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Download a PDF - Stage Directions Magazine

HOUSE OF WORSHIP ISSUE

www.stage-directions.com D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 6

Spotlight on Toronto’s

Soulpepper Theatre Co.

& Sheridan College

How to generate profit

for YOUR theatre outside

of ticket sales

THE JEWEL OF SOUTH BEACH

CARNIVAL CENTER FOR

THE PERFORMING ARTS


Table Of Contents

D e c e m b e r 2 0 0 6

Features

26 Theatre Space

A multi-million dollar arts complex opens

to great fanfare in Miami. By Christine Puleo

44 Beyond The Box Office

We offer some offbeat ways to expand your

theatre’s coffers and bring in bucks.

By Christine Sparta

Special Section:

Houses of Worship Theatres

46 Rime of the Mariners

At one California church, sound is paramount.

By Evan Henerson

50 Look, Listen and Learn

A Chicago-area church’s new children’s ministry

theatre provides a bright space for kids to share

their teachings. By Lisa Arnett

54 By Natural Design

A temple outside Minneapolis gives

congregants a feeling of intimacy.

By Elizabeth Weir

Spotlight: Toronto

36 Soulpepper Theatre

Company

A theatre company born from a prestigious

festival is drawing prestige of its own with

a steady menu of quality productions.

By Richard Ouzounian

40 Sheridan College

For almost 40 years, this school has been

turning out the most skilled of performers:

the triple threat. By Richard Ouzounian

54

36

Schuler Shook

Guntar Kravis

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006


Photo courtesy of Acoustic Dimensions

46

Departments

7 Editor’s Note

Ch-Ch-Changes. By Iris Dorbian

9 Letters

Readers voice their approval

of recent articles.

10 In The Green Room

The 2006 Theatre Hall of Fame

Inductees are announced, Actors’

Equity names new head, up and

coming playwright wins MacArthur

Fellowship and Sapsis Rigging has a

special celebration. By Iris Dorbian

32 Musical Stages

Nineteenth-century German drama

meets contemporary American rock in

Broadway’s Spring Awakening.

By Brooke Pierce

60 Off The Shelf

Gift ideas for the theatre person in

your life. By Stephen Peithman

62 The Play’s The Thing

Plays from the perspective of those

who don’t fit in. By Stephen Peithman

64 Answer Box

If your rigging is causing a problem

with your scenic elements, you might

consider the following solution.

By Erik Viker

Tech Talk

16 Resource Roundup

This month brings a list of companies

with restoration specialties that will

help your old theatre shine like new.

By Christie Rizk

On Our Cover: Knight Concert

Hall in Miami’s Carnival Center

Photography by: Robin Hall

December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


Editor’s Note

Ch-Ch-Changes

Did I speak too soon? Last

month, I talked about how

Stage Directions had been

one of several magazines under

the erstwhile Lifestyle Media, Inc.

stable that had been taken over

by Macfadden Performing Arts

Media, LLC. Well, the planets must

have been acting up, because

guess what? (And you probably

have surmised this already by glancing at the new names

on the masthead, as well our new logo.) Stage Directions

has undergone yet another major change for 2006:

SD has been bought by the Las Vegas-based Timeless

Communications Corp., publisher of two top industry

trades, Projection Lights & Staging News (PLSN) and

Front of House (FOH). Many of you may already be familiar

with these publications because they have a crossover

readership with Stage Directions, with each focusing

specifically on a technical component of live performance.

This bodes well for Stage Directions because it

means we can draw synergistically upon the resources

from both trades as we plan the editorial lineup for

upcoming issues. Also, because much of the Timeless

staff already has an extensive background in theatre,

the acquisition is a great boon for us. In the past, Stage

Directions, though respected by its ownership, had never

been given the proper attention it deserved. But now with

Timeless’ enthusiastic new ownership under Terry Lowe,

that will be changing.

It’s a new era for Stage Directions, which was founded

by Consulting Editor Stephen Peithman and the late

Susan Wershing in 1988 to serve the needs of budgetconscious

community theatres. I thank all of you who

have stayed with us through thick and thin throughout

the years. Your wholehearted and unflinching support

has transformed Stage Directions — 18 years after its

inception — into the only viable theatre magazine in the

marketplace. Under Timeless Communications’ aegis,

here’s to 18 more years and counting.

kimberly butler

Happy Holidays!

Iris Dorbian

Editor-in-Chief


Publisher Terry Lowe

Editor Iris Dorbian

Editorial Director Bill Evans

Managing Editor Jacob Coakley

Associate Editor David McGinnis

Contributing Editor Richard Cadena

Editorial Assistant Christie Rizk

Contributing Writers Lisa Arnett, Evan Henerson,

Richard Ouzounian, Brooke Pierce,

Christine Puleo, Amy L. Slingerland,

Christine Sparta, Elizabeth Weir,

Erik Viker

Consulting Editor Stephen Peithman

ART

Art Director Garret Petrov

Graphic Designers Dana Pershyn, Michelle Sacca

Production

Production Manager Linda Evans

WEB

Web Designer Josh Harris

ADVERTISING

Advertising Director Greg Gallardo

Eastern US Account Mgr Warren Flood

Western US Account Mgr Holly O’Hair

Audio Advertising Manager Peggy Blaze

OPERATIONS

General Manager William Vanyo

Office Manager Dawn Marie Voss

CIRCULATION

Stark Services

P.O. Box 16147

North Hollywood, CA 91615

BUSINESS OFFICE

6000 South Eastern Ave.

Suite 14-J

Las Vegas, NV 89119

TEL. 702.932.5585

FAX 702.932.5584

Advisory Board

Joshua Alemany

Rosco

Julie Angelo

American Association of Community

Theatre

Robert Barber

BMI Supply

Ken Billington

Lighting Designer

Roger claman

Rose Brand

Patrick Finelli, PhD

University of

South Florida

Gene Flaharty

Mehron Inc.

Cathy Hutchison

Acoustic Dimensions

Keith Kankovsky

Apollo Design

Becky Kaufman

Period Corsets

Todd Koeppl

Chicago Spotlight Inc.

Kimberly Messer

Lillenas Drama Resources

John Meyer

Meyer Sound

John Muszynski

Theater Director

Maine South High School

Scott Parker

Pace University/USITT-NY

Ron Ranson

Theatre Arts

Video Library

Stage Directions (ISSN: 1047-1901) Volume 19, Number 12 Published

monthly by Timeless Communications Corp. 6000 South Eastern Ave.,

Suite 14J, Las Vegas, NV 89119. It is distributed free to qualified individuals

in the lighting and staging industries in the United States and Canada.

Periodical Postage paid at Las Vegas, NV office and additional offices.

Postmaster please send address changes to: Stage Directions, PO Box

16147 North Hollywood, CA 91615. Editorial submissions are encouraged

but must include a self-addressed stamped envelope to be returned.

Stage Directions is a Registered Trademark. All Rights Reserved. Duplication,

transmission by any method of this publication is strictly prohibited

without permission of Stage Directions.

David Rosenberg

I. Weiss & Sons Inc.

Karen Rugerio

Dr. Phillips High School

Ann Sachs

Sachs Morgan Studio

Bill Sapsis

Sapsis Rigging

Richard Silvestro

Franklin Pierce College


Letters

Midwest

Hurrah

On behalf of the staff for

the Warren Performing Arts

Center, I would like to thank

you and your staff for Richard

Barrett’s wonderful article

on our facility (“A Marvel

In Indianapolis,” October,

2006). We appreciate Stage

Directions for taking the time to look at

high school theatre programs and what they can offer to

the theatre community. If there is ever anything we can do

here at Warren for you, please don’t hesitate to ask. Again,

thank you, and good luck to you and your staff!

Matt Oskay

Director

Warren Performing Arts Center

Indianapolis, IN

Foggy Acclaim

I just wanted to thank you and Stage Directions for the

really excellent write-up on fog effects in the October issue

(“It’s All A Fog”). I think Christie Rizk did a great job clarifying

the equipment features and needs for your readers.

Thanks again.

Joshua Alemany

Rosco

Stamford, CT

Let us know what you think of a Stage Directions

article or how your company dealt with a problem.

You can reach us at 311 W. 50th St., #3D,

New York, NY 10019;

or e-mail idorbian@stage-directions.com

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006


By Iris Dorbian

In The Greenroom

theatre buzz

Courtesy of Actors’ Equity

Courtesy of Yale Rep

2006 THEATRE HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES ANNOUNCED

The 2006 Theatre Hall of Fame will induct

some of Broadway’s finest in a ceremony on

January 29, 2007 at the Gershwin Theatre.

Inductees include actors Patti LuPone,

George Hearn and Elizabeth Wilson; playwright

Brian Friel and designers Willa Kim

and Eugene Lee. The late scribes Wendy

Wasserstein and August Wilson will be

inducted posthumously.

