Download a PDF - Stage Directions Magazine

Download a PDF - Stage Directions Magazine

• Special Section on Theatre

Consultants and Architects

• Daring and Small, the Theatre for One Install

• Spotlight on Auerbach Pollock Friedlander

A U G U S T 2 0 1 0


The rewards

of non-traditional



We talk to NEA chair Rocco Landesman, and

find out what “excellence” really means

CVR1.300.1008.indd 1

A U G U S T 2 0 1 0

7/15/10 5:34 PM

Table Of Contents A U G U S T 2 0 1 0




16 Light on the Subject

Mod Your CAD—Customizing

Vectorworks Spotlight—Part 2. By David

K H Elliot

20 Telling Stories with


The rewards of color-blind and nontraditional

casting. By Iris Dorbian

24 Inside The NEA

An interview with chairman Rocco

Landesman, one year in. Plus a conversation

with Ralph Remington, director of

Theatre and Musical Theatre for the NEA.

By Bryan Reesman

Special Section:

Renovations &


28 A Renovation Ends

with Big Package

in a “Little Box”

South Florida Community College gets

world-class PAC. By Kevin M. Mitchell

30 Big Idea, Small Space

A look at a portable, private performing

arts center from the imagination of

Christine Jones. By Michael S. Eddy

32 Consultant Spotlight:

Auerbach Pollock


A Q&A with S. Leonard Auerbach, the

founder of theatre consulting firm

Auerbach Pollock Friedlander.

34 Dream Weavers

Theatre consultants and your dream

theatre. By Kevin M. Mitchell


4 Editor’s Note

Time to bring back haberdashery.

By Jacob Coakley

4 Letters to the Editor users discuss how

to make Coca-Cola boil for an onstage


ON OUR COVER: Ruben Santiago-Hudson (foreground),

Nyambi Nyambi, Marianne Jean-Baptiste,

and Bill Heck in The Public Theater’s Shakespeare

in the Park 2010 production of The Winter’s Tale,

directed by Michael Greif.


6 In the Greenroom

The Pasadena Playhouse emerges from

bankruptcy, the Supreme Court lets

smoking ban stand, the Public Theater

revises its subsidiary rights agreement

and more.

14 Tools of the Trade

New gear piles up while the sun shines.

40 Gear Review

The Bartlett TM-125C Super-Cardioid

Stage Floor Mic enters the Stage

Directions testing chamber. By Trevor


41 The Play’s the Thing

New plays on truth, lies and language. By

Stephen Peithman

44 Answer Box

Turns out you can use moving lights

as followspots—with a little modification…

By Matt DeMascolo

The rewards

of non-traditional


• Special Section on Theatre

Consultants and Architects

• Daring and Small, the Theatre for One Install

• Spotlight on Auerbach Pollock Friedlander



We talk to NEA chair Rocco Landesman, and

find out what “excellence” really means

Publisher Terry Lowe

Editor Jacob Coakley

Lighting & Staging Editor Richard Cadena

New York Editor Bryan Reesman

Editorial Assistant Victoria Laabs

Contributing Writers Matt DeMascolo, Iris Dorbian,

Michael S. Eddy, Kevin M. Mitchell,

Stephen Peithman, Bryan Reesman,

Consulting Editor Stephen Peithman


Art Director Garret Petrov


Production Manager Linda Evans


Web Designer Josh Harris


Advertising Director Greg Gallardo

National Sales Manager Michael Devine

Audio Advertising Manager Jeff Donnenwerth

Sales Manager Matt Huber


General Manager William Vanyo


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Stage Directions (ISSN: 1047-1901) Volume 23, Number 8 Published monthly by Timeless Communications

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Editor’s Note

One Head, Many Hats

The myth—and necessity—of multi-tasking

While I was at the Seven Devils

Playwrights Conference in

McCall, Jeni Mahoney (the artistic

director of the Conference) was also a participating

in the Conference as a playwright

with her piece Kandahar. At the meet-andgreet

barbecue on the first day a community

member presented Jeni with a hat. On one side of the

hat was the word “Playwright,” on the other “Artistic Director.”

Whichever side was facing forward determined the role she was

playing at any given moment. It was a cute, but necessary, prop

that helped everyone around Jeni know what headspace she

was in, and what questions they could approach her with—but

it also helped her, too. She was able to focus on one thing at a

time, and externalize that choice. I imagine it helped cut down

on a lot of “should”s—I should be doing this, I should be doing

that. Instead, she was able to very clearly define what she should

be doing. Now I’m a playwright. Now I’m the artistic director.

I’ve seen a lot of talk on the internet lately of studies that

debunk the myth of “multi-tasking.” (And if I may cadge someone

else’s joke—the final nail in multi-tasking’s coffin came

when texting met driving…) It turns out you don’t get more

done if you work on a lot of things at once. The time it takes to

re-acclimate yourself to a particular task you just interrupted

negates any sort of time savings gained from working on two

things at once.

But the fact of the matter is that in theatre multi-tasking is

absolutely essential. No one can wear just one hat. Designers

are also teachers. TD’s are also managing directors. Managing

directors are also graphic designers—and all of us are audience


How many of us can’t go into a theatre without looking up at

the grid? Or finding out where the booth is? How many of us will

instinctively ask the crew member in blacks for info about the

theatre before we approach an usher—before we remember

we’re not also on crew?

I ask because I’m wondering how much my theatre-maker’s

perspective is warping my barometer for what I enjoy—and

should it? Can visual artists still experience a charge from Van

Gogh’s Starry Night? Or is that hopelessly recherché for them?

It’s disheartening for me to sit in a theatre full of an audience

who don’t participate in making theatre, and listen to them

laugh out loud and absolutely enjoy a performance while I can’t

separate my audience self from my maker self, and sit there analyzing

every choice. So maybe it’s time for me to buy a new hat,

and really let myself unapologetically enjoy a show again. Who’s

with me? I’m going to my haberdasher today, and together

we’re going to bring men’s hats back in style.


Heating Coca-Cola

For a one-act comedy we’re producing, an actor

brings out two metal mugs filled with what is supposed

to be heated (boiling, steaming) Coca-Cola.

Two other actors are supposed to smell, taste

(briefly) and reject the Cokes.

This may seem like a simple one to those of you

who do props regularly, but: What should we put in

the metal mugs?

Real boiling liquid seems too dangerous, and

smoke from dry ice wouldn’t look like steam.

Your suggestions are welcomed!!

Charlie Fontana

Dry ice might look too much like a vile liquid prepared

by the evil witch.

This is a long shot, but there are pellets that they

put into model trains that causes smoke to come out

of the smoke stack of the little steam engines. You

would need a little cooker to get the pellets to smoke.

Both could be found in a good hobby store, or online.

I would think the cooker could run off of a 9V battery.

Another possibility might be a small bit of a smoke


David McCall

Alka-Seltzer in water with food coloring to darken

it might work. The “fiz” appears to be boiling in the

right light.


Will the steam really read on your stage anyway? In

our black box the steam and smell would be a problem

but on our proscenium stage the steam would

most likely not read at all and no one would smell it

in the audience. The issue of the liquid actually being

hot is a consideration. Can the actors be blocked to

handle and set it down somewhere safe? If drinking it

the actors have to be sure to be careful with the dry

ice idea as well.

Kevin Griffin

Find tips, tricks, and more on Join today!

Jacob Coakley

4 August 2010 •

In the Greenroom

theatre buzz

Smoking Ban Remains as Supreme

Court Won’t Review Decision

The U.S. Supreme Court will not review an appeal to overturn

the Colorado ban on smoking onstage during a theatrical

performance, according to reporting by the Denver Post, so the

ban will remain in effect.

“We’re certainly disappointed, but not surprised,” petitioner

Chip Walton, founder of Denver’s Curious Theatre, told the

Post. His appeals to overturn the ban have lost at every level

for four years since he started his campaign. John Moore and

Jessica Fender, writing in the Post, detailed that “The Colorado

Supreme Court ruled 6-1 in December that the state’s ban on

smoking extended to actors onstage. It ruled that public health

trumps freedom of expression. Theatre companies had argued

that smoke that lingers on stage is crucial to set a mood,

develop character or establish a time period.”

Walton defends his position by pointing to other states,

mentioned in the Colorado Court’s ruling, that have exemptions

on a case-by-case basis, for theatrical performances.

As reported in the Post, Attorney General John Suthers, who

defended the ban in state courts, agreed with the high court’s


The Public Theater Revises

Subsidiary Rights Agreement

After more than a year’s work with the Dramatist’s Dramatists

Guild of America The Public Theater in New York City has

announced it will restructure its subsidiary rights agreement,

effective immediately, to provide playwrights with greater financial

opportunities to profit from their plays. Under the new agreement,

The Public will not collect any subsidiary rights from a play

until the playwright has earned a minimum of $75,000 in licensing

fees following its Public Theater premiere. The new agreement

allows a playwright 10 years to earn that minimum amount from

a play; if the playwright has not earned $75,000 during that time

period, the agreement will expire and The Public will not earn any

subsidiary rights income from the play.

The Public’s new policy represents a dramatic departure from

traditional subsidiary rights agreements, in which theatres immediately

begin collecting a portion of profits from subsequent

licensing of a playwright’s work. This revision will allow playwrights

to earn substantial income from their work before the theatre

profits from subsequent productions of a play. The Dramatists

Guild hopes this new model will be a trumpet call for theatres to

realize that, in most cases, these revenues contribute relatively

little to the theatre’s bottom line but could be the difference for

an author between paying rent or having to leave the industry.

6 August 2010 •

In Brief

The first playwrights of the American Voices New Play

Institute have taken residency at the Arena Stage in Washington,

D.C. The Institute will host five playwrights over three years and

will provide resources and benefits to write and develop new or

unfinished plays. D.C. native Karen Zacarías was announced as the

first Resident Playwright in August 2009 and began her residency

with the Institute in January 2010. She is now joined by Lisa Kron

and Amy Freed, who started their three-year residencies in July,

and Katori Hall and Charles Randolph-Wright, who will begin in

January 2011…The Theatre School at DePaul University has

named Rachel Walshe the inaugural recipient of the Claire Rosen

and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists worth

$30,000… Great Lakes Theater Festival’s producing partnership

with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival will expand this season to

include the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. As part of the collaboration,

the three theatres will share a single artistic company,

exchange entire theatrical productions and maximize collective

resources… Playwright Tommy Smith will be the 2010-11 Lark

Play Development Center Playwright of New York Fellow,

… Music Theatre International, the agency that created The

Broadway Junior Collection, received the Educational Theatre

Association’s (EdTA) 2010 Standing Ovation Award, which recognizes

a corporation or business making significant contributions

to promote and strengthen theatre education… The United

Performing Arts Fund of Milwaukee raised $9,450,382 for its

34 Member and Affiliate Groups. UPAF’s mission is to advance

the excellence and sustainability of the performing arts in metro

Milwaukee through community fundraising, advocacy, collaboration,

support services, and the responsible investment and allocation

of resources.

theatre buzz

Pasadena Playhouse Emerges

from Bankruptcy

On July 7 the Honorable Thomas B. Donovan,

a judge in the United States Bankruptcy Court in

Los Angeles, approved the Pasadena Playhouse’s

Plan of Reorganization, allowing it to emerge

from Chapter 11 bankruptcy after nearly two

months. The theatre has been closed since

February 7.

“We are deeply grateful for the collective

support that has allowed the Playhouse to expeditiously

move through this difficult and sometimes

painful process,” said Pasadena Playhouse

Executive Director Stephen Eich in a statement

on the theatre’s website.

“The City of Pasadena, our Board of Directors,

and our small staff have all combined to create

a plan to resurrect the Playhouse from years of

unbearable debts,” continued Eich. “Although

we will be moving slowly in the future to ensure

financial responsibility and stability, we will in

fact be back.”

A large part of what will enable the Playhouse

to make it back is a $1 million matching pledge

made by anonymous donors who read the

news about the Playhouse’s decision to explore

financial reorganization. Along with fundraising

efforts to meet the matching donation the

Playhouse, the State Theatre of California, is

restructuring its administrative operations in an

effort to rid itself of long-standing debt. When

the Playhouse entered bankruptcy hearings it

owed $2.3 million. While it listed assets of $7

million in its filing, most of that total ($6.7 million)

is tied up in a fundraising drive for a new

space, or linked to improvements made to their

current space.

“We cannot fully enough express our profound

gratitude to the anonymous $1 million

donors, whose remarkably generous gift—and

indeed the challenge to match that gift which

comes with their pledge—will allow our beloved

theatre to stand strong and proud as we move

forward,” said Pasadena Playhouse Artistic

Director Sheldon Epps in the statement on the


Eich further acknowledged the Playhouse’s

loyal subscribers and donors, many of whom

have contributed money to ensure the future

of the theatre. He said, “Without these loyal

people, we would not be able to get through

this difficult phase of the theatre’s rebirth."

