvisation

itself. She also discusses the writing down of the improvs, as

well as their staging and performance before an audience.

Throughout, the author calls on her own experience, as well

as her strong belief in the power of improvisation to transform

those who are touched by it. [ISBN 0-571-21120-8, $16,

Faber & Faber]

It may have been a relatively small niche of American

entertainment, but from the 1950s through the 1970s, the

New York cabaret scene was extraordinarily rich and creative,

often closer to live theatre than concert. James Gavin’s 1991

classic tribute, Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of New York

Cabaret, has been revised, updated and expanded to cover

the past 15 years. Meticulously researched, Gavin’s book is

still the only history of the form. It’s a fascinating story, full of

humor, drama and intrigue, often in the words of the key players

themselves, including Bobby Short, Mabel Mercer, Barbra

Streisand, Peter Allen, Mort Sahl, Nichols and May, Phyllis

Diller, Carol Burnett, Lenny Bruce, Barbara Cook and Ute

Lemper. Intimate Nights is well done, with a good selection

of photos that help bring an era to life. [ISBN: 0-8230-8825-1,

$18.95, Back Stage Books]

Beginning in the early 1950s, Caedmon Audio, publisher of

classic and contemporary audio books, preserved important

fiction, poetry and drama; it was also the home for essential

recordings of Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams

and others. Some recordings were made by the authors

themselves, while others were readings or complete audio

productions by some of the greatest actors of the time. Now

a part of HarperCollins, Caedmon Audio is re-releasing these

classic recordings on CD. The Arthur Miller Audio Collection

includes full-cast recordings of Death of a Salesman with Lee

J. Cobb (Willy Loman), Mildred Dunnock (Linda Loman) and

Dustin Hoffman (Bernard), plus The Crucible featuring Jerome

Dempsey as Reverend Parris. [$29.95]. Also available is Eugene

O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, starring Robert Ryan,

Stacy Keach and Geraldine Fitzgerald, and separately, the finest

recording of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie,

featuring Montgomery Cliff (Tom), Jessica Tandy (Amanda),

Julie Harris (Laura) and David Wayne (Jim). Each CD set

sells for $24. Due out this month is the Essential Tennessee

Williams CD, with excerpts from The Glass Menagerie and

poetry read by Williams, for $12.95.

60 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com


The Play’s The Thing

Stephen Peithman

Beyond

Categories

Plays in a variety of types and styles

While we usually group newly published

plays by type or subject matter, this

month’s selection features a varied

assortment, several of which defy categorization.

A good example of the latter is The Rap

Canterbury Tales, a one-man show by Baba

Brinkman that includes several tales and some

of the prologue from Chaucer’s 14th century

masterpiece, retold in rap style. Chaucer’s

lively original centers on a group of religious

pilgrims en route to Canterbury, England.

They come from all levels of society and tell

stories to one another to kill time on their

long journey. Brinkman re-sets the concept as

a competition among rappers on a tour bus,

on which he, as narrator, has stowed away.

The stories include the sensual “Miller’s Tale”

and the proto-feminist “Wife of Bath’s Tale,”

as well as the darkly ironic “Pardoner’s Tale.”

The play was a hit at the Edinburgh Festival,

and Brinkman has since worked with students

in the London and Cambridge school systems

to rekindle an interest in the work of Chaucer

and performance poetry. If you’re still skeptical,

have a read — you may be pleasantly surprised.

[ISBN 0-88922-548-6 $24.95, Talonbooks]

Also with a nod to a classic model, James

Sherman’s Affluenza! borrows characters from

Restoration comedy (the cuckolded husband,

the coquette, the clever servant, the fop) to create

a contemporary comedy of manners — and

in rhymed couplets, no less. The plot revolves

around Bill Moore, a Chicago real estate magnate.

He has rediscovered love with Dawn, a

woman who is half his age. However, Bill’s

parasitic son Jerome, nephew Eugene and exwife

Ruth are all convinced that Dawn’s a golddigger,

pure and simple. Affluenza! may not tax

the mind, but it makes for a very funny eve-

ning. Four males, two females. [Samuel French]

Protecting one’s stake is also central to

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. From the start,

Julius Caesar established himself as a man whose

unique drive, self-confidence and detachment

would bring him into continual conflict with

established institutions. Shakespeare’s tragedy is

set at a crucial turning point in Roman history, as

the Republic gives way to the Empire. Yet it’s also

clear that — safely removed in time and place

from the politics of Elizabethan England — Rome

makes the perfect laboratory for Shakespeare’s

free-ranging political analysis. This we learn in

the newly published Yale Annotated William

Shakespeare, whose new performing edition

of the play is fully annotated by Burton Raffel,

with an informative essay by Harold Bloom.

[ISBN 0-300-10809-5, $6.95, Yale University Press]

On a very different level is Hogwash, by

Barbara Pease Weber, which tells the story of the

strained relationship between the elderly Louie

Baxter and her daughter, Mary. Louie is an incor-

rigible troublemaker who is expelled from the

Sunny Hill Day Care Center for smoking in the

bathroom and setting off false fire alarms. With

her husband out of town and no alternative hous-

ing available, Mary takes Louie to work. Called out

of her office for an emergency meeting, Mary

returns to find that the office building has caught

on fire and Louie has disappeared. All’s well

that end’s well, however. Not only does Louie

save Mary’s job as an advertising and marketing

executive, she also manages to snag a boyfriend,

star in a TV commercial and win an all-expense

paid vacation to Puerto Rico. Weber provides a

lot of laughs, but also manages some sensitivity

for the underlying problem of a woman trying to

provide care for her aging mother. Four females,

three males. [Baker’s Plays]

www.stage-directions.com • March 2007 61


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click on the advertiser index link.

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Curtain Call

By Iris Dorbian

They Had It Comin’

After a brief detour abroad, the national

tour of Chicago returns home.

A

recipient of six Tony Awards (including one for Best Musical Revival), two Olivier Awards, a Grammy and dozens of other laurels,

the Broadway production of Chicago recently celebrated its 10 th anniversary. Its touring offspring is also making serious

headway — both in the states and abroad. After a recent detour to Tokyo, the national U.S. tour of Chicago is back home. This

month it will play at the Chester Fritz Auditorium in Grand Forks, N.D., from March 20 to 21 before heading to the Morris Center for

the Performing Arts in South Bend, Ind., from March 23 to 25.

The show tells the story of Vaudeville-era murderesses Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb,

book by Ebb and Bob Fosse, direction by Walter Bobbie, choreography by Ann Reinking (recreating Fosse’s style), scenic design by

John Lee Beatty, costume design by William Ivey Long and lighting by Ken Billington. In 2002, a movie adaptation of Chicago, starring

Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere and Catherine Zeta-Jones, was released nationwide, garnering an Oscar for Best Picture. Starring in

the national tour are Bianca Marroquin as Roxie Hart, Brenda Braxton as Velma Kelly and Tom Wopat as Billy Flynn.

Paul Kolnik

The Cellblock Girls number from

the national tour of Chicago

64 March 2007 • www.stage-directions.com

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