Eligible nominees for the Theatre Hall of

Fame must have a minimum of 25 years

Mark Zimmerman,

who has been a member

of the Actors’

Equity Association for

30 years and joined

the Equity Council

in 1989, has been

voted Equity’s new

president. He will

fill the position most

Mark Zimmerman

recently held by

Patrick Quinn, who

died in September after being designated Equity’s

new executive director.

of experience

working in the

American theatre;

they also must

have five major

theatre credits.

All inductees are

voted on by the Wendy Wasserstein

American Theatre

Critics Association and members of the

Theatre Hall of Fame.

ZIMMERMAN IS NEW AEA PRESIDENT

In The Clean House, Ruhl casts her eye on domesticity,

love and sisterhood and the search for humor at

death. Among her other plays are Passion Play: A Cycle,

Melancholy Play, Dead Man’s Cell Phone and Orlando,

the latter an adaptation of the Virginia Woolf novel.

Zimmerman was first elected vice

president of Equity in 2000. During his term

of office, he chaired two negotiations of the

Production Contract, which included

establishment of the 401(k) plan, improved safety

requirements and enacted the Experimental

Touring Program. He also served on a number of

other negotiating teams and committees.

As an actor, Zimmerman has appeared in

productions such as Mamma Mia!, On the

Twentieth Century, The Rainmaker and Kiss of

the Spider Woman. He most recently appeared

at the Cape May Playhouse, in productions of

Moonlight and Marigolds and Guys and Dolls.

MACARTHUR FELLOW NAMED

Sarah Ruhl

Sarah Ruhl, whose play The Clean House was a

Pulitzer Prize finalist, and whose recent work, Eurydice,

recently had a run at the Yale Rep, has been named

a 2006 MacArthur Foundation Fellow.The Clean House

recently had its New York premiere at Lincoln Center

and will be directed by Yale Rep Associate Artist

Bill Rauch.

Eurydice, which Ruhl wrote while a graduate student

at Brown University,

is told from the perspective

of Eurydice,

focusing on the power

of love between husband

and wife and

father and daughter.

Joseph Parks as Orpheus and Maria Dizzia as

Eurydice in the recent Yale Rep production of

Eurydice

COURTESY OF Joan Marcus

SMOKING

PLEASE!

According to an article

dated October 11, which

ran in the Denver Post,

a Boulder theatre company

has gotten into a

peculiar legal wrangle. The

Curious Theatre Company

has filed a lawsuit against

the Colorado Department of

Heath and Environment as a

way to seek exemption from

the statewide smoking ban.

Backed by two other theatre

companies, Curious wants its

performers to be allowed freedom

of expression onstage,

including smoking, citing the

First Amendment. Writes

John Moore, Denver Post’s

theatre critic: “The suit asks

for an immediate injunction

that would prevent law

enforcement from issuing

any fines for smoking during

live performances until the

matter is heard by a judge.”

Curious, which is being represented

by the law firm of

Holland and Hart, took matters

into its own hands, rather

than wait for a possible citation

due to its production of

tempOdyssey, which opened

in early November. Says

Artistic Director Chip Walton:

“Smoking can be pivotal to

character and plot development.

We have both an

ethical and a legal obligation

to present the play as

written, and to honor the

intent of the playwright.”

10 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


industry news

courtesy of Sapsis Rigging

Sapsis Rigging Celebrates Silver Anniversary

Bill Sapsis

Pennsylvania-based Sapsis Rigging is having a special

toast these days: They’re celebrating their 25 th anniversary.

The company, which was begun by namesake owner/president

Bill Sapsis in 1981, has been responsible for installations

in countless venues around the world, including Lincoln

Center, the White House and a hay field outside of London. In

addition to overseeing innumerable projects, Sapsis has led

over 125 rigging seminars; his company has also inspected

over 1,000 rigging systems for safety purposes.

“I started the company on Friday the 13th and have been

petting black cats and stepping on cracks ever since,” says

Sapsis. “We’ve come a long way since the early days of rolling

reels of aircraft cable out of my basement, and I’m looking

forward to many years to come. I still won’t walk under

ladders, though. That’s just plain stupid.”

EASY RIDER

The Long Beach Long Riders, an ever-expanding

group of motorcyclists comprised of industry notables

who work to raise money every summer for The ESTA

Foundation’s Behind The Scenes program and for

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, has announced their

next four routes.

In the summer of 2007, the group will begin their trip in

Philadelphia,then ride through New England for nine days

before returning to the City of Brotherly Love. In 2008,

the charity coterie will converge in Las Vegas before setting

out in southern Utah, Colorado and Arizona; this trip

will end with the group returning to the original destination:

Las Vegas. For 2009, the motorcyclists will gather

momentum in the Carolinas, Virginia and Tennessee. And

finally, in 2010, the Harley crowd will begin and end their

trek in San Francisco.

To accommodate all riders who’d like to participate,

the Long Beach Long Riders wanted to plan their routes

as early as possible. Says Bill Sapsis, president of Sapsis

Rigging and organizer of the riders, “It’s our hope that better

advance notice will give people an opportunity to plan

their vacations and join us on one (or more) of the rides.”

For more information on The Long Beach Long Riders,

visit www.lrir.org.

BL Expands

BL Innovative Lighting, a 20-year-old Vancouver, British

Columbia-based company, recently acquired Ultratec Fiber Optic

USA Inc. Estimated at $3 million, the acquisition will offer

customers a wide range of lighting products and services. BL

Innovative Lighting will use the fiber optic products that have

become readily available as a result of the acquisition to create

cost-effective, energy-efficient lighting systems and solutions

for a variety of applications. Betty Lou, who is also based in

Vancouver, has been named executive chairman and CEO of BL

Innovating Lighting.

Betty Lou

12 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


in memoriam

courtesy of the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble

EVE ADAMSON

Eve Adamson, founder of the once much heralded

downtown NYC theatre company, Jean Cocteau Rep, died

October 9. She was 67.

The Rep, which Adamson founded in 1971, had been

devoted to staging classics at low-ticket prices. Although

production values were not high, the quality of the acting

and directing was usually extolled by critics and audiences

alike. Adamson remained artistic director of the

Rep until 1989, directing more than 100 productions,

including plays by Chekov, Ibsen, Pinter and Shakespeare.

At the time of her death, Adamson was preparing to begin

rehearsals for Antigone at the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble.

She is survived by a brother, Lloyd Christopher

of California.

Playwright Tennessee Williams with Eve Adamson

changing roles

CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT

Elkhart, Indiana-based Crown International, a leading audio manufacturer, is beefing up its

senior personnel with the promotions of Scott Potosky to vice-president of engineering and

Marc Kellom to vice-president of marketing.

Of the appointments, Crown president Mark Graham says, “Both Scott and Marc have

impressive track records with Crown, leading to the development of some of our most important

products over the past decade. Each brings extensive leadership experience and an intimate

Scott Potosky

understanding of our business to their respective positions.”

Potosky, who has been with Crown for 18 years, most recently

served as its product development manager. Kellom, who has been with Crown for 12 years,

also recently held the title of product development manager; he has also been involved

in marketing.

Potosky has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University,

while Kellom holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Milwaukee

School of Engineering and a master’s degree in business administration from Indiana

Institute of Technology.

Marc Kellom

courtesy of Crown International

courtesy of Southwest Show Tech

SHOWY APPOINTMENT

Poway, California-based Southwest Show Tech, which has provided technical support

and creative services for corporate theatre and special events throughout the world for

15 years, has added Rebecca Kanter as an account executive to its team. With more than

eight years of experience in advertising and marketing, Kanter will follow SST’s mission of

providing innovative services to the company’s clients.

Rebecca Kanter

14 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


Resource Roundup

By Christie Rizk

Everything Old

is New Again

Companies with restoration specialties that

will help your old theatre shine like new.

Phillip Handler

Roger Farrington

The Palace Theatre in Waterbury, Connecticut was the recent beneficiary of Conrad

Schmitt Studios’ specialty work.

The Wang Center in Boston also received specialized restoration

work via Conrad Schmitt Studios.

Conrad Schmitt Studios

800-969-3033

www.conradschmitt.com

For more than 100 years, Conrad Schmitt Studios has

been working to restore, conserve and renovate architectural

treasures. Their work on churches, theatres, hotels,

government buildings and other historical landmarks

has been internationally recognized. Their full range of

services includes restoration and renovation of interior

decorative schemes, stained glass, decorative painting,

including gilding, glazing, stenciling and faux finishes

— murals, statuary, sculpture and etched and faceted

glass. They also investigate and document the building’s

original decorative schemes in order to stay true to

the decorative origins. To see pictures of their individual

projects and learn more about their services, visit

their Web site.

Evergreene Painting Studios, Inc.