Future plans, including a Fall 2010 production,

will be announced at a later date. • August 2010 7

Green Room

HME Part of Old Globe Renovation

San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre recently opened their newly-renovated Conrad

Prebys Theatre Center, featuring a 250-seat arena-style theatre. Installing a wireless

communication infrastructure for the backstage crew proved difficult, as the

massive amounts of steel and concrete used in the new construction, as well

as the fact that two floors of the Center were below ground, posed a uniquely

complex problem for the production crew’s communication needs. HME, an

international wireless communications company based in San Diego, provided

engineers and a HME PRO850 intercom system to solve the problem.

Each PRO850 base station has two antenna connectors, one for receive and

one for transmit signals. To solve the Center’s need for better coverage HME engineers

built a custom antenna splitter/combiner, which took the three individual

transmission antennas and merged them into a single line that could connect to

the PRO850. The three transmit antennas were placed throughout the building to

offer comprehensive coverage despite the concrete and steel barriers.

The newly-created hands-free communication system allows the backstage

production crew the ability to stay in constant, clear communication with one

another both above ground and below, as well as up to 400 feet outside of the

theatre center itself.

industry news

City Theatrical Expands

Into London

City Theatrical has added standing inventory to their London

office, enabling same-day shipping of the City Theatrical product

line, fulfilling a long-time dream of City Theatrical president, Gary

Fails. Until now, customers could place orders at the City Theatrical

London office but the products were shipped from the U.S., and the

customers had to wait for delivery as well as pay customs charges

and shipping charges from America. Now, customers can order

products and have them shipped the same day from the London

office, and the price is fixed in pounds sterling with no shipping

charges from the U.S.

PLASA and ESTA Vote to Merge

ESTA, the principal trade association for the entertainment services and technology

industries in North America, and PLASA, the lead body for those working in the live

events, entertainment and communication industries worldwide, have voted to merge

their two organizations.

In a joint statement, PLASA CEO Matthew Griffiths and ESTA Executive Director Lori

Rubinstein said: “We believe the logic driving the merger is totally sound: the strengths

of both organizations are evident and we have an unequalled opportunity to increase

the value we provide to Members through services, networking and improved business

opportunities. A united approach to the issues and challenges of our industry will

provide major long-term benefits and greatly broaden the role of the PLASA.”

The announcement comes on the back of lengthy consultations with both sets

of memberships, which concluded recently in a formal vote of Members. More than

93% of Members from each association voted in support of the move, which will see

ESTA and PLASA integrated to create a single international trade association operating

under the PLASA name.

American DJ Files

Lawsuit Against

California Firm

For Copyright


American DJ, a leading supplier of

lighting, audio and trussing products,

has filed suit in the United States

District Court Central District of

California against NSI Audio, Inc., a

California company that sells and distributes

products under several brand

names, including American Vocal and

Vertigo. American DJ’s legal action is

centered on two trademarks recently

adopted by NSI: Vertigo for lighting

products and American Vocal for

audio products. The suit alleges that

aside from using product and brand

names that were the same or very

similar to those used by American DJ,

NSI used copyrighted images belonging

to American DJ in a deliberate

effort to misrepresent its products

and confuse customers.

“There were a variety of deceptive

practices used to imply that American

DJ was the source of lighting and

audio products being sold by NSI,

when in fact this was completely

untrue,” said Kenneth Sherman of

Myers, Andras, Sherman LLP (Irvine,

Calif.), one of the attorneys representing

American DJ.

According to Sherman, American

DJ began using the “Vertigo” mark

in 1999 and federally registered the

incontestable “American Audio” mark

in 2001. In the ensuing time period,

the two names have become widely

recognized and respected throughout

the global lighting and audio


“We believe this is a flagrant, illegal

and unfair attempt to mislead

consumers in an effort to capitalize

on the good name and goodwill that

someone else has worked years to

establish,” said Sherman.

In its suit American DJ seeks monetary

rewards and statutory damages.

The company is also demanding that

NSI cease selling the products in question,

remove them from distribution,

and destroy all copyrighted images

that have been used in the company’s

marketing and advertising. • August 2010 9

Green Room

industry news

Theatre Resources Directory


While we always aim for perfection, in a directory as large as our annual

Theatre Resources Directory, mistakes are bound to creep in. Here is corrected

and updated contact info for some of the companies in our Directory.

To be included in the Directory, or to update your information for the next

edition, please e-mail

Advanced Entertainment


735 Los Angeles Ave.

Monrovia, CA 91016

P: (626) 599-8337



Sections: Special Effects

Serapid, Inc.

5400 18 Mile Rd

Sterling Heights, MI 48314

P: 586-274-0774


Sections: Flooring & Seating;

Platforms, Risers & Stage Lifts




Sign up online for


Original Works Publishing


E-mail: info@originalworksonline.


Sections: Plays & Musicals

Tru Roll, a division of Advanced

Entertainment Technology

735 Los Angeles Ave.

Monrovia, CA 91016

P: (626) 599-8337



Sections: Drapery & Tracking;

Rigging & Safety Equipment

Start your


subscription today!

10 August 2010 •

RiverPark Center and PRG Support Educational Partnership

Production Resource Group (PRG) will join the educational

partnership in Owensboro, Kentucky of the RiverPark Center,

Brescia University, Kentucky Wesleyan College and Owensboro

Community and Technical College. The three academic institutions

and the RiverPark Center have banded together to create

a Bachelor of Theatre Arts degree, which will allow enrolled students

to participate in courses at each of the contributing institutions.

The program will offer opportunities for students to receive

both the creative and technical foundation for future careers in

today’s entertainment industry.

PRG’s involvement with the new

degree program will be extensive, including

training and equipment. They will provide

equipment valued at approximately

$500,000 to ensure that students are

working with the most current and widely

used entertainment technology. In addition,

PRG will assist in recruiting leading

industry professionals to work with the

students. The training provided by PRG

will include the university, the two colleges

and the RiverPark Center staff.

The program is spearheaded by

RiverPark Center’s President and CEO Zev

Buffman, a Tony-nominated Broadway

producer with more than 40 Broadway

shows and 100 National Tours to his

credit. Buffman and Jere Harris, chairman

and CEO of PRG, have known each other

for close to 30 years, having first worked

together while Buffman was producing

Broadway shows. Together, they will bring

their professional experience and unique

insight into the requirements that should

be included in the degree curriculum.

Both PRG and RiverPark, where several

of the classes will take place, will educate

students in the different aspects of

producing and supporting a professional

theatrical production. RiverPark Center, a

non-profit regional performing arts and

civic center, has nearly 100,000 square

feet, including a state-of-the-art 1,479-seat

auditorium (Cannon Hall), the 300-seat

multi-purpose Jody Berry Experimental

Theater, an outdoor entertainment patio

on the banks of the Ohio River, meeting

rooms and a bricked center courtyard.

“We will be able to bring to students

equipment they might not have

the chance to work with in any other

academic environment,” noted Tim

Brennan, vice president of PRG. “We are

very proud of our products and of the

depth of inventory of other manufacturer’s

equipment that we can provide.

The technology these students will be

exposed to will be amazing and will give

them a real advantage going forward.”

Program participant junior and senior college students will

also be given the chance to apply for PRG’s internship program.

The PRG internships cover all aspects of the entertainment

technology industry, including lighting, audio, video, scenic

fabrication and automation. “We are proud that our internships

are so highly regarded. This year, we received more than

1,000 applications for 40 intern positions,” said Richard Rubin,

recruitment/internship program coordinator for PRG. • August 2010 11

Green Room

A.C.T. Appoints

Ellen Richard



The American Conservatory

Theater (A.C.T.) has appointed

Ellen Richard as executive

director. Richard’s career has

included such positions as

executive director of Second

Stage Theatre and managing

director of Roundabout

Theatre Company. She oversaw

complete financial overhauls

of both institutions, developing

Roundabout from a small

nonprofit organization into one

of the leading performing arts

institutions in the country, with

three performing spaces and

net assets of more than $67

million. During her tenure at

Second Stage, she helped grow

the institution (48% increase in

subscription income and 75%

increase in individual giving)

and brokered the purchase

of the Helen Hayes Theatre, a

Broadway performance space

for the company. She holds six

Tony Awards as a producer, for

Roundabout productions of

Cabaret (1998), A View from the

Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999),

Nine (2003), Assassins (2004),

and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005).

changing roles

Ellen Richard, the new executive director of American

Conservatory Theater

12 August 2010 •

Chauvet Names Ford Sellers Senior Product

Development Manager

Chauvet has appointed Ford Sellers senior

product development manager for Chauvet and

its sister company for architectural lighting,

Iluminarc. Sellers brings more than 15 years

of hands-on experience in the lighting industry.

After studying lighting design at Syracuse

University, he began his career installing lighting

for the groundbreaking show EFX, starring

Michael Crawford, at the MGM Grand in

Las Vegas, Nevada. While in Las Vegas, Sellers

worked as a trade show electrician and then as

the assistant lighting director for the MGM Grand

Conference Center. From there, Sellers became

a master electrician for Cornell University’s

Department of Theatre, Film and Dance. For

nearly a decade he taught lighting technology,

the mechanics of light, and designed the lights

Ford Sellers, Chauvet’s new senior product development


for several of the 11 productions and plays produced for the Schwartz Center for

the Performing Arts each season.

Nick Wyman Elected Actors’ Equity President

Actor and long time equity councillor Nick Wyman has been elected president

of Actors’ Equity Association. Eighteen members, representing Principals, Chorus

and Stage Managers, were also elected to serve three, four or five year terms on

the National Council, the Union’s governing body. More than 6,500 valid votes

were cast in the election. Wyman, a member since 1974, brings more than 20 years

experience as a councillor to the post. Among his committee work, he has served

on several Production Contract negotiating teams, House Affairs, National Public

Policy and is the Chair of the Alien Committee. Wyman’s stage credits include the

Broadway productions of The Phanton of the Opera (Firmin in the original production),

Les Misérables, Sly Fox and Grease. He has appeared Off Broadway, in regional

productions at such theatres as The Goodman, the Arena Stage and the Guthrie.

Joe Aldridge Takes Office as USITT


Joe Aldridge of Las Vegas, Nev., took

office as president of the United States

Institute for Theatre Technology, Inc.

(USITT) on July 1. Aldridge has toured

Japan with Siegfried and Roy, helped

stage Oedipus at Colonus in Greece, taken

plays to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival,

and been artistic director for Shakespeare

Under the Stars in Wimberley, Texas. He

has also been with the University of

Nevada at Las Vegas, not continuously,

since the 1970s, serving first as technical

director and, most recently, helping

create and nurture the Entertainment Joe Aldridge took office as President of USITT on July 1.

Engineering and Design Program, a joint

effort of the colleges of Fine Arts and Engineering. • August 2010 13




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Tools of the Trade

Anchor Audio ProLink

Anchor Audio’s new

ProLink system is a digital

wireless intercom system

that transmits in a range of

250 feet through walls and

glass and can operate up to

15 hours using three “AA”

rechargeable or alkaline

batteries. It doesn’t require

a base station and is designed to be easy to set-up and

operate and deliver high quality, full duplex audio. A 4-user

system consists of one master belt pack and three remote

belt packs and is designed for a team which works as a single

unit. The ProLink system can be expanded to a 7-user system

which includes two master belt packs and five remote belt

packs. Operating two separate groups is designed to be easy

with a 7-user system. Users can assign one backstage track to

group A and another track to group B. The person using the

master belt pack can be a part of either group by pushing the

group selector switch on his belt pack. www.anchorprolink.


Chauvet’s SparkliteLED Drape

Chauvet’s new SparkliteLED

Drape is a black fabric panel

studded with LED lights which

can be attached together for a

fully controllable field of color

or theatre curtain. Controlled

by Chauvet’s SparkliteLED

Controller, the SparkliteLED

Drape is designed to be a dynamic

lighting solution, and can be used to create a twinkling night

sky, a wall of strobing purple, or an expanse of glowing azure.

Each SparkliteLED Drape measures 236 x 157.5 x 2 inches, is

flame retardant and holds a total of 128 (.25 W, 5mm) tri-color

LEDs fitted into eight distinct and controllable zones. The drapes

can be combined using integrated hook-and-loop fasteners so

they can be as expansive as the design or coverage requires.

The drape comes in its own road case and weighs less than 40


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GAM Remote Relay

GAM Products has introduced

the GAM Remote Relay,

a new addition to the GAM

Go-Lite system. Users can

select AC or DC Relays, 120 or

230 volts. The Remote Relay

is operated from the GAM

Go-Lite low voltage Controller

and can handle loads up to

4,000 watts.The GAM Remote Relay is housed in a rugged steel

enclosure with provisions that allow it to be hung with a C-Clamp

or mounted to a flat surface and can be used in conjunction with

the GAM Go-Lite Cue Light System since it uses the same 6-wire

low voltage telephone wire for control signal. Switching power

load to and from the Relay is handled through pig-tails. Various

connectors are available.

14 August 2010 •

Serapid High-Speed

Trap Lift

Serapid’s new Trap Lift is

designed to be the fastest

trap lift known to the market

today. It’s built with their

Rigid Chain Technology,

backed by Serapid’s record

for safety and reliability, and

can be used to carry scenery,

objects and actors from areas under the stage up to stage

level. The Trap Lift features a standard speed of 20 feet per

minute and travels 12 to 15 feet, depending on the model.

Each unit has a three-foot-by-four-foot platform mounted to

the top section. It is portable, sitting safely on the floor without

anchoring or outriggers. Additional options for the units

include speeds up to 150 feet per minute, a convenience outlet

on the platform and a pallet jack.

Rational Acoustics Smaart v.7

Rational Acoustics Smaart

v.7 is the latest release of the

Smaart brand acoustic test

and measurement softwareIt

is the culmination of an

intensive 2 year development

effort and is the first version

of Smaart designed and

released solely by Rational

Acoustics. Smaart v.7 is built with an object-oriented program

architecture which means that users can run as many simultaneous

single-channel (spectrum) and dual-channel (transfer

function) measurement engines as their PC will allow. Smaart

v.7 also includes multi-channel and multi-platform capability,

able to access modern multi-channel input devices and

operate native in both Windows and Mac Operating Systems

(including 32- and 64-bit versions). Additionally, Smaart

v.7 can run multiple, simultaneous Spectrum and Transfer

Function Measurements.

Studer Vista 9 Digital Console

The new Studer Vista 9

digital console is designed

to combine advanced ergonomics

with complete system

flexibility, pristine audio

quality and new features

to create a console fit for a

new age of broadcast and

live production. The Vista 9

supplements the Vistonics

interface with “wide screen” based TFT metering, FaderGlow

and other innovations. The new metering is designed to

give precision feedback on signal status. Studer’s patented

Vistonics is designed for speed and ease of use and has a

similarity to the analog channel-strip way of working. Each

touch-sensitive TFT screen shows 10 channel strips, with

rotary encoders and switches mounted directly onto the

screen, providing the operator with “Where you look is where

you control” ergonomics. • August 2010 15

Light on the Subject By David K H Elliot




Mod Your CAD—Customizing Vectorworks Spotlight—Part 2

Previously on “Mod Your Cad” [in the April 2010

issue —ed.], we added a key command to a stock

Vectorworks’ menu item and then consolidated

the Spotlight items under one customized menu. This

time we’ll record a Custom Selection command to use

repeatedly and then convert it to a plug-in object,

which are command macros that can be installed as

menu items.

There are many procedures and tools built into VW

that I never use and others I use occasionally. I’ll run

“Purge Unused Objects” towards the end of a project,

reducing the file size before distributing it. There are

still others I use frequently, like “Lock” and “Unlock” or

“Save View.” As shown in Part 1, the Workspace Editor

can add key commands to make frequently used commands

readily available.

But then there are the procedures and tools that are

missing, the ones not included. For example, how do

you simultaneously select all the lighting devices in a

drawing? While the built-in selector, “Find and Modify”

Figure 1

(Figure 1), is a useful and powerful tool that can target

narrow selections and modify the selected items, it

can’t select all the lighting devices at once. With “Find

and Modify” you can grab one particular device type—

Light, Moving Light, Accessory, etc.—but only one type

at a time. What if you want them all at once? And what

if you want to make that selection again?

Selection Macros

There are two things you can do about missing

commands. One is to buy them—or a lot of them anyway.

The shareware

add-on, AutoPlot

for Spotlight (www.,

includes in its

hundred-plus commands

one called

“Select All Lighting

Devices.” The other

thing you can do is

build some yourself.

While building

a command set as

extensive and versatile

as AutoPlot requires a working knowledge of

Figure 2

VectorScript and draws on years of drafting and programming

experience, there are simple, useful commands

that are easy to build and require little knowledge

of VectorScript to create.

Selection macros are some of the easiest to create.

Using Custom Selection under the Tools menu, we can

select all the Lighting Devices at once, save the selection

as a command, name the command, run it from

an open script palette and finally turn it into a plug-in

object which can then be added to a menu.

The steps to create the command are:

A. Under the Tools menu, open the Custom Selection

dialogue box (Figure 2).

B. Under Command, check "Select Only" to deselect

all objects in the drawing before making a new selection.

Under Option, check "Create Script" to save the

script for future reuse, then click Criteria.

C. The Criteria window (Figure 3) opens to display

three drop-down menus. The first selects the type of

criteria, the second sets the comparison option and the

third lists the parameters available for selected type.

To define the selection criteria, determine what types

and parameters the objects you want to select have

in common that apply only to those objects. Lighting

Figure 3

16 August 2010 •

Devices have two things in common, the Type and

the attached Record, that also are unique to the

group. We can use either to select all of them.

D. In the first drop down, select “Type.”

E. Leave the second drop down on its default, “is”.

F. In the last drop down, select “Lighting Device.”

Click OK.

G. In the Assign Name window that opens, name it

“Select Lighting Devices Only”.

The Okay button takes you back to the drawing

and opens a Script Palette window (Figure 4) displaying

the newly created macro. Double-clicking the

command runs

it and selects

all the lighting

devices. (If it’s

not open, Script

Palettes are

found under

Window >

Figure 4

Script Palettes.)


The new Script Palette and commands appear only

in the document where they are created. Commands,

however, are a resource. They can be imported into

another document using the Resource Browser.

But to import is to interrupt. If I haven’t remembered

to import the commands before the exact

moment they’re needed, it means interrupting the

workflow, hunting down the resource, importing it,

opening a Script Palette and then

running the command. While I

could include them in the master

file I use at the start of any project,

I prefer a leaner master file

and import resources as needed

from dedicated resource files I

include in my Favorites list. For

me, importing as needed works

for symbols but not for commands.

Commands need to be

in every document, new or old,

from the moment the document

is opened. Commands need to be

readily available and repeatable.

Commands need to be menu


Transforming a command into

a menu item is done using the • August 2010 17

Light on the Subject

The next steps are:

E. Under the Tools > Scripts menu, open the

VectorScript Plug-in Editor (Figure 6).

F. Click the New button.

G. In the Assign Name window, select “Command” if

it isn’t already selected and enter a name under 28 characters

for the command, “SelectLightingDevicesOnly”

Figure 5

VectorScript Plug-in Editor. It exists to create and edit

plug-in objects, command macros that appear either

in menus or tool palettes. Using the Editor, we’ll take

the Select Lighting Devices Only macro built using the

Custom Selection dialogue and turn it into a Plug-in

Object ready to be installed in a menu. This method

requires little knowledge of VectorScript. Which is good,

because I don’t know much VectorScript.

To create a plug-in object this way, a few steps are

required. First we need a copy of the code from the command

we created earlier. To do that:

A. Open the Script Palette (Figure 4) that contains the

command to be added to a menu.

B. Option-double-click the command to open the

VectorScript Editor (Figure 5).

C. Drag through to select the text and copy it.

D. Click OK to exit the dialogue box.

Now we’ll take that code and paste it into a plugin

object that can be installed as a menu item. A

Figure 6

Vectorscript programmer could start here, open the

Editor and write the code. We’ve used a Vectorworks’

built-in tool, the Custom Selection dialogue, to write

the code for us.

Figure 7

in this case (Figure 7).

H. Click OK to return to the Editor.

I. With the newly created command still selected,

click the Script button.

J. Paste the code from step C above into the

VectorScript Editor (yes, we were just here). It should

now look just like it did in Figure 5. The difference is,

when you click OK and return to the Editor, the command

is now available in all VW documents, not just

the file where it was created. To make it accessible to

each document, however, the command needs to be

installed as a menu item. And the last important step

to do that is to Assign a Category

K. With the command still selected, click the

Category... button. Enter a name for a Category. An

easy to remember name like “My Commands” will help

locate the command in the Workspace Editor. With

the category name assigned, click OK to return to the

Editor window, then click OK again to exit the Editor.

And you’re done. We’ve built a command that selects

the Lighting Devices only and created a Vectorscript

that can be installed in a menu using the Workspace

Editor as shown in Part 1 of this article. A handy selection

command is now rapidly available in any document.

It’s installed, not imported.

18 August 2010 •



By Iris Dorbian

Harlan Taylor

David Ryan Smith, Daphne Gaines, and William McNulty in Actors

Theatre of Louisville’s 2008 production of A Christmas Carol.

Telling Stories with Everyone

The rewards of color-blind and non-traditional casting

When Joseph Papp, founding artistic director of

the seminal Off-Broadway house, The Public

Theater, began casting African-American

actors, such as James Earl Jones, in roles normally

reserved for white actors, such as William in Henry V,

50 years ago, a revolutionary act in theatre was taking

place. Seeking to create a theatre representative of

the racial and ethnic diversity in which it was operating,

Papp became a pioneer and champion of both

color-blind casting, which relates to issues of race, and

nontraditional casting, which affects race, gender, age

or physical challenges.

Now what was once so radical is commonplace in

American theatre. And The Public Theater, under the

artistic direction of Oskar Eustis, is still leading the charge

in this area; but several questions linger: What are the

“Racial identity is an insufficient

category to describe a human

experience.”—Oskar Eustis

rewards and pitfalls of color-blind and/or nontraditional

casting? When does it enhance a production and when can

it detract from it?

Eustis, who’s been at his current post since 2005, doesn’t

feel it can ever detract from the casting of a show because,

according to him, the audience is color-blind and willing

to suspend belief while watching a theatrical production.

“No sane being thinks that they’re actually watching

King Lear,” he insists. “Theatre is about creating fiction.

What we have is an affirmative action policy toward

casting: We want the players to mirror the composition

of the culture in which we’re performing.”

For instance, Passing Strange, which was produced

at the Public in 2007 before transferring to Broadway

in early 2008, featured a mostly black cast in the roles

of white Europeans. Eustis said this was a conscious

artistic decision to play up the fact that the story was

being told from the perspective of a black man. The

show, an autobiographical musical about a young

black musician’s coming of age experiences in Europe,

featured a book and lyrics by Stew and music by Stew

and Heidi Rodewald.

“It was the right lens with which to look at it,” says

Eustis, who previously served as artistic director of the

Providence, R.I.-based Trinity Rep. “Most of the artists

know that identity politics has its limit; racial identity

is an insufficient category to describe a human experience.”

Showcase the Actor

Often the power of an actor’s talent can cause a

director to cross gender or race during the casting

process. When actor/director and college professor

Lori Adams was casting a production of Anna Deveare

Smith’s Fires in the Mirror earlier this year at the St.

Louis-based Mustard Seed Theater, she simply was

looking for the best actors and not seeking to make a

political statement.

20 August 2010 •

Tips For Effective Color-Blind and Nontraditional Casting

How can theatre companies use this casting practice

effectively without seeming gimmicky?

• Be balanced throughout the production, and your

theatre’s entire season. “You don’t want it to be Here’s our

one token person',” says Zan Sawyer-Bailey, associate director

of the Actors Theatre of Louisville. “You must mix it up

so it goes across the entire production. So you don’t have to

explain why you have a black Dorothy and a White Auntie Em

in Wizard of Oz. If you have enough people of color, the audience

will understand this is a multicolor world. Make sure it’s

a rich fertilization rather than a hodgepodge.”

• Think about why you want to interracially cast a role. Is

there a point you’re looking to make? “Or are you trying to

suspend the audience’s belief about race to make another

point?” asks Oskar Eustis, artistic director at New York City’s

The Public Theater. “What is the aesthetic language that you

want the audience to understand? Try to take risks about that


• Trust your directors to find the best actors. “An actor

during an rehearsal process will transform,” says Director Lori

Adams. “If you think about America, it’s what we see: We look

at something and we make a judgment. If we can stop just

looking at the surface and listen and try to understand, that’s

what it is about.”

The show, which tracks the

viewpoints of a wide range of

characters connected to the

Brooklyn Crown Heights riots in

August 1991, was originally performed

solely by Smith, a black

actress/playwright. When Adams

was holding auditions for Fires

in the Mirror, she was given carte

blanche by the producer to use

whomever she wanted.

“I found the two actors who

were the strongest during the

auditions—a white actress and a

black actress,” recounts Adams.

Both played a variety of genders

and races. And according

to Adams, the casting raised no


“They were really gifted

actors,” she explains. “We just

did the simplest costume changes

to differentiate one character

from the other, and then on the

overhead screens the audience

was told who each character was.

We had talkbacks after several

of the shows. The audience did

comment on the characters they

thought were extremely successful;

sometimes the actresses were

playing their own race and sometimes

they weren’t. The audience

went with it.”

Like Eustis, Adams feels that

what makes nontraditional casting

so rewarding is that it gives

opportunities to talented actors

who, 50 years ago (unless they

were working for Papp), would

never have been considered for

these roles.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity • August 2010 21


Michal Daniel

de’Adre Aziza in a scene from The Public Theater’s production of Passing Strange, directed by Annie Dorsen.

for an actor,” she says. This kind of casting can push an

actor to a limit they haven’t done.”

One of Adams’ most memorable experiences as a

theatregoer was seeing an Illinois Shakespeare Festival

production of Pericles in which the lead actor was deaf

and mute. “That is a performance that has stayed with

me all my life,” she recalls. “The power of that performance

was amazing in that another character spoke

the lines and he signed the lines. The greatest moment

of anguish for the character was in the line where he

screamed, so the sound that came out of him wasn’t

from a monitored place.”

For Adams, the negative aspects of nontraditional

casting would be “if you’re pushing to somewhere

that’s so far from you that you can’t understand it or if

you feel like you’re doing a gimmicky thing or playing

a caricature.”