212-244-2800

www.evergreene.com

For the past 25 years, Evegreene Studios has been nurturing

artists and craftsmen from all over the country,

bringing their talents together to form one of the most

comprehensive and thorough teams of conservationists

and artists in the country. Evergreene Studios offers a

variety of conservation and restoration services, and

have done work in more than 100 theatres. Their crossdisciplinary

approach — integrating conservation science,

restoration craftsmanship, advanced technology,

art history, architecture and construction — ensures that

each unique space will keep its own flavor and design.

Evergreene has successfully conserved murals and fres-

16 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


coes, decorative painting, ornamental plaster, scagliola

wood, mosaics, wallpaper, metal and wood in a variety

of media. They also do original plaster work, murals and

decorative paintings, and produce their own line of wallpapers.

To learn more, please see their Web site.

John Canning Painting

& Conservation Studios

203-272-9868

www.canning-studios.com

With numerous awards and honors under their belts and

over four decades of experience, the

staff at John Canning Studios is dedicated

to the restoration and conservation

of monuments, and their preservation

for future generations. They

have a long tradition of beautifully

restoring intricate and decorative

theatre spaces. Alongside their talented

artists, John Canning Studios

employs a staff of sound business

associates, ensuring the success and

sound management of each project.

Their restoration and conservation

services include decorative painting,

trompe l’oeil, mural conservation,

gliding, glazing, stenciling, wood

carving and marbling. You can see

some of their recent projects on their

Web site.

Sachs Morgan Studio

212-765-4144

www.sachsmorganstudio.com

Nationally recognized for their work

in theatre design and architecture,

Sachs Morgan Studio provides comprehensive

planning for designing theatres that work for

their owners, their patrons and the theatre professionals

that use them. Their expertise in the areas of theatre technology,

interior design, architectural lighting and space

planning have made them a premier firm in the world of

theatrical architecture. They have restored and renovated

illustrious theatres throughout the country, including the

New World Stages theatre in New York City and the John

F. Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington D.C.,

where the architectural lighting included refurbishment

of the enormous Lobmeyr crystal chandelier. More of

their portfolio can be seen on their Web site.

Legend Theatrical, Inc.

888-485-2485

www.legendtheatrical.com

Efficiency and image are the two

essential factors in all of Legend

Theatrical, Inc.’s theatre restoration

work. This company will be there

every step of the way, from design to

construction. They specialize, however,

in the renovation of a theatre’s

technological systems, bringing

buildings up to speed and replacing

archaic systems with the latest

in lighting and sound innovations.

Using their knowledge and expertise

they customize each theatrical space

to achieve a maximum of efficiency

and functionality. Give them a call to

find out more.

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 17


Toys of the Trade

Yuletide Potpourri

The holiday season has a profusion of new products to put

under your Christmas tree.

Don’t Haze Me In

CITC’s new StarHazer II is a safe-to-use machine whose output is double that

of the previous StarHazer. Its DMX 512 allows control from a light board,

and its insulation eliminates unwanted noise. Other features include

shock-absorbing motor mounts, insulated baffles and seven filters

to keep the unit free from debris. The dual opening in front

allows for two layers of output. The extended panels in the

back of the machine protect the connectors from damage.

For more information on the StarHazer II and its pricing, visit

www.citcfx.com or call 888-786-CITC.

A Knight Of A Product

Robert Juliat’s Lancelot

CITC’s Starzhazer II

At September’s PLASA show, Robert Juliat introduced Lancelot, a long throw effects projector

and followspot, built for arenas and large venues. This ultra bright fixture has been designed around a

360,000-lumen 4KW HTI lamp, and features smooth dimming control, a fully closing iris, a

color changer and DMX control. It also has a modular design that uses plug and

play cartridges to give the lighting designer a wide variety of options.

Cartridges are available now for progressive color effects,

frost, color correction and color mixing. Future features

include motorized zoom, variable strobe, a moving mirror

head and up to two five-position rotating gobo modules. For

more information, visit www.robertjuliat.com or contact your

local supplier for details.

Soundcraft

MPM12-2

Audio Godsend

Soundcraft has announced the debut of its new MPM Series of multipurpose

mixers. Designed for live sound, houses of worship and other applications,

the MP is available in two standard frame sizes offering either 12

(MPM12/2) or 20 (MPM20/2) mono inputs, with each model featuring two

additional stereo input strips. Both the MPM12/2 and MPM20/2 have three

auxiliary busses, which can be configured for

effects or monitor sends; all main connectors are XLR and 1 / 4

-inch metal jack sockets

for reliability. RCA connectors are provided for disc and stereo playback inputs

and record outputs. Equalization on the mono inputs is three-band with a fixed

mid on stereo inputs. All mono input channels have TRS insert sockets;

inserts are also provided on the mix output. High-quality 60mm faders for

channel control and 10-segment LED output metering are also included

in the MPM set. The MPM series can be quickly and easily converted for

rack mounting by adding optional rack rails (although only the MPM12/2 will

fit in a standard 19-inch rack). Suggested list price for the MPM12/2 is $689 (or

MPM20-2

$722 with optional rackmount kit) and $969 for the MPM20/2. For more information,

log onto www.soundcraft.com.

18 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


Martin Mania

At the recent LDI show in Las Vegas, Martin

Professional’s booth was the place to be in terms

of new products. The major lighting manufacturer

introduced a host of goodies that included

the MAC TW1, the company’s first tungsten

lighting fixture, the MAC 700 Wash,

the companion washlight to the popular

MAC 700 profile and the new Mania

series lights.

The MAC TW1 is a 1200W tungsten

wash fixture that provides the lighting designer

MAC TW1

a wide spectrum of colors and designs. It features a twin lens zoom

system and full CMY color mixing and dimming.

A 700-watt Fresnel luminaire, the MAC 700 Wash offers a full CMY color

MAC 700 Wash

mixing system and variable CTC plus 8-position color wheel. Other highlights

include a wide range variable zoom, continuous beam shaper and smooth

dimmer shutter system.

Also unveiled at LDI were the Mania EFX700 and the Mania EFX800,

two high-powered 150W discharge effect lights. The Mania EFX700

comes equipped with an array of hues, 12 new gobo designs, a mechanical

dimmer, a separate shutter for fast strobe effect and 12 pre-programmed

Martin Mania EFX700

macros. The Mania EFX800’s light output has a 170° spread — wider than any flower

effect light of its type, which means you can cover more space with fewer fixtures. The EFX800 contains a separate

gobo wheel with 12 gobos, a rotating parabolic mirror dish, a mechanical dimmer, a separate shutter for fast

strobe effect and 12 pre-programmed macros. For more information contact your local Martin distributor, or visit

www.martin.com.

Over The Moon

Nady Systems recently unveiled their latest product, an overhead hanging condenser

microphone, the OHCM-200, designed for overhead miking applications

such as choruses, orchestras and stage performances. Top features of the

OHCM-200 include a smooth, flat frequency response, ultra sensitivity

and high SPL capacity for the clearest audio performance. Also, the

OHCM-200 has a permanently attached 20-foot (6.1m) cable with convenient

integrated power module, an XLR connector and an integrated

hanging wire for ease of mounting during use. The mic is powered by

external 9~52 phantom power — no batteries are required. The MSRP

for the OHCM-200 is $99.95. For more information on this product,

visit www.nady.com.

Nady’s OHCM-200

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 19


Light On The Subject

By Amy L. Slingerland

Peace, Love

and Illumination

all photography by Kevin G. Reeves

The Bethel Woods performing space

A new performing arts venue — located in the same area as a legendary

outdoor concert several decades ago — comes of age, replete with

state-of-the-art lighting and staging technology.

While carefree hippies of yesteryear

may have glamorized

the “back-to-nature” aspects

of the original Woodstock, today’s baby

boomers expect more conventional

creature comforts when it comes to

music venues. And Bethel Woods, a

new performing arts center in upstate

New York located on the site of the

counterculture concert, delivers them

in a magnificent pastoral setting. Ten

years ago, cable TV mogul Alan Gerry

purchased the festival field and 1,700

surrounding acres, envisioning a multivenue

arts complex to rival facilities

such as Tanglewood and Wolf Trap. On

July 1, 2006, the new center was inaugurated

with a sold-out performance by

the New York Philharmonic.

Bethel Woods features 17 buildings,

with a natural palette of wood siding,

native fieldstone walls and copper

roofs. Even support buildings such as

restrooms, food courts and backstage

loading docks were designed to blend

aesthetically with their natural surroundings.

Cleveland-based Westlake

Reed Leskosky (WRL) provided integrated

architecture and engineering

design, while architectural and landscape

lighting was done by George

Sexton Associates, which has offices in

the UK, New York and Washington, D.C.

Philadelphia-based Olin Partnership

collaborated on the landscape design,

which includes a gently falling stream

and two ponds, meandering pathways

and three bridges. Nestled in this idyllic

setting is the Pavilion, an outdoor

shed venue with fixed seating for 4,800

and lawn space for 12,000 additional

spectators. JaffeHolden Acoustics of

Norwalk, Conn., was acoustical consultant

on the Pavilion.