Telling Stories for Everyone

In a similar vein, just because an actor is brilliant

doesn’t mean he or she is right for the role.

“I think there are certain situations where it’s not

appropriate or helpful for a play to cast an actor of color

just to have an actor of color,” says Zan Sawyer-Bailey,

associate director of the Actors Theatre of Louisville. “I

think you have to be careful when it comes to nontraditional

casting. Does it give mixed signals with what the

playwright actually intended? Does it position someone

in a way that’s not socially correct and gives the wrong

kind of inference about the character?”

Courtesy of Mustard Seed Theater

Michelle Hand as Michael Miller in the Mustard Seed Theater production of Fires in the Mirror

At the same time Sawyer-Bailey, who has been a casting

director at the Actors Theatre of Louisville since 1985

and sees more than 1,500 professional auditions annually,

wants to find the best actor for each role being cast.

“There are many times when we realize that the color

of an actor’s skin has nothing to do with the telling of

the story,” she continues. “That’s the ideal situation. It

has taken all of us to think that way automatically that

any actor can play this role if they’re good enough and


But just like The Public Theater did five decades ago

and still does today, the Actors Theatre of Louisville will

frequently opt for nontraditional casting to reflect the

racial and ethnic composition of their audiences. This

is illustrated by their annual production of A Christmas


22 August 2010 •

Joan Marcus

Linda Emond, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and Jesse L. Martin in a

scene from The Public Theater’s 2010 production of The Winter’s

Tale, directed by Michael Greif at Shakespeare in the Park.

“You really try to figure out

a nice racial balance to that

cast,” she says. “Sometimes we’ll

have a racially mixed family.

Sometimes one of the ghosts

will be an actor of color. That’s

a play where a large segment

of the audiences will come to

and you want to make sure that

everyone who comes to see it is


Eustis agrees with Sawyer-

Bailey but sees the entire issue

of color-blind and nontraditional

in a larger societal context.

“It’s terribly important that

no actor is barred from playing

great roles because of the color

of their skin,” he says. “The legal

and moral employment aspects

should be enough to say you

can’t have restrictive casting.

Unfortunately, it still takes place

at some major theatres. We have

to make sure all of our theatres

are open to Americans of all


Iris Dorbian is the former editor-in-chief

of Stage Directions.

She is the author of Great

Producers: Visionaries of the

American Theater • August 2010 23

Feature By Bryan Reesman


Inside the NEA

An interview with chairman Rocco Landesman, one year in.

Michael Eastman

Rocco Landesman, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts.


man who has held a lifelong love of the theatre,

Rocco Landesman ascended to the position of the

chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts last

August. A man who produced shows on Broadway for nearly

25 years, Landesman lives and breathes theatre, possesses a

passion for the arts, and is on a mission to prove how arts

education is not only important for individual growth but

vital to business innovation and our country’s economic

competitiveness in the global marketplace. Landesman has

a tightly packed schedule, but he was more than willing

to take some time out to chat with Stage Directions about

his position at the NEA and his plans for the organization’s


Stage Directions: You’ve had many roles throughout

your life—horse trader, fund manager, baseball team

owner—and you studied theatre in school.

Rocco Landesman: I acted in plays in high school and

college, and I was at the Yale School Of Drama for eight

years as a student and teacher. Theatre was a huge part of

my education and obviously has been most of my career.

Why have you stayed with it after all of these years?

Theatre is something that once it gets in your blood, it’s

there forever, whether you’re an actor or designer or stage

manager. You get used to that milieu and the people in it.

It’s a world unto itself, just like the racetrack or baseball.

Theatre is its own culture really. I’ve always loved it.

Are you planning to balance the pursuit of supporting

“excellence” in the arts—you have mentioned major

theatres like Steppenwolf and Goodman—with the

NEA’s need to fund the necessary arts organizations in

New World Symphony President and CEO Howard Herring shows off the construction site for the

Symphony’s new campus in Miami, designed by Frank Gehry, to Rocco Landesman.

smaller communities throughout the country?

I never really backed off of my statement about Peoria

and Steppenwolf and Goodman. I do believe that our job is

to support excellence wherever we can find it. We don’t just

find it in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles but all around

the country. I think that the NEA has always had kind of a

dual mission, which is to support excellence in the arts and

also artistic merit. I think artistic merit is something that

is more broadly defined and has a more democratic and

perhaps geographically diverse aspect. We’re trying to be

attentive to the needs of all of our constituents, and one

of the mandates we’ve given to our education discipline is

that we want to have at least one arts education program in

every single Congressional district. I think arts education is

maybe a way for us to get the geographic reach, rather than

forcing artistic grants to areas where there may not even be

an arts institution.

What is the NEA’s role in supporting art and theatre

education in schools?

I think we have a whole education discipline which

gives grants to various programs. There is the Town Hall

foundation in New York. There’s TADA—Theater Arts

and Dance Alliance. There is Shakespeare In American

Communities. We have a big educational program and

outreach, and we’re talking with the Kennedy Center

now about a new educational program that they’ve initiated

in Sacramento, Calif. It’s very exciting. What they’re

doing is called Any Given Child, and they’re using the arts

institutions of the community. Sacramento has a theatre,

opera, ballet and symphony orchestra, and what they’re

doing is going into the schools and giving each grade an

24 August 2010 •

Yamila Lomba, courtesy of the NEA

immersion in a particular art. So fifth

grade might be theatre, sixth grade

might be dance, seventh grade might

be classical music. Without spending

a lot of money and hiring a lot of

new people, these arts institutions,

which have educational programs

themselves, will go into the school

and use their resources to teach kids

in the school. Without major expenditures

or new funds, you’re going

to get a real arts education in an

immersive way in each of the grades

as these kids go through school. I

think it’s an exciting program, and

we’re going to start partnering with

the Kennedy Center to replicate that

in other areas.

One of the arguments being used

to support the arts right now is

that they are economic engines.

You’ve certainly been hearing a lot

about that from us.

You’ve been addressing that on

the Art Works website. What do

you think makes that argument so

compelling and effective?

I think in this economy, given the

situation we have, if we went to

Congress or even to the private sector

and said, “The New York City

Opera is going to go out of business

unless it gets $3,000,000 by Labor

Day,” people are going to say, “That’s

a shame. That’s a great cultural institution

that we wouldn’t want to see

anything happen to. It’s too bad, but

we’ve got bigger, more important

parties on our plate right now. There

are two wars going on, a huge deficit

and an economic recession.” I think

people would say it’s not the most

important thing right now. On the

other hand, if we can go to Congress

and say that the arts are a huge part

of coming out of this recession, that

the arts have a vital role to play in

neighborhood revitalization, urban

renewal and economic development,

and that the arts are a catalyst for

economic growth, then I think we

have a completely different narrative.

We have a different story to tell and

one that gets a much better hearing

throughout the government. It

seems obvious in the face of it that

that’s the story that we should be

telling. • August 2010 25


Elayne Gross, courtesy of the NEA

Rocco Landesman tours a classroom at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies (CCS) with CCS’s president,

Rick Rogers.

By claiming that the arts are an economic engine, there

might be those who would ask why they should be funded

by the government as opposed to private businesses.

I don’t think the private sector has a broad-based plan for

economic development on its own. A wiser small business

administration supports small businesses. Some might say

the marketplace should support small business. The government

believes that certain small businesses need assistance

to get established, and once they do they become significant

employers. I think that artists are, in fact, small businessmen.

They’re entrepreneurs, and we know that if we bring art and

artists into a town, it changes that town radically. It changes the

entire ethos of the place, and it also becomes a different place

with a different economy. We have a lot of data that proves

that—where you can create artist clusters you really jumpstart

economies in place after place. Artists are great place makers,

and they are transformative in communities. We know this, and

that’s the case we’re going to be making tirelessly.

I was recently in Stratford, Canada, where the Stratford

Shakespeare Festival is. It’s run by my good friend Des McAnuff.

The Canadian Council For The Arts makes significant grants to

Stratford, and it is one of the most thriving communities economically

throughout all of Canada. It’s amazing to see what

happens. They still do rep there, which is mostly unheard of in

this country, and you really see how the presence of the arts

can transform a place. It’s a textbook example.


For the complete interview with

Rocco, including why Long Day’s

Journey Into Night is his favorite play,



For you, what constitutes the success of an NEA funded


I think are two criteria. One is artistic. If it’s theatre, and

the play contributes to the field and is interesting artistically,

is compelling in some way, reaches and effects an audience

or stimulates thought and discussion and engages the com-

Rocco Landesman with Dowoti Désir, a Haitian priest and scholar, who is installing an altar to accompany

“African Continuum: Sacred Ceremonies and Rituals” at San Francisco’s Museum of the African


munity, we think that’s a success. There’s an artistic metric in

and of itself. The second aspect, of course, is how it relates to

the community, to the whole place in which it functions. We’re

looking to artistic organizations to jumpstart economies in a lot

of communities and for a lot of this artistic activity to have an

economic impact. So there’s a double criteria there.

During recessions we usually have arts programs being cut

in schools.

It should be the last thing cut, and it’s always the first.

How can the NEA effectively stress the importance of these

programs to schools that are struggling to make decisions

about what they should cut?

Our point is that if this country’s going to be economically

competitive around the world, we need innovation and

creativity. We need to be training well-rounded kids who are

going to be able to make this country compete in areas that

are going to be important in the future. Our manufacturing

base keeps declining. We’re probably not going to increase

our manufacturing footprint in the world as we go forward. If

you look at a lot of our exports in entertainment and technology—areas

in which we have economic traction—creativity,

innovation and imagination are integral parts of this, and arts

education is vitally important to that.

What should we know about the NEA and your plans for

moving forward?

I think we want to partner with other federal agencies and

with the private sector to expand the arts footprint all across

the country and really raise the level of the conversation about

the arts, to bring the arts into the national conversation. It

would be a great legacy for us.

Do you think that the Great Recession is going to be the

biggest hurdle you’re going to have to deal with in your

time at the NEA?

No doubt. It’s affecting all of the arts institutions. It’s affecting

the NEA and its funding. It’s affecting everyone. And we

have to deal with it.

Photo by Ellen Shershow Pena, courtesy of NEA

26 August 2010 •

The NEA’s Face of Theatre

Lisa Miller

Ralph Remington, director of Theatre and Musical

Theatre for the NEA

As Director

of Theatre

and Musical

Theatre for the

NEA, the recentlyappointed


Remington comes

from a rich arts

background. He

has been doing

theatre since high

school and was

also a dancer for

ten years, tackling

jazz, tap, modern,

African and acrobatics.

He has also

been a political activist since a young age and found

a way to straddle the worlds of art and politics, as

Stage Directions learned when speaking with him.

Stage Directions: You’ve moved between the

world of theatre and politics throughout your life.

How did you go from theatre into politics, and

how do you manage to balance the two?

Ralph Remington: All of my theatre life has pretty

much been involved in politics, and as an individual

I’ve always been torn between politics and art, so I’ve

found ways to combine both. A lot of my art making

has been sociopolitical in nature. I was a political

activist from early on. I was involved in homeless

squatters rights in Philadelphia when I was 12 or 13

years old. I was the first president of my high student

body at a performing arts high school in Phillie, so I

lead walkouts and sit-ins and demonstrations on the

Board of Education. That’s the kind of stuff I had been

involved in for quite a long time, so for me theatre

became an active form of social change. Ironically

enough, what got me into musical theatre in the first

place was musicals—just watching West Side Story,

Oklahoma, Mary Poppins and all those musicals from

back in the day. All of the stuff drew me into theatre.

Originally I was an actor/singer/dancer going to high

school, and prior to that I started studying dance

at 14 years old, so from the time I was 14 until 23 I

was jazz/tap/modern/African/acrobatics. That was

my original calling. Ben Vereen was an idol of mine,

along with Louis Gossett Jr., James Earl Jones, Al

Pacino and Robert DeNiro. Those were the people

who shaped my vision of being an artist—then

Baryshnikov, of course. I would go see whatever he

did. I worshiped at the altar of Baryshnikov. All of

these things came to play, and eventually when I was

at performing arts high school my sociopolitical self

really emerged as the strongest thing. I looked at the

careers of dancers and realized that a lot of them end

up crippled or hobbled. I feel stuff now from things

I used to do, not just in performance but in clubs. I

used to do a lot of club dancing, too—just for fun on

the street and on the floor and all that. I was on the

cutting edge of the hip-hop movement because I was

one of the original hip-hop generation people. Sugar

Hill Gang, Rapper’s Delight, Grandmaster Flash, LL

Cool J and all of those folks came about when I was

a junior and senior in high school. I just heard that

stuff at block parties. The generation before was

informed by Vietnam and World War II, and now a

hip-hop/rocker/Creole generation has come about,

and the epitome of that is probably Barack Obama as

the President. We’re the same age, so his influences

were probably very similar to a lot of mine and a lot

of people that you see in different fields.

What are your plans as Director of Theatre and

Musical Theatre at the NEA?

The thing that everyone is asking is how do we

survive as an art form, and not just survive but thrive.

How do we get audiences that are excited? How do

we speak to the American moment? How do we create

bold, new, innovative ways of presenting theatre

and musical theatre? How does that happen? Where

are these artists? How can they get funded? In looking

at old subscription models, we need to look at

exploring membership models for theatre subscription.

For instance, every month if Joe Blow or Suzy

Q gets $10 or $25 deducted from their checking

account—if they don’t miss that $25 and it goes to

a theatre subscription—they don’t have to come up

with $300 or $500 to subscribe to be a member of

theatre. They’re subscribers by $20 or $25 coming

out of their checking account every month. Perhaps

they could be brought into a pool of theatres that

share in that subscriber base, so people can be flexible

not only in the shows or in the seats that they

get to go to but also the theatres that they get to

go to in a more fluid fashion than we look at theatre

patronage today.


For the complete interview with Ralph

Remington, head over to

ralphremington • August 2010 27

Special Section:

Renovations & Installations

A Renovation Ends

with Big Package in

a “Little Box”

South Florida Community College

gets world-class PAC

By Kevin M. Mitchell

specs limit the scope of what they wanted to do.

“For every situation that might call for compromise, we turned

it into an opportunity,” Garven says.

The school’s technical director Bil Kovacs, who has been with

the college for 20 years, asked for everything and the kitchen sink,

and pretty much got it (yes, he’s still stunned by it all). “Everything

went away!” Kovacs says. Save for most of the concrete exterior,

he’s correct—new lobby spaces, new seating arrangements and

new production equipment were all part of the renovation. It

would have been easier starting from scratch, he admits, but that

did not stop the team—it only made them work harder.

Making It Fit

The original South Florida Community College (SFCC) theatre

“did the job for 31 years,” Kovacs says, saying that the 1,445 seat

single-level theatre had an excellent PA and great lights. “It was

This is a state-of-the-art facility with features you would

normally only find in a building that was built from the

ground up,” Brad Garven says of South Florida’s Community

College’s practically new and extensively improved theatre. “It

was an unusual renovation.”

Garven, of the Sth Architectural Group, a Leo A Daly Company,

adds, “They wanted a first class PAC, and the final outcome is

something that is typically found in a major urban area—it’s quite


TSG Design Solutions was the theatrical consulting company

for the SFCC project, with Stephen Placido as project manager.

In his 21 years as a theatre consultant Placido has completed

more than 100 live event spaces, but none has been quite like

this one. “It’s one of the few projects where at the initial meeting

we were already discussing dimensions in inches,” Placido says.

Conversations immediately went to “if we run the ramp here,

we’ll miss the existing footer by 2-1/2-inches,” etc. “Those kind of

discussions were happening very early on.” This wasn’t bad—it

helped define things early on—and the team didn’t let existing

The new façade of the South Florida Community College Performing Arts Center

just very dated.”

The theatre presents about 150 shows a year, from a single

lecturer behind a podium to big traveling musicals, which always

highlighted the old theatre’s biggest problem: its lack of fly space.

At a mere 39-feet, there was no place to fly anything. Today the

theatre offers a 24-foot high proscenium, and the roof over the

stage goes all the way up to 68 feet. The extra space allows few

limits, and the full, walkable wire-mesh grid over the stage also

opens up all kinds of possibilities for lighting placement.

But the first thing the audience will notice is the new tri-level

lobby, which lets the visitor know straight away that this is not

the old auditorium. Long-time supporters appreciate the elevator

and the 20 side boxes in the audience chamber that can seat up to

160. The side boxes and balcony are also new. Yes, the renovation

added a balcony.

When SFCC asked if a sweeping balcony could be put in, “we

said of course we can!” Placido laughs. But raising the roof over the

seating area to allow for a huge balcony proved impractical. So a

smaller one and the boxes was the right approach.

28 August 2010 •

“Side boxes are typically only in high-end PACs, and originally

we had a balcony that was going to horseshoe around,” Garven

says. “When you stand on stage and look up, you can be in any

opera house in the world.”

Another point Kovacs is proud of is how wheelchair accessible

the new theatre is. There are now 18 spaces for wheel chairs, 12

just 40 feet from the stage.

The way they got more space in the same space proved to

be under their nose—or more specifically, under their feet. They

went down, creating a lower portion that would be the lobby, and

thus created more room in the rear to accommodate more seats.

“We elevated the rear seating area enough to accommodate the

plan, but not so much that patrons would be banging their head

on the ceiling – again, this is where ‘inches’ came in! And we took

every one we could.” To accommodate this plan, the control

booth was placed under some seats much closer to the stage.

he was able to alert the team that an initial scheme was not going

to work well sound-wise. Duggar’s input on exactly how the seats

were divided and how the floors were raked allowed him to adjust

the acoustic throw patterns of the room. “It’s tailored to different

areas of the room so that the space always feels filled up with

people. And when they just want to use the front part of the seating

area, they can dim down the theatre sound-wise to the point

that it’s as if it’s a theatre with half as many seats.”

Duggar says that they talked early on with TSG about what

speaker system would be put in, how it should be a line array, and

where it should go. “On all the projects we do, we don’t design

the work, but we influence it. We call it ‘proper adult supervision,’”

he jokes.

The line arrays were flown, but in a manner so that they

wouldn’t be in the way for more intimate performances. They

have a speaker cluster that hangs above the stage so that it’s

Edward Duggar

Bil Kovacs

A new fly tower for the South Florida

Community College PAC was built, giving

them a new trim height capable of

supporting bigger touring musicals.

Side boxes give the PAC a classic opera-house feel.

The “Candy”

The theatre includes a video monitoring system where those

in the greenroom or in the dressing rooms can see what is happening

on stage. There’s two Christie LX1000 with optional long

throw LNS TO3 lenses in the theatre.

For their audio needs the team chose a Yamaha PM-5D board

running digitally into a Meyer Sound Galileo 616 Digital Processor.

There are 10 Meyer MICA line array speaker cabinets, plus four

700-HP subwoofers under the apron, and another five Meyer UP

Junior UltraCompact VariO loudspeakers on the front apron for

good measure.

But don’t look for any monitor gear, as there is none, and it’s

not an oversight. “My perception is since we don’t have a person

on staff to run monitors, when we need them, it’s better to rent

them and the person to run them,” says Kovacs

Kovacs says the acoustician Edward Duggar, of Edward Duggar

and Associates, was a major component of the project’s ultimate

success. Duggar was involved from the very beginning, and says

mostly out of site when not in use, but can be brought down easily

when needed.

In the end, for Duggar, the hall sounds like he thought it would.

“Acoustically it serves well for the events and shows that come

through. There’s enough variability that it can handle amplified

events, too. It’s a very performer-friendly room. It’s always nice to

bring another theatre into the world.”

They have an ETC Eos lighting board driving an impressive collection

of lights. “We have six new Mac 700 Profile moving heads,

and six Mac TW1 wash fixtures, which I would recommend,” says

Kovacs. An eight-hour training session on the new lighting console

helped him over a major learning curve, and he enjoys that

it’s so much friendlier when working moving lights.

An embarrassment of riches?

“Somebody used the phrase, ‘kid in a candy store,’ but it’s

bittersweet,” Kovac says, adding that it was hard to go from all

analog sound to all digital, and he did so with a tinge of regret,

as to his ears analog sounds better. “But now that I’ve learned the

PM-5D it is amazing.”

For the theatre’s opening pianist/singer Paul Sauk performed

and 1,500 special guests, including those who labored on the

project, were on hand. “I have to tell you one of my favorite

moments was on the first night, I was sitting near some longtime

patrons and the woman stood up to go to the lobby for a

moment, and she turned to her husband and said, ‘Oh how nice,

we have so much more leg room!’ That was incredible: more seats

in the same space and more leg room.” • August 2010 29

Special Section:

Renovations & Installations

Big Idea, Small Space

A look at a portable, private

performing arts center

from the imagination of

Christine Jones

John Huntington/

The Theatre for One performing arts center fine tuned its technical requirements during

a stint at CUNY’s New York City College of Technology before its Times Square run.

By Michael S. Eddy

Most theatre consultants say the theatres they love the

most are intimate ones; spaces where you feel that you

are right there with the performer. Well, there’s now

one that can only be described as the most intimate theatre that

you will ever find—Theatre for One. This jewel box of a theatre is

the brain child of Tony Award-winning scenic designer Christine

Jones. As it says right in its name, it is literally a theatre for one;

one audience member and one performer. In May, Theatre for

One had its first public residency in New York City’s Times Square.

In its initial 10-day run, the theatre presented more than 600


Theatre for One (T41), is a 4-foot-by-9-foot portable theatre

built—using roadbox technology—in sections so it can be easily

modified or re-configured down the road as needs change. It has

essentially two sections, which, when joined together, create one

space. There is a hard shutter that separates the two sections and

acts as a proscenium and curtain. Each side has a separate doorway,

one for the audience member and one for the performer.

The interior is lined with rich red velvet and has a lighting and

audio system as well as fans to keep everyone inside comfortable.

Outside, connected by a data and power snake, is a rackmount

control center where the stage manager can operate the lights

and audio using a camera to monitor the progress inside the

booth. The T41 can be operated off a small, low-noise generator.

T41 Artistic Director Jones, who describes T41 as “a portable,

private performing arts center” drew her inspiration from disparate

areas. “There were two main inspirations,” she says. “I read

about artist James Turrell designing a church. I had been thinking

how great it would be to design a church, but I figured that the

chance of anybody commissioning me to build a church was

unlikely. It made me think if I built a church for one, I could build it

myself. Around that time, I saw Steve Cuiffo, a magician, perform

at a wedding, He went around the room and sat in front of me and

performed a magic trick right before me. I just found the experience

of having something normally witnessed publicly presented

in such a private way incredibly moving. I loved it so much; I

started thinking about how I could recreate that experience. Out

of those thoughts came the idea of making T41.”

Calling Out

When Jones read that the NY Theatre Workshop had a call

for projects she thought it would be a great place to try her idea

out. She built a plywood box and looked at church confessionals

and peepshow booths for research. “During that research I met

the man who builds all of the peepshow booths in Manhattan.

He gave me a chair from a peepshow booth and I put that in my

plywood box. I put in some lights, some sound and then I worked

with three writers to write plays for that venue. We tried it out and

I found that indeed it was a compelling experience.”

Two years later, with a grant through Princeton University,

Jones constructed the current T41 box. LOT-EK Architecture (pronounced

“low tech,” they’re a firm that takes modern society’s

castoffs and repurposes them to greater effect) suggested the

idea to use the roadbox technology to define the space. Using

the new design, Jones worked with the students at Princeton and

Juilliard. Glenn Weiss, Manager of Public Art in Times Square with

the Times Square Alliance, saw the T41 project online and invited

Jones to make the first public presentation of Theatre for One in

Times Square.

It may be a theatre for one, but it still takes quite a production

team to operate the space, including Jane Cox as Lighting

Supervisor, who has been working with Jones since the Princeton

residency, Lighting Designer Bradley King, Joshua Higgason as

Technical Director, Emily Levin as Stage Manager and Project

Coordinator Megan Marshall. True Love Productions was also a

producing partner for T41.

Taking the T41 out of storage, where it was since 2007,

Jones and company set up at CUNY’s New York City College of

Technology, also known as City Tech, to fine tune the technical

requirements for Times Square. “While T41 was at City Tech huge

improvements were made in its lighting and sound systems by

City Tech’s John Huntington and John McCullough,” describes

30 August 2010 •

John Huntington/

During its run in Times Square, the Theatre for One showed more than 600 performances.

Higgason. “They made T41 a real theatrical space and I just had to

figure out how to make it a mobile one. I put together a separate

roadcase that was a small mobile control unit. Lighting control

includes three Chauvet four-channel dimmer packs and lighting

control via ENTTEC LightFactory, a PC-based system with a USB-

DMX adaptor. The audio playback and control is run by a 1.5 GHz

Apple Mac Mini Single Core running Qlab, an Echo AudioFire 4, a

Samson MDR6 mixer and an ART SLA4 four-channel amplifier. The

four-output Qlab package includes four channels of playback. We

also have a monitor system that includes both video and audio for

the stage manager to call the show.”

Inside the T41 the lighting includes four PAR Birdies, four

3-inch Fresnels, two Linestra linear incandescent sources, a

proscenium arch with 18 small white 25W globe lamps and

an MR-16 Nano Strip light. Audio includes two JBL Control 1

speakers over the stage, two 65W speakers that are built into

the chair and a handheld Shure SM57 mic for amplification or

reverb effects. Power is provided by a Honda EU3000is generator,

which provides 3,000W (or 25A at 120V) while producing a

maximum of 58 dB of noise. T41 runs for 10 hours on about two

gallons unleaded gasoline.

Higgason notes that “Kyle Chepulis at Technical Artistry and

Eva Pinney at Tribeca Lighting were integral in putting together

the system, not only with their expert advice and recommendations

about the equipment but also with their quick turnaround

in providing gear. James Robertson and Pierre Kraitsowits of

Daedalus Design & Production in Greenpoint were also huge


On Its Feet

During the work at City Tech, LD King and lighting

supervisor Cox put in time pre-cueing some of the performances.