The Pavilion was designed to be

a flexible venue for all types of music,

from orchestral to rock. Over the inaugural

summer, acts ranged from the

20 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


Outside Bethel Woods

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 21


Light On The Subject

Philharmonic to Crosby, Stills, Nash and

Young, who also performed at the first

Woodstock festival (minus Neil Young).

“The Pavilion needed to respond to

the various acoustical requirements of

amplified and unamplified sound,” says

Paul E. Westlake Jr., FAIA, managing

principal of WRL and lead designer for

the project. “A custom cherry-veneer

portable shell fabricated by Wenger

was developed for use with an orchestra,

to provide the proper acoustical

environment.” The orchestra shell

can be dismantled and the sections

stored on the periphery of the backstage

area, to be assembled on the

stage when necessary. The shell incorporates

ETC Source Four PARnels for

an even wash of glare-free lighting

for musicians.

Raymond Kent, WRL’s technical

theatre specialist and audio-visual

designer, says that the need to counteract

wind loads on the shell “created

for some wonderful collaboration

with Wenger Corporation, Jaffe Holden

and myself. We analyzed many possible

scenarios of wind direction and

storm protocol, as well as installation

and strike of the shell, to come up with

safe and effective moving and weathermonitoring

procedures.” According to

James P. Reilly, the venue’s production

manager, the stage “can experience a

breeze of 10-14 mph across it at times,

so the engineers added anchor points

to each tower base and also wire rope

tethers at each corner of the ceiling to

secure it. The towers also have tethers

that attach to points directly above

them in the grid.”

Another unique feature of this

venue is the walkable woven-wire tension

grid made of 1 / 4

” aircraft cable over

the stage, “which we believe is an innovative

and highly functional approach,”

says Westlake. Darrell Ziegler, a WRL

theatre consultant, says, “Most outdoor

concert venues have a series of steel

beams or trusses over the stage which

requires personnel lifts and/or climbing

along beams using OSHA-required fallarrest

systems. These are not required

using the tension grid. The wires are

spaced close enough to provide a safe,

stable walking surface for stagehands,

but still wide enough apart for a motorized

chain hoist hook to pass through.

The tension grid allows the installation

of rigging equipment in multiple locations

at the same time, and also allows

additional equipment to be added after

scenery is in place.”

Technical systems in the Pavilion

were designed for “maximum flexibility

by proper placement and types of equipment

and connectivity,” explains Kent.

“The venue has strategically located

company switches and an even spread

of rigging points for multiple chain hoist

locations. We provided a 400-amp company

switch for scenic elements and

lighting, and a 200-amp audio company

switch for touring groups, along with

an in-house portable dimmer rack for

use when the orchestra shell is in place.

We kept lighting positions flexible with

the use of multicable so that the unique

requirements of productions could be

served.” WRL also oversized the rack to

accommodate 96 dimmers in the future

(it currently holds 48) so that only additional

dimmer modules and cable need

be installed.

22 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


In-house lighting includes an assortment

of about 60 ETC Source Four ellipsoidals

from 5 degrees to 36 degrees

plus gobo holders and top hats, and six

Lycian SuperStar 2.5 standard-throw

followspots. The stage rigging system

consists of 24 one-ton and 10 half-ton

CM Lodestar chain hoists, operated by a

Backstage at Bethel Woods

Motion Laboratories 24-channel controller.

The dimming system is composed

of 24 ETC 2.4kW Sensor dimmers in a

portable touring rack for the orchestra

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 23


Light On The Subject

Another view of the Bethel Woods space and audience seating

shell lighting and 48 Strand 2.4kW C21 touring dimmers.

Theatrical stage lighting is controlled by an ETC Express

48/96 console, and the orchestra shell is controlled by an

ETC Express 24/48. Theatrical wiring, stage lighting and rigging

were provided by Barbizon and Syracuse Scenery and

Stage Lighting.

The Pavilion’s stage house is 134 feet wide, 55 feet deep

and 56 feet high; the stage itself is 7,500 square feet with

a proscenium opening of 70 feet. Two 15-foot by 20-foot

projection screens are located left and right of the proscenium,

with two Digital Projections HIGHlite 12,000-lumen

DLP projectors and three Panasonic high-definition cameras.

“Projection was challenging in terms of acoustics, since they

are very powerful projectors that needed to be in an enclosed

environment to protect them from the elements,” says Kent.

To minimize fan noise without compromising the equipment,

WRL worked with Tempest Lighting and North American

Theatrix to custom-build enclosures that would keep the projector

at peak ambient operating temperature while remaining

weathertight.

After a highly successful season with multiple sold-out

shows, Reilly says that “artists and managers have been very

pleased with the venue. Most commented that they can’t

wait to come back and play next year.”

Joel Reiff, lighting designer for the current Crosby, Stills,

Nash and Young tour, says, “Doing CSNY there at Woodstock

was cool! I just loved the grounds — very serene. And the crowd

there was great. I remember that as being a really good show

because the vibe was really good. It seemed like a really positive

place to be. They seem to be really trying to make a good thing

happen there.”

Amy Slingerland is a freelance writer based in New York City.

24 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


Theatre Space

By Christine Puleo

The view of Knight Concert Hall from the stage.

all photography by Robin Hill

The Gem of

South Beach

A multi-million dollar arts complex

unveils to great fanfare in Miami.

The view from the MacArthur Causeway, which connects glittery South

Beach with the grittier downtown Miami, is a spectacular one: turquoise

waters, opulent mansions, towering palm trees and rows of colorful

cruise ships. Now, an eye-catching addition to the Miami landscape has recently

appeared, the new Carnival Center for the Performing Arts located in downtown

Miami. Nestled between expressways and Biscayne Bay, the two-pronged stone

and glass complex is visible from many angles.

The project’s architect, Cesar Pelli, always knew he wanted to make the arts

center an iconic structure. Among his broadest objectives was to make the facility,

even the interior, highly visible from a distance. So explains Roberto Espejo, senior

on-site architect of Cesar Pelli Clark Pelli, when discussing what is arguably the

most talked about new building in Florida. Pelli certainly achieved his goals, creating

a visual focal point for the city, visible from land and sea, which looks unlike

anything else in the area. In fact, the center’s glass curtain walls are easily viewed

from a distance on the MacArthur Causeway approach.

Other key design team members of the Carnival Center include managers from

Artec Consultants, Inc., specializing in acoustics, and Fisher Dachs Associates, the

highly respected New York theatre consulting firm. Both firms have been with the

project since its inception. Working together for more than eight years, the three

design groups created a facility anchored by the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet

Opera House, a classical European opera house, which seats 2,450. On the other

side of Biscayne Boulevard, accessible via a pedestrian bridge, sits the Knight

Concert Hall, containing 2,200 seats, and named for major donors John S. and

James L. Knight.

Another important space is the 220-seat black box Studio Theatre, flexible

enough to accommodate 10 different seating configurations. It is designed

to welcome smaller acts and to nurture local Miami talent. The unique Miami

26 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


Inside the Opera House at the Carnival

Center for the Performing Arts

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 27


Theatre Space

The exterior of the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts

touch is the 57,000-square-foot, palmtree-lined

Plaza for the Arts, an openair

performance space that crosses

Biscayne Boulevard, where traffic can be

halted to accommodate performances of

various sizes.

“This is the most complicated performing

arts center built in the United

States in 40 years — no one tries to

build two major performing arts buildings

at once. It’s very ambitious. The

result, after years of hard work by literally

thousands of people, is an incredibly

successful performing arts center,”

says Alec Stoll, Fisher Dachs Associates’

project manager.

In addition to the thoughtfully

designed performance spaces, the

570,000-square-foot facility, which

broke ground in late 2001, has all the

extras often lost to value engineering,

such as ample storage and rehearsal

space, giving the center a luxurious feel

and the impression that no expense

has been spared. Overall, the effect is

an optimal and efficient performing and

viewing experience.

The major challenge of all performing

arts centers is the marriage of design with

functionality. At this particular venue, the

design teams were tested by additional

factors. “Miami set a very high mark in

terms of the site; it was an enormous challenge,”

explains Espejo.

First, the design team had to create

an inherently traditional performing

arts building, but simultaneously build a

structure that would effectively straddle

Biscayne Boulevard. The finished product

is a two-part, diagonal design. Other

specific design challenges included a

mandate to preserve a 1929 Art Deco

tower, a relic from an old Sears department

store. Add to the mix destructive

annual late summer and early autumn

hurricanes that inflict severe damage to

the Miami area. Then, designers had to

contend with the little issue of nearby

Miami International Airport. Located in

a fly-over zone, the center demanded

additional acoustical considerations to

silence the overhead roar of low-flying

commercial jets.