The rest were done on site, all depending on

the schedule of the performers. During the run, at least

three people were on hand for the operation, including

SM Levin, TD Higgason and PC Marshall. They also

had a group of volunteers to help manage the line and

answer any questions from the audience members as

they waited, including “No, this isn’t the line for TKTS”

and “No, your picture will not be on the big screen on that


For Levin a typical day

began about noon for a

1 p.m. start, “We called

actors about 30-minutes

before show time,”

says Levin. “We would

tech them and do a runthrough

with them. Fifteen

minutes ahead we started

to generate the line. We

liked to have three to four

performers for every block

of time. It’s fun to keep

something new in the

booth so that people don’t

know what they are walking

into. In between each

person, we may only have

a 30-second break, which

doesn’t seem like a long time but it’s long enough me

to get somebody out of the booth, reset the sound and

lights and get someone else in.”

Levin cued the door to open and close; ran the consoles

for lights and sound, as well as got the actors in and out.

There are no dressing rooms in Times Square so they used

the booth itself and there was a “backstage” area with

drapes to hide the different performers from the audience.

“We have a wide range of performances that last anywhere

from 2-1/2 to 10 minutes,” explains Jones. “I have

seven plays, one dancer, two puppeteers, a magician, a

standup comedian, eight poets and three musicians. We

have also had musicians drop in for impromptu performances.

We had Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong come

in for a surprise set one evening; somebody was in the

booth that was a huge fan and the whole booth was shaking

because he was pounding on the walls with excitement.

We have had people exiting in tears and other

times laughing; it’s just been amazing.”

Jones is navigating the many offers that are coming

her way on possible uses of T41 and she pointed out,

“I would love to see it be a part of other festivals. We

are taking it to Governor’s Island for the Figment Arts

Festival. We are going to be working with theatre company

Clubbed Thumb and have it in the lobby of the Ohio

Theatre before their performances. People have been

asking us about renting it out for private events, which

we may consider doing. That would be a way to support

it. I am hoping that Broadway Cares could find a way

to use it to raise money. I think that it has tremendous

non-profit possibilities.” Education and training are also

roles that Jones sees for the future of T41. “I would love

to make one for every public school in New York City,

because it’s a great way to learn about the performing

arts,” comments Jones. “So many schools are so challenged

with arts-funding, but even in a miniature form,

you still explore and learn all of the different aspects of

creating a production.” Whatever Jones decides to do

next with Theatre for One it is sure to be worth everyone

experiencing it, one at a time.

31 August 2010 • • June 2010 31

Consultant Spotlight



A Q&A with S. Leonard Auerbach, founder of

theatre consulting firm Auerbach Pollock Friedlander.

All photography courtesy of Auerbach Pollock Friedlander

Jackson Hall at the UC Davis Mondavi Center

Robert Canfield

S. Leonard Auerbach

One of the great things about the theatre is that the path

that one’s career follows can be as rewarding and diverse

as the productions and projects that it touches. S. Leonard

Auerbach, Founding Principal of the theatre consulting firm

Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, is a case in point. His path began

backstage, on the lighting crew, and then, as house manager for

the original Off-Broadway company of The Fantasticks. Hooked

on theatre, he attended Carnegie Tech—now Carnegie Mellon—

earning a degree in stage and lighting design and a graduate

degree in theatre architecture. From Pittsburgh, he moved to

Minneapolis, where he became resident lighting designer for the

Guthrie Theatre and in 1967, he became the in-house consultant

for their first renovation. From there, he was recruited by BBN—an

acoustics and theatre consulting firm—starting his consulting

career in their New York office, and then, in San Francisco where

he founded his own consulting practice in 1972.

One of his very early projects was the Minneapolis Children’s

Theatre Company, with the prestigious architect Kenzo Tange.

Q What was special about that project?

A Len Auerbach: The Minneapolis Children’s Theatre was conceived

as a significant regional theatre for children. It required

an intimate and comfortable space with good sightlines for both

adults and children in a mixed audience environment. Tange

sought to create a womb-like and intimate interior. We collaborated,

designing a 750-seat space with a homogeneous orchestra

level and two very shallow balconies to reduce viewing distances

and encourage the perception of space that confirmed Tange’s


Q How do you find out special project needs beyond your

work with the architect?

A It’s a process of engagement. When you are planning a

space for a new theatre, it’s all about building relationships,

sharing visions and exposing the client to possibilities that

they may not have considered. Not as a matter of persuasion,

but as a matter of shared dialog and understood values. The specific

needs and the philosophy of the client—whether that client

is a high school, a university, a community theatre, a symphony

orchestra or a spectacular entertainment company like Cirque du

Soleil—each has unique requirements that you have to understand

and react to with design concepts.

This is especially true for educational projects where preparation

for avocational interests as well as pre-professional training in

the theatre provides broad user requirements that must reflect the

institution’s values and community. It’s not so different from our

projects for more commercial presenters and institutions, including

dance, music and popular entertainment. For example, we are

currently doing a space for SFJAZZ that is a highly specific space

for jazz music of all types, with presentations geared to a diverse

audience demographic. We have spent a great deal of time with

the artistic director, understanding his vision and discussing vari-

32 August 2010 •

Main Theatre at the Emerson College

Paramount Center

Peter Vanderwarker

Bernard André

Cabrillo College, Visual and Performing

Arts Village

Aptos, California

Envisioned three decades prior as part of a Campus

Master Plan, the 8-acre Visual and Performing Arts Village

is comprised of five buildings around courtyards. Auerbach

Pollock Friedlander provided theatre consulting for the programming,

planning and design for all of the performing

and fine arts facilities including 2D and 3D art studios, the

“Forum” - a 250-seat arts and media presentation facility and

the 577-seat Crocker Theater, a 200-seat Black Box Theater

and production facilities and a new music department building

with a 369-seat recital hall and practice rooms.

Music Recital Hall at Cabrillo College,

Visual and Performing Arts Village

ous opportunities for this exciting new downtown venue. On all

projects, this type of interaction always takes us in new directions.

That’s what keeps consulting interesting and exciting.

Q So what’s your competitive advantage?

A I feel our strength comes from the people and the depth of

knowledge we have in our firm. My partners now include Steve

Pollock and Steven Friedlander, Paul Garrity, Mike McMackin and

Tom Neville on the Auerbach Pollock Friedlander side and Patricia

Glasow and Larry French in our architectural lighting group,

Auerbach Glasow French. All are very talented designers with

real theatre experience and each of these individuals came to the

firm with unique live performance backgrounds. This hands-on

experience is drawn upon as common ground with our clients.

Our senior staff is well-balanced and supported by exciting

new and creative talent in our San Francisco, New York and

Minneapolis offices. We bring these skills to any project that has

an audience, whether it is an educational facility, a 21,000-seat

conference center, a small 99-seat Off-Broadway venue, a popular

entertainment venue or a major opera house or concert hall.

No matter what size and scope of the project, we have the

same responsibility to our clients; understand their needs and

reconcile those core requirements—and values—with their available

funds. Success is measured in how well we meet these goals.

Sometimes, it is a matter of providing good, simple working

space. At the other end of the spectrum, we are not shy about

the development of advanced technology and the design of large

scale automation and stage machinery systems for our recent

work with Cirque du Soleil in their permanent venues in Las Vegas

and Asia.

But the focus is not to push technology. Appropriate technology

must follow good programming, planning and design. We

strive to be responsible to everyone in the project—from the client,

the architect and engineers to the board of trustees and governing

agencies. These are voices that must be considered along

with the requirements of the artists, technicians and productions

that may be mounted in the venue. Bridging gaps that naturally

occur between these parties, while gaining the confidence of our

clients on all levels is a giant step along the road toward navigating

the path to a successful project.

Emerson College, Paramount Center

Boston, Massachusetts

Auerbach Pollock Friedlander provided theatre and audiovideo

consulting for the redevelopment of the Paramount

Theatre and the adjacent “Arcade” building. The project is

a combination of adaptive re-use, renovation and new infill

construction including a 596-seat proscenium theatre that

occupies the footprint and recreates the original art-deco

finishes of the 1,500-seat Paramount Theatre which originally

opened in 1932. Additional program areas include the

experimental 125-seat flexible black box studio theatre and

The Bright Family Screening Room with a 180-seat a film

sound stage, rehearsal and media studios, practice rooms,

classrooms, faculty offices and a scene shop designed to support

all of Emerson’s theatres.

University of California, Davis, Robert and Margrit

Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts

Davis, California

Auerbach Pollock Friedlander provided full scope theatre

consulting for Jackson Hall, a 1,800-seat multi-purpose venue

and a 200-seat Studio theatre. The Center marked the fulfillment

of the University’s long-awaited goal—a world-class

arts destination, serving the University and the surrounding

community with a facility with superb acoustics for classical

music; accommodation of all forms of proscenium stage

productions; and rapidly changeable stage configurations to

allow dense scheduling.

San Francisco • New York • Minneapolis


Special Section

Renovations & Installations

Kevin G. Reeves

Westlake Reed Leskosky helped the Kohl Building at the

Oberlin College Conservatory of Music earn LEED Gold status

and critical raves for its bold design, including jewellike

panels of brushed aluminum, and vertical windows

arranged to remind one of piano keys.

Dream Weavers

Theatre consultants and your dream theatre

By Kevin M. Mitchell

Building a new or redesigning an old theatre space is a

dream come true for many in the arts. Getting the funding

and pushing the project along is exhausting and stressful,

but ultimately it's rewarding—if it turns out well. Ensuring

success are the theatre design consultants who ask the right

questions and bring their experience to the table from day one.

SD sought out nine especially innovative projects to learn more

about this vital part of the process. While we had time with these

brilliant designers, we also asked about general trends to get a

feel for what we want in our theatres today.

Studio T+L

Jason Livingston started Studio T+L in 2006, and says one of

the most interesting projects they completed recently was for

Union City High School in Union City, N.J. The administrators

came to him wanting a 970-seat proscenium, but the space was

small. They couldn’t build down for more space because there

were classrooms beneath it. And raising the roof was problematic

as well, because, well, there’s a football field on it. But build

it they did—and a 99-seat black box theatre, all supported by a

suite of dressing rooms, control booths and a scene shop.

The tight space required some creative thinking for the rigging.

“One thing that turned out well was that we gave them

a tension wire grid above the stage, which is basically a web of

aircraft cable drawn tight within metal frames,” Livingston says.

“This gives them the ability to walk around anywhere above the

stage safely.” He’s particularly proud of this because, increasingly,

schools are curtailing student’s backstage involvement

due to liability issues. He says when he thinks back to his early

theatre experiences, and how he climbed ladders and focused

lights, the idea of kids today not getting that thrilling backstage

experience would be a shame. But that’s not a problem here. “It’s

all access—there’s no way you can fall through it.”

Working with any school requires a different approach, he

says. “The challenge can be the school administration. I’ll be

meeting with the superintendent and ask about the production

schedule, the type of shows, how many kids typically involved,

and they don’t know. I’ll ask to meet with the theatre educators

and they’ll say 'No, not yet …' I say over and over that I want to

meet with the people who are going to use the space. I don’t

want to design my theatre, I want to design theirs.”

Trends. “It can be a budget-buster, but we’re frequently asked

about motorized rigging instead of manually operated rigging.

Motorized is more expensive, and if the school really wants it,

they need to contact the theatre consultant early on to plan for

the expense.”


Ontario-based Novita was founded in 1972, and David Jolliffe

joined Novita in 1990 as a system designer and has been manager

of Technical Services and a partner since 1997. Recently he

and the Novita team embarked on a renovation of the Grace

Hartman Amphitheatre in Sudbury, Ontario. It is a public space

in a large, urban park, but had fallen prey to underuse because of

the increasingly deteriorating stage facilities and a sound system

that was doing too good of a job—or at least that’s what the

neighbors and other parkgoers thought.

Jolliffe’s background includes spending two summers traveling

with the likes of the Grateful Dead, U2 and the Rolling

Stones, among others, where he documented everything that

had to do with outdoor festivals. This experience proved helpful.

“Grace was built in 1967 in the classical Greek amphitheatre

style,” he says. “It had high concrete steps and is built on a

hillside.” Novita surveyed the site with the architect to ensure

they would make good use of the existing landscape, and have

proper seating placement. But among the biggest challenges

was creating a sound system that would attract the popular acts

but not cause noise complaints.

“We turned the amphitheatre slightly away from the lake and

increased landscaping to contain the sound.” They also curtailed

the sound by making the space into a larger fan shape and strategic

placing of berms. But most of all, Novita took advantage of

new technologies, specifically line array technology, which was

permanently installed in Grace Hartman—something that has

34 August 2010 •

only been done a few times, Jolliffe says.

Trends. Last August in Alberta, an

outdoor country musical festival stage

collapsed killing one and injuring 15

others. In part because of this, there’s a

movement toward the more stringent

European Union standards in outdoor

theatre/festival construction, which

Novita is responding to. “We’re dealing

with a project right now where a stage

has to support a 44-foot stage roofing

system weighing tons, and we’re hired

in as consultants to ensure safety, proper

emergency routes, etc. We bring confidence

to the table.”

Graham, Swift & Company

Unofficially known as “the Theatre

Guys,” Larry Graham and Charles Swift

have had their hands full with the

Jefferson County School District in

Alabama. “They are creating six 750-seat

theatres in each of their high schools that

are fully motorized and complemented

with new lighting and sound equipment,”

Swift says.

Graham, who has been in practice for

30 years after teaching theatre design

in college, and Swift, a lighting designer

now in his 10th year as a consultant, say

that one of the challenges is, despite

being in different buildings, all needed

to be as equal as possible. Just to make it

more intriguing, the team is working with

three different architecture firms.

“What is interesting to me is that this

project is important to the school district

leaders because they know what value

the arts have in education,” says Graham.

“They know that these kinds of programs

improve test scores.”

Swift says working with different architects

involved educating them on the

production process, and dealing with

how to integrate all the theatre demands

into the building process—“That’s key to

what we do.” With this project, though,

even working with the same architect on

two of the projects involved extra meetings,

as there were different electrical and

mechanical engineers to work with.

“We work to inform the design, and

look at it all from a functional point of

view as a theatre,” Graham adds.

Trends. Swift says more theatres aremoving

toward motorized rigging. “It’s

more expensive but the schools are looking

at liability issues, and there seems to

be more accidents with manual rigging.”

But the caveat is motorized needs to be

operated by someone who is very welltrained,

and the layout of the stage needs

to be such that the person operating

needs to be able to see all the rigging that

he or she is operating.

Auerbach Pollock Friedlander

In Aptos, Calif., just south of Santa

Cruz, Cabrillo College turned to Auerbach

Pollock Friedlander to help with their

Visual, Applied and Performing Arts

Complex (VAPA). Cabrillo’s Music and

Theatre Departments—each now with

its own building—have earned a significant

reputation south of the SF Bay Area

for their support and development of

Cabrillo Stage, a professional summer

musical theatre company.

“It’s highly unusual and commendable

for a community college chartered

to grant Associate degrees to have such

facilities,” says Steve Pollock, ASTC, vicepresident

and principal of Auerbach

Pollock Friedlander. “The new VAPA facilities

have created a critical mass for the

arts on campus, showing a unique commitment

from the community college

district to the large number of enrollees

in Cabrillo’s programs.

The new Crocker Theatre is a 550-seat

proscenium house with a large orchestra

pit, a fully rigged fly tower/counterweight

and hemp system, a comprehensive ETC

theatrical lighting system with Ethernet

control network, and expansive audio systems

with capacity for in-house control of

basic and touring audio requirements for

local arts presenters. Production facilities

also include a 125-seat black box

with full tension grid and coordinated

theatrical systems on a somewhat smaller

scale, scene and costume shops, a scenic

design studio and light lab, a rehearsal

studio and a full complement of dressing

rooms sized to accommodate music theatre

principals and chorus.

From programming through to postoccupancy

services, Auerbach Pollock

Friedlander worked closely with architecture

firm HGA, which provided key leadership,

while allowing the opportunity for

consultants to build relationships with

resident faculty and their programs. The

project team worked with a core group of

faculty and staff, many of whom had been

involved in a previous programming and

design effort that was never implemented

from approximately a decade before

the VAPA projects were funded.

More and more, Pollock sees the


Programming, Space Planning, Technical Resource

Information, and System Design

for the Performing Arts.



Concer t Halls

Production Spaces

Management Spaces

Teaching Labs

Dance Studios

Av/Tv Centers





F o u n d i n g M e m b e r s

of the American Society

of Theatre Consultants

Ron Jerit, ASTC

Teddy Dean Boys, ASTC

3712 North Broadway,

PMB 642

Chicago IL 60613

t 1 773 472 1497 • f 1 773 477 8369 • e • August 2010 35

Special Section: Architects & Consultants

importance of video and media as basic to the training of performers

and technicians. “The focus on training for performance

for the camera has become very popular, especially on community

college campuses which are more likely to offer technical

training leading to work in the field that is practical and less


Landry & Bogan

Landry & Bogan work with plenty of high schools, but a

recent client had a request that is rare: They wanted a thrust


“The level of sophistication of Bellarmine College Prep in San

Jose made this 450-seat project unusual,” says Rose Steele, who

along with Heather McAvoy, owns Landry & Bogan. Bellarmine

has a strong drama department run by three full-time theatre

faculty members. Steele commended them on their bravado to

not only go with a thrust, but fully equip it: it has a stage lift, two

vomitoriums, a fully-rigged stage with 36 manually-operated

line sets and two dimmer banks with 192 circuits each. They also

put in a scene shop.

“Because they have a strong performing arts program, we

had a lot of input from the faculty with regard to their programming

needs,” Steele says. The project took three years to complete

at a project cost of $30 million. (The new 52,000-square

foot building includes a music room and art studies.) Despite

the financial support, cost was an issue as the architects weren’t

always clear on numbers for a theatre. “They have a handle on

costs and what is available in the market in general, but they

don’t usually know how much per square foot a theatre like this

can cost.”

Steele adds that while sometimes a project like this can

get “dumbed down” in the process, that didn’t happen here.

The team was focused on making the space work to its utmost


Trends. “The trend is for better spaces for theatres,

period,” Steele says. “There’s more buy-in at the district level for a

really good space as opposed to the ‘gymatorium.’” Many of the

California’s universities require a year of performing or visual arts

to be accepted into the college, helping fuel the recent upsurge

in new/redone theatres there.

Jerit/Boys Inc.

Teddy Boys, vice president and principal consultant for Jerit/

Boys, began his career as an acoustics consultant and co-founded

the consulting firm in 1978 with Ron Jerit. For the Dakota

Middle School in Rapid City, S.D., they are turning a middle

school into a combination Community Performing Arts Center

and alternative high school.

“It’s this wonderful big, stone building,” he says. He’s especially

pleased that the community has this approach as opposed

to a complete teardown. “I love the idea that the building is

going to be saved for the arts.” The school district is leading the

project, but it’s being done in partnership with several local arts

orgs, including community theatres and music groups like the

local symphony, who spent 15 years raising $4 million.

“The town already has a road house at the convention center,

so there’s no reason to have a 1,400 seat auditorium. This is

probably the first time I haven’t done a seat-count driven project,

so they’ll be getting wider seats and rows.”

A three-sided balcony will be lightly refurbished but mostly

left alone. “It’ll look a whole lot like what went up in the 1920s,

but solve a lot of modern theatre issues.” They won’t be able to

expand the stage but are are expanding the apron and orchestra

lift and installing a pipe grid and brand new lighting and sound


He adds that the key to a project like this is having a good

first meeting. “We always ask what they are doing right now and

what they want to be doing in 10 years,” Boys says. “You have to

have a really great series of conversations, and develop the spirit

of the project. The facts you can find anywhere. So many projections

start out with the solution, and the not the questions.”

Westlake Reed Leskosky

In May, the Kohl Building at the Oberlin College Conservatory

of Music opened in Oberlin, Ohio, to rave reviews. Home of the

college’s programs in jazz, music history and theory, the building

includes spaces for teaching, practicing and recording.

“The building includes a ground level plaza which is one of

the most actively used spaces now on campus, as well as a rooftop

terrace designed to host concerts,” says Paul Westlake, part

of the design team for the project at Westlake Reed Leskosky.

“The third floor includes a bridge to the other Conservatory

buildings; this bridge contains the sky lounge which is a social

gathering space with great views of the campus.”

In addition to all of that, the building is a LEED Gold music

facility. “It uses a geothermal heating system that is energy

efficient, but also minimizes the use of ductwork for space conditioning.”

Deemed contemporary in style and a big draw for the

school’s jazz program, the $24 million building is dazzling

36 August 2010 •

Courtesy of Studio T+L

For Union City High School Studio T+L was constrained by classrooms and a football field to make the space necessary for a 970-seat proscenium


everyone despite its relatively modest

footprint: 37,000 square feet of space on

three levels, plus a basement. Rather then

be hindered by an odd space for it to fit,

Westlake and the creative team appear to

have been inspired it.

Trends. “The stage house is the heart/

essence of many arts facilities,” Westlake

says. As tours become larger, more technology

is incorporated, and audience

expectations are higher. “Stage technology

and design require a robust infrastructure

and must be flexible, and we

are seeing many examples of academic

institutions adding smaller spaces to

complement older larger venues.” He

also adds “collaboration”—institutions

seeking partners and resources off their

campus—as a trend.

“Key physical needs that an arts center

of the future need to anticipate and

address include high bandwidth for fiber

optics, adjustable lighting fixtures and

digital projection to accommodate trend

toward digital scenery,” he adds. “The

theatre of the future will accommodate

multi-disciplinary interaction and productions.”

Scheu Consulting

For Peter Scheu, it’s often about educating

the educators. Currently the theatre

consultant, who has had his own firm

for a decade, is working on the Rockland

Middle School/High School project in

Rockland, N.Y. “It’s an educational process

for those who aren’t completely

familiar with theatre systems, including a

lot of architects,” says Scheu.

Listening to everyone is key for Scheu,

as schools might have a strong music

program but want to build a stronger

drama department, and need help figuring

out what they will need. That’s what

he did here, and came up with appropriate

lighting and audio gear that, while

more than they initially budgeted for,

was to their liking.

The theatre will have 750 seats with

a stage that is 100 feet wide and 30 feet

deep. They weren’t able to build fly space,

so it’ll have a hybrid rigging system with a • August 2010 37

combination of dead hung and motorized

equipment. “It wasn’t possible to

go further in air, so we had to work to

come up with a system that was friendly

and flexible. I wanted to make sure they

ended up with systems that were going

to last as long as the original systems did

but were more flexible.”

One challenge for Scheu was that the

school has an advanced media center

that has live broadcast capability, so he

had to make sure all his A/V systems

could interface. “The media center sits

away from the theatre, so that was a little

bit new to us. But the administrator was

very knowledgeable, and we worked it


Trends. While moving lights are out

of the budget range of most secondary

schools, Scheu says he’s increasingly

being asked for infrastructures that can

handle them anyway. “This is for if down

the road they can get some, or at least

when they rent for a particular show.”

R.J. Heisenbottle Architects

When Florida Memorial University

sought to replace its outdated Matthew

W. Gilbert teaching auditorium with

a state-of-the-art performance venue

for drama, musical theatre, dance and

chamber music it initiated an architectural

design competition. The winning

design came from Coral Gables,

Fla., firm R.J. Heisenbottle Architects

with the assistance of Fisher Dachs

Theater Consultants of New York City.

Overlooking the lake at the center of

the University campus the Lou Rawls

Center for Performing Arts has become

the focal point of both student and

community life.

“Historically a black university, FMU

named the theatre in honor of legendary

performer Lou Rawls to acknowledge

his lifelong fundraising efforts for

black colleges and universities,” says

Richard Heisenbottle, president of R.J.

Heisenbottle Architects. “Rawls was

able to host the theatre’s opening performance

just prior to his passing.”

The glass-enclosed lobby provides an

elegant setting for both students and

community theatregoers and a sense

of place on the campus. The 450- seat

multi-purpose hall surrounds the patron

in warm woods and comfortable fabrics,

creating a soothing contemporary atmosphere

amidst lively acoustics and exceptional

sightlines. The stage house, 44 feet

deep by 86 feet in width, is cavernous by

university theatre standards. The concert

38 August 2010 •

Special Section Architects & Consultants


Auerbach Pollock Friedlander

225 Green Street

San Francisco, CA 94111

P: (415) 392-7528


Graham, Swift & Company

3003 Summit Boulevard, Ste. 1500

Atlanta, GA 30319

P: (404) 460-4245


lighting and the acoustical shell reside in the fly loft and allow overnight conversion

from concerts to dramatic performances. State-of-the-art rigging and lighting systems

mean the Lou Rawls Center can seamlessly handle all types of performances.

While The Lou Rawls Center is an entirely new facility, Heisenbottle sees a new trend

developing in college and university theaters. “Because of dwindling budgets, there is

a clear trend towards renovating existing college theatres, rather than constructing

new, and retrofitting them to accommodate new media, new technology. University

theatres are becoming laboratories for emerging entertainment technologies such as

immersive video projection and surround sound audio in live performance.”

Jerit/Boys Inc.

3712 North Broadway, PMB 642

Chicago, IL 60613

P: (773) 472-1497


Landry & Bogan

733 West Evelyn Ave.

Mountain View, CA 94041

P: (650) 969-5195



307 Jane St.

Toronto, ON


M6S 3Z3

P: (416) 761-9622


R.J. Heisenbottle Architects

2199 Ponce de Leon Blvd.,

Suite 400

Coral Gables, FL 33134

P: (305) 446-7799


Scheu Consulting Services

310 Falls Boulevard

Chittenango, NY 13037

P: (315) 510-3368


Studio T+L

123 7th Avenue, #283

Brooklyn, NY 11215

P: (718) 788-0588


Westlake Reed Leskosky

925 Euclid Avenue

Cleveland, OH 44115-1432

P: (216) 522-1350

W: • August 2010 39

Gear Review By Trevor Long


The Bartlett



have an overwhelming desire to like the Bartlett TM-125C Super-

Cardioid Stage Floor Mic.