“This is the largest stage in the U.S.

behind the Kennedy Center and the Met,”

explains Stoll as he gives a tour of the

2,450-seat Opera House. The proscenium

arch is 50 feet wide by 38 feet high, and

overall the stage is about 200 feet wide

and 140 feet deep (the main stage is 127

feet by 70 feet, the backstage is 58 feet

by 84 feet, and stage left measures 61

feet by 67 feet). The resilient stage floor is

constructed with layers of wood on neoprene

pads, and finished with masonite; it

also has a vented base that lets the floor

breathe. Two separate orchestra pit lifts,

four stage scenery wagons and three

compensating lifts make for a world class

opera house. And behind the scenes

lies plenty of equipment to ensure productions

are well run; the stage right

equipment rack contains multiple touch

screens to control house lighting, lifts and

some rigging. There’s also a vast loading

dock with four bays to accommodate

even the largest road shows.

This means that the Carnival Center

can accommodate an opera or ballet of

any size, both logistically and acoustically.

“Many signature elements are

incorporated into the Center. We have

28 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


Theatre Space

movable cloth systems and an adjustable

pit to easily move the venue from

ballet to opera,” says Tateo Nakajma,

managing director and principal consultant

at Artec. Throughout the audience,

coffers with motorized layers of cotton

velour can be lowered or raised to meet

acoustical needs, and the dazzling gold

dome in the center hall ceiling provides

acoustic refraction.

On the other side of Biscayne

Boulevard, Knight Hall is also an acoustical

achievement. The centerpiece of the

symphony hall, which can accommodate

up to a 150-piece symphony and a chorus

of 200, is the elliptical spiraled ceiling

canopy weighing 130,000 pounds, an

advanced acoustical feature that can be

lowered and raised to control and direct

sound as needed. The hall also boasts

four reverberation chambers. Eightyfour

concrete doors can be opened and

closed to calibrate the amount of reverberation.

Behind these doors, thick blue

velour drapes can be deployed to further

finetune the hall. The seating configuration

widens near the stage, creating a

false sense for those near the rear of the

hall of being closer than they really are.

Overall, Knight Hall has a clean, contemporary

look with light walls and lighting

and yards of yellow-brown maple wood

accents throughout.

Both Ziff Opera House and Knight

Hall are acoustically isolated by joints

running along the length of the structure,

effectively creating the box-within-a-box

construction so important to maintaining

acoustical integrity. The two-inch joints

provide a cushion of air that outlines the

facility. Overall, every acoustic consider-

30 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


The Knight Concert Hall ceiling

ation has been addressed. “We worked

very carefully with the architects and

Fisher Dachs to ensure that the shape

of the rooms, the distribution of the audience

and the integration of the systems

all work together to meet regulations,”

says Nakajima.

The Carnival Center has had an

unusually strong impact on Miami — not

only on the visual landscape, but the

economic and arts landscapes as well.

The Carnival Center is a welcome new

space for Miami’s resident companies,

including the New World Symphony, the

Concert Association of Florida, Florida

Grand Opera and the Miami City Ballet,

as well as smaller area arts organizations.

Overall, it is a major cultural upgrade in

this increasingly sophisticated city with a

burgeoning arts scene.

Many also see the center as a major

catalyst in the revival and rebirth of

continued on page 58

Knight Concert Hall audience chamber

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 31


Musical Stages

By Brooke Pierce

It Might As

Well Be Spring

Nineteenth-century German drama meets contemporary

American rock in Broadway’s Spring Awakening

“My show is

moving to

Broadway

— it’s like a dream come

true,” enthuses Steven

Sater, lyricist and bookwriter

of Spring Awakening, which opens at the Eugene O’Neill

Theatre on December 10. “I walked through the stage door and

it was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I came in, and we’re just standing on

this Broadway stage.” But it’s taken seven years for Sater and his

collaborator Duncan Sheik to get their show this far.

Based on Franz Wedekind’s play, Spring Awakening is about

teenagers in a provincial German town where none of the

adults will explain to their adolescent children the changes they

are going through — resulting in tragic consequences. “People

have praised the fact that we’re faithful to Wedekind, which has

meant a lot to me, because I made a vow that we would. But the

truth is, we have rewritten the hell out of it,” admits Sater. They

have taken the episodic play and made it a “hero’s journey” for

the thoughtful and intelligent Melchior, also focusing on the

frustrations of his friends Moritz and Wendla.

Playwright Sater and singer/songwriter Sheik (who released

his debut pop album in 1996) first crossed paths because of

their shared Buddhist faith. “We just had one of those amazing

meetings of a lifetime, and I can’t really explain it otherwise,”

says Sater. Though he had never thought about writing lyrics,

he and Sheik tried writing a couple of songs together for Sater’s

play Umbrage, and soon enough the pair were collaborating

on the album Phantom Moon. “I said we should create a piece

of theatre. I gave him Spring Awakening and that’s when we

started talking about it.

“I had long loved the play,” continues Sater, “and it had

seemed to me that it was kind of an opera, potentially — that the

soul of song was already within the play. There’s all this unfulfilled

yearning, and these cries.” He felt that the haunted romanticism

of Sheik’s music would be ideally suited to the material.

“Pop music is an outlet for this same yearning, and a release that

was so unavailable to those kids. In your room, you’re a rock

star, and you get to sing

about whatever it is. Then

you’re still stuck in your

life. So that was the first

Spring Awakening conceit for the play. My

thought was that all the

songs would function as interior monologue.”

Though they briefly considered doing an updated version,

the beauty of the play seemed specific to its time and place,

so they settled instead for keeping the 19th century setting,

but creating the songs in a contemporary style. “The kids grab

mics and step out and rock out,” says Sater. “Then they go back,

and they’re trapped in this world of breeches and buttons. The

structure of the show becomes a way of underscoring the timelessness

of this theme.” And it’s not just the music that sounds

contemporary, but Sater’s lyrics, too, are strikingly modern,

using colloquial expressions (“we’ve all got our junk, and my

junk is you”), curse words, references to devices like stereos and

the ubiquitous teenage verbal hiccup, “like.”

Which comes first for this songwriting team? “I write the

lyrics first,” answers Sater. “We have had a couple of great

experiences writing music first, but by and large, I give Duncan a

lyric, and he just sets it verbatim. It’s so easy. There’s something

almost mystic about our relationship.”

Unfortunately, getting a musical produced is rarely so easy.

Things started out promisingly when director Michael Mayer

came on board. They did workshops of Spring Awakening in

2000 and 2001, and the Roundabout was set to put on the

first full production. But Mayer became busy with Thoroughly

Modern Millie, so they postponed the production for a couple

of years. Then Roundabout got hit with budget cuts and had

to drop the show from its roster, leaving the Spring Awakening

team to find another home. “Everyone was just confounded

by it,” remembers Sater. “Here was this period script with

German names, and this contemporary rock CD, and they just

didn’t know what to make of it. And everyone said ‘Times have

changed, and it’s dark.’ ”

Tom Hulce, of Amadeus fame, had seen workshops of

COURTESY OF Joan Marcus

32 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


Musical Stages

A close moment in Spring Awakening

the show and came in to help the

guys get it back on track. Eventually

they were offered a slot in the Great

American Songbook Series at

Lincoln Center in 2005, which got

the momentum going again. Says

Sater, “Out of that, producer Ira

Pittelman became interested, and

the Atlantic Theater committed to

doing it, with Ira and Tom’s involvement,

commercially.”

Before bringing it to the Atlantic

this past summer, they did a workshop

at Baruch College. “That was

one of the most important things we

did,” says Sater. “Michael was able to try out his staging ideas,

the designers were able to grow familiar with the world of the

play. And the kids, who were so young, were able to come and

learn this.”

The kids in question include Jonathan Groff, John Gallagher

Jr. and Lea Michele in the main roles of Melchior, Moritz and

Wendla, respectively. “Because we went on for seven years,

kids kept getting too old for the cast.” But Michele has been with

them for six years. “Somehow she always seemed to me like the

COURTESY OF Joan Marcus

34 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


Musical Stages

The composers of Spring Awakening:

Steven Sater (left) and Duncan Sheik

soul of the show,” says Sater. To find the other talented young

actors, they had to do a wide search, from schools to bands. “It’s

a really hard show to cast because the kids have to be able to

do classical text and then be able to sing pop/rock. You have to

find really special individuals.”

Now they’re all packing up and moving to the Eugene O’Neill

for the commercial run — “We’ve got a couple of new songs,

we’re adding musicians” — but hopefully Broadway won’t be

the end. “I always thought there was a future for this show at

colleges, regional theatres,” says Sater. “It’s such a great opportunity

for kids to do a show that’s about their issues.”

He has found the experience of giving voice to these kids

very rewarding: “Just to write a lyric and then have someone

sing it back to you, it’s a remarkable experience. Then to see kids

onstage embody that song, act it and sing it to each other, it’s

tremendously powerful.”

Despite its dark subject matter, Sater thinks Spring

Awakening should have broad appeal. “We all went through

adolescence, and that’s what the story calls out to in people.

It’s as much about parenting as it is about being a child,” says

Sater, who is a parent himself. But some of the best responses

have come from young people, as in one instance he relates

during the Atlantic run. “There was a set of high school kids

that came in,” he recalls. “It was one of the most amazing performances

we ever gave of the show. And afterwards the kids

said, ‘Thank you so much for respecting us enough to put our

story onstage.’”

Brooke Pierce is a freelance writer living in New York City.

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 35


Toronto Theatre Spotlight

Soulpepper Theatre Company

Pepper

and Spice

Main entrance of the

Young Center for the

Performing Arts

Tom Arban

Guntar Kravis

Jordan

Pettle and

William Hutt

in Waiting

for Godot

A theatre company born from a prestigious festival is drawing

prestige of its own with a steady menu of quality productions.

By Richard Ouzounian

Many actors dream of forming

their own theatre

company, a few even try

— hardly any of them become an

integral part of a city’s cultural life

and acquire their own multipurpose

performance space in eight short

years. But that’s exactly what happened

to Toronto’s Soulpepper

Theatre Company.

It began with actor Albert Schultz

and some of his colleagues who had

met during their years in the late

1980s as members of the Young

Company at Canada’s Stratford

Festival. A decade later, they had all

achieved success on TV, stage and

film, but a certain spark was lacking

for all of them.

“We needed something to make

us feel we were alive again,” says

Schultz, speaking of the motivation

that drove the 12 performers who

banded together to form a theatre

36 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


Sandy Nicholson

Albert Schultz and Megan Follows in the Soulpepper production of The Real Thing

ensemble that was named by Schultz’s

pre-teen children. He chuckles as he

recalls the way they said, “Dad, you’re

doing this to put some pepper in your

soul again.”

And they did. From their debut

performance of Schiller’s Don Carlos

on July 11, 1998, to the opening of

the Young Centre of the Performing

Arts with a staging of Thornton

Wilder’s Our Town on February 1,

2006, Soulpepper has not only been

the talk of the town, but word has

spread across the border as well.

Of the theatre, The New York

Times wrote, “One of the best reasons

to stay in this city is the rethinking

of classical plays by the innovative

company Soulpepper.” The Chicago

Tribune raved that “Great cities are

known for the theatre companies they

keep. In Toronto, the one that has

attracted critical attention and audience

enthusiasm is Soulpepper.”

It’s almost too good to be true:

an actor-driven theatre that programs

nothing but high-quality works, consistently

fills the seats and balances

the budget.

But they’ve done it. For the last

three summers, their sellout shows

have been Waiting for Godot, The

Wild Duck and The Real Thing—not

Forever Plaid or Shear Madness.

“When we want to do a twohander,”

jokes Schultz, “we program

Ionesco’s The Chairs and not

The Gin Game.”

Initially, Soulpepper operated

out of the Harbourfront Complex on

Toronto’s waterfront, running only in

the summer months.

In 1998, they presented two

plays in repertory (Don Carlos and

The Misanthrope). The next year,

they upped the number to five,

with eclectic programming that

included Beckett, Chekhov, Molnar,

Wilder and Williams.

As the years progressed, they added

Pinter, Shakespeare, Friel, Goldoni,

Feydeau, Ibsen, Strindberg, Shepard,

Goldsmith, Ionesco — the kind of repertoire

most North American theatres

dream of, but only get to deliver sporadically,

while they cut the mix with

comedies and musicals.

“Our audiences can get commercial

entertainment elsewhere

in Toronto,” says Schultz, “and

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 37


Theatre Spotlight

Sandy Nicholson

Albert Schultz in Hamlet

that’s our good fortune. They come to us for the more

serious stuff.”

There’s a core group of about a dozen actors who form

the backbone of most productions, but guest artists like Brent

Carver and Megan Follows come in for one or two productions.

And while Schultz and his associates direct the lion’s

share of the shows, there have been significant guest directors

from abroad, such as Ireland’s Ben Barnes and Hungary’s

Laszlo Marton.

It was only a matter of time before Schultz’s vision needed a

home of its own. He discovered it in a historic section of old Toronto

called The Distillery District that was being revitalized. With the

help of his board chair, Roger Garland (former vice-chairman of

Four Seasons Hotels, Inc.), he formed an alliance with the Theatre

School of George Brown, the City College of Toronto.

They moved quickly, and in 2002 they hired Thomas Payne of

the Toronto-based Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects

to design a unique space in a series of historic buildings, dating

from 1842, that would combine eight separate performance venues,

ranging in size from 50 to 400 seats, as well as sufficient class-

38 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


Theatre Spotlight

room space for the school, full technical

facilities and necessary office areas for

both organizations.

The budget was $14 million Canadian,

and $11 million of that was raised from

the two organizations in a capital campaign.

Named the Young Centre for the

Performing Arts, after the family that

provided a major gift of $3 million, it

opened earlier this year on schedule and

on budget.

The building has drawn the same kind

of rave reviews Soulpepper productions

usually receive, with The Globe and Mail

hailing it as “the vital spark that every city

desires” while The Toronto Star deemed it “a

masterpiece of comfort, flexibility and beauty.”

With its spacious central lobby, lit by a

huge fireplace, a lengthy tapas bar and wellstocked

bookstore, it creates the impression

of a place you belong, rather than a place

you merely visit.

Soulpepper is also devoted to the

process of education. From the start, they

have gone into the city’s schools, teaching

workshops, offering classes and making

matinees available at heavily reduced prices,

especially to inner city students. And even

in their new home there is a $5 rush for

unsold seats at curtain time for anyone 21

and under.

They also have a mentorship program

for 14 teens to work with the company

over an intensive six-week period

each summer.

But their newest pride and joy is the

Soulpepper Academy, just begun in June,

2006, which invites 10 mid-career artists for

a revolutionary two-year training program,

during which they are paid throughout. The

final participants were chosen from 225

applicants across Canada, eager to participate

in what Schultz describes as “a unique

combination of studio training, academic

study and applied knowledge-apprenticeship

training with the Soulpepper main

stage company.”

They will be an integral part of

Soulpepper’s next season, which runs

from January through December 2007

and includes The Threepenny Opera,

John Gabriel Borkman, Top Girls, The

Time of Your Life, The Three Sisters,

Mary Stuart and Blithe Spirit — as well

as a revival of their acclaimed production

of Our Town.

“It’s an exciting time for us,”affirms

Schultz before breaking into a laugh.

“But it’s always been an exciting time for

us. I think that’s our secret.”

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 39


Toronto School Spotlight

Sheridan College

All photography courtesy of Sheridan College

Students flex their skills in the February 2005 production of The Music Man.

Gotta Sing,

Gotta Dance

For almost 40 years, this school has been turning out

the most skilled of performers: the triple threat.

sing, gotta dance,”

isn’t just an empty showbiz

mantra for the stu-

“Gotta

dents in the Music Theatre program at

Canada’s Sheridan College — it’s their

academic goal.

And don’t forget to add “gotta

act” as well, because this three-year

course of study is intent on turning

out what’s known as the “triple

threats” — performers whose dramatic

and movement skills keep apace

with their musical ones.

It certainly seems to be paying

off. Whenever you open a theatre

playbill in Canada (and increasingly,

in the United States), you’ll notice the

phrase “graduate of Sheridan College”

By Richard Ouzounian

next to a lot of the more promising

young names.

Tina Maddigan, who created the

role of Sophie on Broadway in Mamma

Mia!, played it for two years, and

is currently in The Wedding Singer,

lists Sheridan as her alma mater. So

does Michael Therriault, who recently

earned unanimous rave reviews for

40 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


Two scenes from the November 2004 Sheridan College production of Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill

his performances as Leo Bloom in the

Toronto version of The Producers as

well as his Gollum in The Lord of the

Rings, which he’ll be recreating in

London next summer.

Sarah Cornell, who played Ulla

in the Broadway and Toronto productions

of The Producers, Jennifer

Stewart, the Penny of Toronto’s

Hairspray, and Jeff Lillico, the juvenile

star of both the Shaw Festival and

Soulpepper Theatre companies, are

more of the recent graduates who are

drawing rave reviews.

And all of this hard work happens

in a totally non-glitzy environment.

Sheridan College is about 40 miles

from downtown Toronto in suburban

Oakville, and there’s nothing in its

series of ordinary-looking low-rise

buildings to indicate that the Patrick

Wilsons and Kristin Chenoweths of

tomorrow have been honing their

craft inside since 1967.

But that’s just what’s going on.

At any given time, a total of 120 students

are enrolled in the three-year

program, working with a faculty of

35, all of whom are experienced professional

practitioners.

Greg Peterson, the program coordinator

of music theatre performance,

has years of experience as a director,

including time at the Stratford

Festival and other major Canadian

regional theatres. His colleagues

often alternate teaching their classes

with appearing in major musicals

playing in Toronto, which is exactly

what Peterson intends to happen.