I’ve got a fairly intense love/hate thing with boundary mics

in general. I love them in use for a variety of reasons but hate seeing

the things. Despite claims in advertising literature, just because

something is black doesn’t make it invisible—especially when it is

so close to the audience. So, in that way the Bartlett TM-125C has

an advantage for me. It’s a little less than an inch and three quarters

shorter side to side than the Crown PCC-160 and a quarter inch

shorter upstage to downstage. The height between the two is essentially

the same. So, that’s one big checkmark in the plus category.

Additionally, the same microphone has a model that comes

without a permanently attached cable—the TM-125—so the

cable can be detached and run under a piece of scenery or put

through the floor more easily—also making it less obtrusive.

Channeling my desire to spend as little money on equipment as

possible, the other very attractive feature of the Bartlett microphone

is the price. This supercardioid condenser stage-floor microphone

will run you $199.00 per unit. For comparison I did some online

shopping and averaged 20 retailers’ prices on the Crown PCC-160.

The average price was $247.20. Another big checkmark in the plus


But just because it’s smaller and costs less won’t mean a thing

if the audience isn’t getting the best possible sound—or if your

designer has been driven batty trying to get that sound. And that’s

why we put this to use in as many different ways as we had time for:

I got some time to play around with the microphone in a couple of

rehearsal halls; a friend borrowed the two test units to do a Flamenco

dance concert; a composer/sound designer tested them in his theatre;

three additional engineers tested them in their home studios;

and they were used to provide support for a business meeting/

corporate event.

The rehearsal hall floor tests were first. Different types of materials

were put under the microphones to see if there was any noticeable

difference in the sound quality and to see how sensitive they are to

picking up the severity of footfalls on things like linoleum, medium

density fiberboard (MDF) and carpet (both ‘70s shag and office style).

We all stomped around and talked and walked and talked, a few

people even sang. (I didn’t.) The pickup of the voices was great. Only

the hard-soled shoe and MDF combination caused some legibility

problems, and then only at certain distances. The microphone diaphragm

is perpendicular to the floor, so floor vibrations do not make

the diaphragm move in and out.

Next up was the Flamenco concert. When setting up the sound

tech noticed that the pattern is more open on the backside than

what he expected. He was getting bleed from the front row seats.

Fortunately there was room to make adjustments in placement.

The sound of the concert itself was very natural with minimal EQ

needed. He felt the self-noise of the TM-125C was quieter than that

of the PCC-160, and he also really appreciated the sturdiness and

build quality.

The other real world workout that the microphones got was to

support a business presentation. For this event the engineer knew

that the podium mic would not be sufficient because a particular VIP

on the schedule was known for coming out from behind the podium

The Bartlett TM-125C super-cardioid stage floor mic with permanently attached cable.

at random times. With a house of almost 3,000, that can be annoying

to the audience. He called the Bartletts into use, and the speaker

came and performed as promised, stepping out a number of times

in his speech. The board op was able to smoothly increase the gain

on the TM-125C’s to accommodate. After the speech, the VIP’s handler

expressed how pleased she was. There was a lot a feedback (the

good kind) from the client as well.

Tests aside, what happens when some working sound engineers

and a designer take a look at the microphone side by side with the

PCC-160? After all, Bruce Bartlett, owner of Bartlett Mics, designed

both. He worked for years at Shure and Crown, and that company

has a nice patent certificate for the PCC-160 with Bruce’s name on it.

Of the five people who were interviewed the results were pretty

similar. We’ll start with the matter of the two models. All five would

choose the TM-125. They all cited the fact that for theatre a mic’s

cable is hidden in some way. The ability to disconnect and replace

the microphone easily was a key factor for them.

In terms of sound, two of our testers stated that they would like to

purchase the Bartlett to have in their arsenal of microphones. These

were the same two that did the corporate event and the Flamenco


Four of our testers reported that the TM-125C required more EQ

to get a natural sound versus the Crown. As one of the testers put

it, “the initial sound through the new mics was boxy. It took some

heavy EQ’ing to get a flat signal.” However, given that the PCC-160

has been the industry standard for years now, this may be a result of

trying to get the TM to sound like the PCC, and what engineers are

“expecting” to hear.

[Bartlett responds: “The mic sounding ‘boxy’ is very odd…Maybe the

frequency response of the mic changed when its cover was removed,

and maybe the mic cover was reversed front-to-back. I’ll measure the

mics when you return them to make sure their performance was what

I sent from the factory.” During the review process (documented online

at the cover for the microphone was

removed prior to sound tests. We’ll update the online page after Bartlett

takes his measurements, and also run the update in an upcoming issue.


What separates the Bartlett microphones is the price. You can

figure on anywhere from

fifty to a hundred dollars less

Bartlett TM-125C

What it is: A super-cardioid

stage floor mic (boundary


Highlights: Small size;

picks up audio, not floor

noise; good price

What it costs: $199

than the Crown PCC-160s,

and still get the sound you

want from the engineer who

designed both mics.


To see the entire review

process, go to


40 August 2010 •

The Play's the Thing

By Stephen Peithman


Word for Word

New plays on truth, lies and language

Words are the playwright’s building blocks, but in

the plays featured this month, the use of words

expands to become the central focus.

Aditi Brennan Kapil’s Love Person is a love story told

in three languages—English, Sanskrit and American Sign

Language. This beautifully written and insightful work asks

whether we can truly express love through language, and

whether mere words can bridge the gap between two people.

Layered with mistaken identities and miscommunications,

Love Person becomes a kind of mystery play that reaches

beyond conventional ideas of attraction and sexual orientation.

Kapil’s characters yearn for deep emotional connections,

forcing them to navigate—often awkwardly—a landscape of

words and signs in their search for happiness. Three females,

one male. [Samuel French,]

A very different search is central to The Sequence, by Paul

Mullin. Renegade researcher Craig Venter has developed a

controversial “shotgun” technique for sequencing DNA, making

him a fortune in the private sector. At once, he becomes

both the most loved and hated figure of contemporary science.

Competition arises in the form of a folksy doctor named

Francis Collins, who wants to outdo Venter and be the first

to synthesize life itself. Their rivalry provides journalist Kellie

Silverstein with the biggest science story of all time—the

race to decipher the dynamic code of life hidden within the

human genome—while she runs a race with her own mortality.

In this remarkable play, Mullin manages to combine dramatic

tension with dark humor. The two scientists cheat, lie,

manipulate the public, and generally have a good time doing

so—sometimes with hilarious results. Two males, one female.

[Original Works Publishing,]

“A translaptation” is how David Ives describes his new version

of The Liar, the classic 17th-century comedy by French

playwright Pierre Corneille. In other words, it’s a “translation

with a heavy dose of adaptation” of the adventures of a

young and charming pathological liar named Dorante, who

comes to Paris and passes himself off as a war hero. When an

arranged marriage threatens to derail his romantic agenda,

his actions prompt a mistaken-identity involving the winsome

Clarice and her sharp-tongued friend Lucrece. As the

tangled web of lies continues, so do the plot twists, each

more complicated than the last. Ives has added subplots to

Corneille’s original, trimmed long speeches that might not

play today, merged two characters, and cut one character—

but maintained the dialogue’s rhymed verse. Purists may

object, but this should be a sure-fire audience pleaser. Five

males, 3-4 females. [published by Plays in Print/Smith & Kraus,]

Constructing an effective full-length play is always a challenge,

but doing so in a play that lasts only 10 minutes is even

more daunting. Nevertheless, there are 50 ten-minute plays

by 50 New England playwrights in the new collection, Boston

Theater Marathon XI. There’s amazing variety here. Some

plays deal in absurdist humor, like Ryan Landry’s memorable

Joan, Joan, Joan and Hitler, in which Adolf conducts a group

therapy session for Joan Crawford, Joan Jett and Joan of Arc.

Many plays go for the slice-of-life approach, from dramatic

(Laura Crook’s But for the Grace of God, in which three women

at a playground discuss the challenges of motherhood) to

comic (Nina Mansfield’s Missed Exit, in which a family is taken

in unexpected directions by their car’s navigation system).

In Jack Neary’s Talkback, a playwright gets to speak with his

audience—to his great regret. Andrea Fleck Clardy’s poignant

Safely Assumed centers on a middle-aged shoplifter

who shares her secrets with a juvenile offender while waiting

for the probation officer. Scott Malia’s comic The Interview is

about a young man who gets more than he bargained for as

he chats up his date’s mother. And Stephen Faria’s Inheriting

Cleo deals with a man who, in escaping from his own relative’s

funeral, connects with a mourner across the hall. [Smith

& Kraus,]

Words are very much the centerpiece of John Kolvenbach’s

Gizmo Love, a spoof of the Quentin Tarantino-style of movies,

with each character exhibiting familiar traits and the snappy

dialogue full of killer lines. Ralph, a mild-mannered author,

has sold a property to a big-shot Hollywood producer who, it

turns out, only likes the bare bones of Ralph’s script. The producer

sends over a rewrite man, and then dispatches a couple

of hit men—shades of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—to

ensure the job is done properly, with unexpected results.

Kolvenbach has created a brilliantly comic story that sheds

light on the conflict between art and commerce in Hollywood

film-making. Four males. [Oberon Books/Dramatists Play

Service,] • August 2010 41

Jobs for the Entertainment Production

Technologists, Practitioners & Educators

For more information about the companies advertising in Stage Directions®

and serving the theatre profession, go to the links listed below.

Advertiser Page Website Advertiser Page Website Advertiser Page Website

Access Pass and Design 17

Angstrom Lighting 43

Apollo Design 21

Arena Drapery Rental 43

Atlanta Rigging 11

Ben Nye 10

BMI Supply 6

Bulbtronics 12

Charles H. Stewart & Co. 43, C3

Chauvet Lighting 3

Checkers Industrial Products 9

Cobalt Studios 25

Creative Stage Lighting 23

Demand Products 9

Don Hirsch Design Studio 42

Eartec 17


Full Compass 19

GoBo Man 42

Graftobian 42

Graham Swift & Co/ Theatre Guys 37, 42

In An Hour Books C2

Jerit/Boys Incorporated 35

JR Clancy 37

Landry & Bogan 35

Light Source, The 1

Novita 39

Ocean Thin Films / SeaChanger 8

Production Advantage 13

RJ Heisenbottle Architects 38

RZI Lighting C4

Scheu Consulting Services 38

Sculptural Arts Coating 12

Selecon Performance Lighting 15

Serapid 7

Snowmasters 43 43

StageSpot 42

Stagestep 25

Studio T&L 36

Theatre Wireless/ RC4 Wireless Dimming 43

Tru-Roll 38

Westlake Reed Leskosky 39 • August 2010 43

Answer Box


By Matt DeMascolo


Making the Movers Into Followers

Turns out you can use moving lights as followspots—with a little modification…

The makeshift handle yoked to the fixture lets the “followspot” op aim the light while the color, gobo

and intensity of the fixture are all programmable at the lighting console.

High School student Ryan Stewart, operating a modified Mac 2000 Performance as a “followspot.”


was moved to write this Answer Box piece after

reading the interview with LD Joseph Oshry

in the March issue of Stage Directions. In that

interview, Oshry says “I would like to point out that

a moving light is not an effective substitute for a

good followspot with a good operator…Moving

lights are simply not followspots.” With all due

respect (and an acknowledgement that I agree

with Oshry’s larger point), I would like to suggest

that moving lights can make great followspots—

but you still do need great ops.

I am the Lighting Systems Manager for

Production Express, Inc., a certified Martin repair

technician, programmer, ME, up and down rigger

and freelance lighting designer, among other

things. I also love lighting high school musicals.

I love the educational aspect of getting the kids

involved and teaching them the correct way to

hang a fixture or read a plot, as well as teaching

them how to understand lighting paperwork and

program a console.

The most recent musical I lit was for the local

high school production of The Secret Garden. I have

lit many shows at this school and am familiar with

the space’s limitations. One of these limitations is

the followspot position. It is all the way at the back

of the house at a horribly low angle. Low enough

that you get the “circle of death” on backdrops.

For most of the shows that I have lit in this space

I could work around this problem by using some

specials, or movers—or just moving the actor.

Unfortunately, due to the set and the nature of

this show, those solutions wouldn’t work this time.

Alternate positions for the followspots wouldn’t

work either—putting followspots in the box boom

position still resulted in a bad angle and limited

room, and there was no room (or money) to modify

the front of house catwalk to place them there.

The only way that I could make followspots work

from the front of house catwalk was to use moving

lights—only slightly modified.

I disabled the pan and tilt motors on Martin

MAC 2000 Performance fixtures and hung them at

the same elevation at the rest of the FOH fixtures.

Then I made a custom handle for the fixture and

strapped it to the yoke. I placed a high school tech

behind the unit to act as a “followspot” operator,

and voila! Yes, the handle could have been a little

more aesthetically pleasing, but results could not

have been any more pleasing.

The location gave me a great angle for the spot,

I had full CMY color mixing, shuttering, gobos for

texture on the actors—it was a thing of beauty.

The one danger was cueing the spots. What if the

spot was not where it was supposed to be when

the light came on? To prevent this I had all my spot

ops write down all of the standard cueing notes as

if they were running the spot without any automation,

and I let them know that when the spot was

not on, it needed to be pointed to the sky. They

did a great job, and I didn’t even see the one cue

they missed.

44 August 2010 •

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