“Students learn to understand what it

is to be a professional by working with

professionals,” he explains. “None of

the work we do here is theoretical. It’s

all practical.”

When asked what he thinks makes

Sheridan’s program uniquely successful,

Peterson has no hesitation

in answering. “It’s the evenness of

the split in the three different fields:

dance, acting and singing. A lot of

other programs concentrate mainly

on how to sell a song. Our graduates

know how to do the dance numbers

and act the scenes as well.”

In addition, Sheridan places a great

emphasis on the practical side of the

business: no ivory tower syndrome

here. There’s a rigorous series of classes

devoted to auditioning, as well as

time spent on how to perform in commercials,

microphone technique and

other essential tricks of the trade.

“By the time they come out of here,

they’re prepared for anything,” says

Peterson proudly. “And that’s what

we want them to be.”

In the first year, students divide

their time between studying four

disciplines: acting, voice, dance and

music. There’s also a commercial

performance course, as well as time

devoted to stagecraft, a survey of theatre

history and computer skills.

The second year begins by intensifying

the study of the four disciplines,

with more specific applications, as in

scene study, music theory and dance

performance. There’s also the first of

two courses on the history of musical

theatre and room for a general education

elective.

In the latter half of the second year

— the midway point of the program

— actual performance becomes a

major part of the curriculum, with the

first of three full-scale musical productions

the students are all involved

with. These are presented in Theatre

Sheridan’s Macdonald Heaslip Hall,

a well-appointed 300-seat space that

allows them to present full-scale versions

of the classic Broadway musicals.

This season includes She Loves

Me, Candide and West Side Story.

Roles are often double-cast, so that all

students get a chance to perform in a

significant role. There’s also a “Bold

Strokes” program each year, which

presents semi-staged productions of

original Canadian works as well as

“Catch a Rising Star,” an annual revue

in which the students can showcase

their talents.

In the program’s third and final

year, the emphasis is increasingly

placed on making the transition to

the professional world, with audition

techniques, performance and production

coming to the foreground.

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 41


School Spotlight

By the time they graduate, the

Sheridan Music Theatre students

are expected to (in the words of the

department’s mission statement):

“Act, sing, and dance applying

a range of healthy vocal, physical,

analytical and emotional techniques;

collaborate effectively;

behave professionally; prepare

and present appropriate audition

material; utilize the inner and

outer resources of a performer; practice

self-assessment; employ strategies

for personal and professional

advancement.”

Virtually every student finds their

first job in the professional theatre

within a year of leaving the program,

and the career arc of some

recent graduates, as noted, is indeed

impressive.

Yearly tuition is approximately

$5,000 (US) for Canadian residents

and $14,500 for students from outside

the country. Scholarships are

available, both at an entrance level

through the college itself and within

the department once the students

are enrolled in the program.

It may be 45 minutes from Toronto,

rather than Broadway, but Sheridan

College is certainly doing its best

to shorten the distance between

their students’ dreams and the Great

White Way. For more information

about Sheridan College, visit www1.

sheridaninstitute.ca/theatre/.

Richard Ouzounian is the theatre

critic for the Toronto Star.

He is the author of numerous

plays, including Dracula: a

Chamber Musical, produced at

the Stratford Festival.

From the

November 2003

production of Man

of La Mancha

42 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


School Spotlight

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 43


Feature By Christine Sparta

Beyond The

Box Office

Architectural drawing

of the State Theatre’s

new marquee

Regional theatres have realized

there are more ways to bring

in extra revenue besides selling

liquor and other beverages at intermission.

Many entertainment establishments

have found innovative ways to

generate dollars and, often at the same

time, become a community center.

“In the last couple of years, we’ve

opened ourselves up to a lot of exposure

to the community, including leaving

the lights on when we’re not home,”

says Marty Schiff, an actor/producer/

director who is now the executive director

for the State Theatre Center for the

Arts in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. It’s

easy to notice the theatre because of

the snazzy new marquee that cost a

quarter of a million dollars to create.

Schiff builds interest in his theatre by

speaking at community mainstays like

the local Rotary Club. “All of a sudden,

there is a face to go with a name,”

he explains. “As a non-profit theatre,

we’re asking people to give money, but

often we forget to say thank you.” His

outreach has bolstered his box office.

Ticket sales are up 70 percent over the

last two years. Schiff’s industry contacts

have helped draw big names like Bob

Newhart to his stage.

Schiff has many TV credits, including

roles on Dallas and Newhart. He

had great success with Newhart’s

appearance because it attracted a

legion of patrons, some of whom traveled

from as far as Toronto just to see

the comedian. Schiff hopes to eventually

put a music series on the roster.

He also literally keeps the doors

open more with ballet performances

and classic film showings, like a

September double bill of Easy Rider

and The World’s Fastest Indian to

coincide with a local motorcycle event.

He would like to attract more performers

who could incorporate his venue

on their tours.

Collecting Dollars from “Shotgun

Weddings”

John Hemsath, the director of theatre

operations at the Playhouse Square

Center in Cleveland, Ohio, an operation

that encompasses a number of theatres

and performance spaces, has found several

ways to increase revenue. Visitors

to the Web site can see that they promote

space rental on the first page. It’s

been a popular location for corporate

events, weddings and other fetes. Theatre

lobbies are available for $185 an

hour for wedding photos.

Working for the organization for

32 years, Hemsath has discovered

that advertising the space wasn’t

really necessary after the first year

because it had become so popular. “We

specialize in shotgun weddings,” he halfjokes,

because weddings are planned

around the theatre schedule.

A lot of couples like to reserve their

weddings at the Palace Theatre because

of its dramatic grand staircase. They can

also rent the stage, and that can hold 500

seats. The Palace has sentimental significance

for Hemsath because he met his

wife there in the lobby and eventually

married her there. The good thing about

44 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


Feature

events is that they are generally guaranteed revenue, whereas a

show may or may not sell out.

Tour groups also contribute a few dollars to the outfit. Private

tours are available for $80. These visits are popular with seniors,

conventioneer spouses and social groups — people who may

not have otherwise visited the theatre.

The Playhouse Square Center has also been used as a

movie location. My Summer Story, the sequel to A Christmas

Story, was shot there. This made-for-TV movie was a good

revenue boost for the community in general. Though

Hemsath says they got involved to help stimulate the area’s

economy rather than bring in funds, this idea could be good

for theatres.

Becky Hancock, general manager of the Tennessee Theatre

in Knoxville, Tenn., a venue that has been used for political gatherings

and as a rental for the Knoxville Symphony, has allowed

artists to record a performance for DVD distribution. She charges

a flat fee up front. In addition, she outfitted the space with a

sound and lighting infrastructure to make it easier for film and

TV people to use it.

Movie premieres raise the visibility of a space to help

get eventual donors. The Lensic Performing Arts Center in

Santa Fe, N.M., has premiered such films as North Country

with Charlize Theron.

A wedding in one of Playhouse Square Center’s lobbies

Brick, Balls and Bars

People can leave a literal legacy by purchasing a seat in an

arts center. The Tennessee Theatre has a Take a Seat Program

as part of its capital campaign. More than 1,300 of the 1,600

seats are adorned with brass plaque name plates on the arm

continued on page 58

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 45


Special Houses of Worship Section

Rime of the

Mariners

At this California church, sound is paramount.

By Evan Henerson

Outside the Mariners Church

The congregation had been steadily growing at

Mariners Church, and the creative elements of the

services were expanding and developing right along

with those increasing numbers. Which meant that the 41-

year-old congregation based in Irvine, Calif., would need a

new house of worship to accommodate both the expanding

numbers and the developing styles. Complicated

theatrics and technical capabilities weren’t top priorities.

Comfort, sound clarity and capacity, however,

were critical.

“We’ve gone from pretty much contemporary services

to a lot of electric drums and high energy types of services,”

explains Ken Robertson, Mariners’ technical arts

director. “From a design standpoint, we needed to be able

to seat about 3,200 to 3,400 people in a room that would

be acoustically friendly to the type of music we wanted

to do.

“Also, from a stage standpoint, we wanted to build a

black box that would allow us to create sets,” he contin-

46 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


ues. “We don’t ever keep the same set for more than three

weeks, so we wanted the flexibility of what we could do

thematically with all of the stage.”

One $14 million construction project later, Mariners

gained 1,400 new seats, about 30 percent additional

stage capacity and all the technical bells and whistles you

could want. In fact, there are so many technical aspects to

the new church that both Robertson and administrators

at Acoustic Dimensions, the Dallas, Texas-based firm that

oversaw the project with Newport, Beach-based architects

DeRevere and Associates, now both refer to the Mariners’

project as a “benchmark.” Where Mariners’ former worship

hall felt like a theatre, the new venue more closely

approximates a concert hall — even the back balcony

bleachers have been designed in a wrap-around configuration

to bring patrons closer to the pastor and absorb sound

caroming off the back and side walls.

“It looks pristine,” says Robertson. “The worship team

and the pastor have all been appreciative of all that went

into it. A lot of other churches have either called, seen our

Web site or come to visit with their building committees to

see what we do.”

“I see a lot of churches doing contemporary small

rock band type stuff, which is a little more demanding on

a sound system than in previous years or generations,”

notes Casey Sherred, a consultant at Acoustic Dimensions.

“But a lot of churches we deal with are more contemporary

based and headed that way. They wanted to sound good

and give that immersive experience they kind of expect

when they go to a concert.

“Churches are competing with the entertainment

industry in some ways,” he adds. “Whether it’s a church

or a Blue Man Group show, expectations are going up, and

churches are trying to deliver something of high quality as

well.” Well, $14 million — and its careful application — gets

you quality and plenty of immersion.

Mariners now has three video screens (two inside the

proscenium), considerably higher ceilings than in the previous

space and more than 60 automated moving lights. The

new worship center, which opened in 2005, also carved

Inside the Mariners Church worship center

All photos courtesy of Acoustic Dimensions

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 47


Special Houses of Worship Section

Gear Alert

A short list of the audio

equipment at Mariners Church.

Courtesy of CCI Solutions (contractors for

Mariners church project)

HOUSE SYSTEM

Speakers

JBL VerTec 4888

JBL PD5322 (delay)

EAW UB52 (front fill)

EAW SB625D and

JBL ASB6128 (subs)

Amps and Processing

Crown MA and CT series

amps

BSS 9000 series processors

Console

ATI Paragon Production II

Effects

TC Electronic D-Two, M2000

and M One-XL

MONITORS

AND MICS

Monitor Consoles

Soundcraft SM12-40

Crest XRM

Personal Monitors

Shure P2T

Sennheiser EW300

A view of the audio equipment that make Mariners Church run smoothly

Mics

Audio-Technica AT-5000

Shure UC4, UA844, UA870B

out space for a fully outfitted design shop with welders

and compressors. In-house production is now possible via

a video production suite connected to the auditorium.

The hall itself is long, contains a flat floor, and is asymmetrical

with terraced seating toward the back. Project

designers elected not to build catwalks, but they needed

a way both to bring the light in and block it off when the

video screens were being used. Acoustic demands necessitated

a clean looking line array system with exposed

speakers and custom built cabinetry to keep the speakers

from blocking sightlines.

“Three years ago, HD was just starting to poke its

head into the church market. At the time I was doing

research, and it was not developed enough to bring into

our facility,” recalls Robertson. “For our building, we spent

about $2.8 million, where some churches of the same size

might spend $8 to $9 million if they’re going to do HD and

broadcast. We don’t broadcast, so we could get by with

a lot lesser system, and didn’t have to keep up with the

Joneses, so to speak.”

Robertson was able to draw from his experience as

the technical director at another Orange County house

of worship, the Saddleback Valley Community Church,

which renovated its 3,800-seat multipurpose room in

1995. Acoustic Dimensions handled that project as well,

although Saddleback Valley, unlike Mariners, had to contend

with floor-to-ceiling glass that had the potential to

adversely affect sound quality.

Attendees of the regular Sunday services are the primary

beneficiaries of Mariners’ upgrades. Congregational

singers perform choir-like every few weeks. A band may

be composed of a three or four-piece assortment of drums,

guitars and keyboards. Since opening the new worship

center, Mariners has given the stage over to a gospel choir

and the occasional children’s musical.

In such instances, when technical theatrical needs

48 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


A perspective of the worship center from the congregation

come into play, Mariners can handle

it. “We have a full-time set designer.

A lot of churches are now seeing the

value of having someone on staff to

oversee that,” says Robertson. “We try

not to do things that we’re not — either

technically or talentwise — capable of

pulling off.”

Mariners’ technical staff numbers

five full-time staff members. Between

volunteers, staff and contract labor for

things like video directing and lighting

programming, as many as 11 people

may be working behind the scenes

on an average Sunday program. Kevin

Sorg, the former resident lighting

designer, like Robertson, has worked

extensively in live production, including

duty with the Mighty Ducks of

Anaheim.

“To be honest, the church makes

us look really good when the operators

know how to use the system,”

says Sherred. “With Mariners, it’s really

easy. We can send people there

with confidence and know it will

sound great.”

Evan Henerson is a lifestyle/features

writer who covers theatre for

the Los Angeles Daily News.

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 49


Special Houses of Worship Section

Look,

Listen

and

Learn

By Lisa Arnett

One Chicago-area church’s new children’s ministry theatre provides

a bright space for kids to share their teachings.

Twenty years ago, a drive along Randall Road in the

western Chicago suburb of St. Charles yielded a

steady view of expansive cornfields. Today, Christ

Community Church’s colossal campus has sprouted and

sprawled through the now-developed area, serving more

than 3,000 members with an arts-focused approach to

worship. The newest addition to serve its growing ministry?

KidsWorld, a $6 million children’s wing equipped

with a 4,100-square-foot theatre space completed

in June 2006.

On Sundays, CCC’s adults, as well as junior high and

high school students, gather in one of several auditorium

spaces for services that are held theatre-style, often integrating

musical performances and dance as well as skits

presented by the resident drama team. “We try and place

a high emphasis on the arts,” says Randy Isola, director

of CCC’s children’s ministry. “That gets carried through

across the board, from the adults to students to children.

We try and make sure that our church is a place where

people who are gifted in those areas can use those gifts

to serve, and, at the same time, we want to train kids

and help shape a new generation that is going to be passionate

about those areas and skilled in them as well.”

When planning for the KidsWorld wing — the seventh

phase in the church’s large-scale building and expansion

project that has continued since its 1980s inception

— it made sense to include a theatre for the children’s

ministry, whose tiny members span in age from toddlers

to fifth grade.

Designing for Flexibility

David Schultz & Associates of Barrington, Ill., an architectural

planning firm that has designed more than 300

churches, took on the task of designing CCC’s entire

St. Charles campus. The church staff envisioned the

KidsWorld Theatre as a flexible space that would hold

about 300 children for Sunday morning programs.

The result was a rectangular, stadium-style space with

carpet-covered concrete tiers stepping down to a wide

stage. The absence of built-in seating means kids can pile

in and casually sit along the steps, with freedom to gather

in separate groups within the house. Freestanding chairs

could be brought in only when needed, and the design

would allow the theatre to serve as a multi-functional

space, says Schultz. “For example, having those large

risers, it’s conceivable that if they had a traveling youth

group that needed a stopover point to sleep, say they were

coming down from Canada or northern Minnesota, they

could use those tiers as sleeping space.”

The architects’ primary challenge in fitting the theatre

into the new KidsWorld wing was that it was to be contained

on the main floor, allowing for staff office space

directly above on the second floor. Because the theatre’s

pint-size audience members would be seated directly

50 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


courtesy of Carl Schoene/McShane Fleming Studios

Another view of the KidsWorld stage

Courtesy of Larry Winers Courtesy of Larry Winers

Inside KidsWorld at Christ Community Church

on each tier, their sight lines were

much more shallow than in a traditional

theatre with chairs. “The CCC

staff was very committed to the safety

of the children as well,” says Schultz.

”You can’t make the tiers too steep,

because if kids fall off or push someone

off, you’ve got a problem.”

To get the depth needed to obtain clear sight lines, they

went the only direction they could: down. “We had to push

the theatre into the ground by about six or eight feet to

get the volume that we needed at the front stage area, as

opposed to going multi-stories above ground,” says project

manager Michael Vander Ploeg. In addition, the space is

also fully wheelchair accessible in accordance with the

Illinois Accessibility Code.

Striking lighting is a key feature at KidsWorld

Form Serving Function

The KidsWorld Theatre acts as the main hub for the children’s

ministry Sunday services: after the kids assemble in

separate classrooms by age for small group activities, they

congregate as a large group in the theatre. “When they get

into the theatre, there’s any number of things that might

happen,” says Isola. “That’s where we teach them the

main biblical topic of the day.” Often, there’s a music portion,

ranging from a live band to a solo guitarist leading a

sing-along. Adult volunteers act out short dramas that

present a biblical theme in a straightforward, entertaining

fashion. “We try to take the truths of God’s word and

present them in ways that kids can understand and enjoy,”

adds Isola.

Two large projection screens on either side of the stage

allow staff to project illustrations or show video programs

that align with the week’s teachings, such as a vignette

showing a child inviting a friend to attend church with him.

“With the building in particular, we’ve tried to get across to

the kids that we built this very cool facility, but we didn’t

do that solely for them,” says Isola. “We did that so they

could have a place that they’d be excited about inviting

their friends to church.”

The KidsWorld Theatre also provides room for CCC’s expanded

creative arts offerings, making sure that kids have the chance

to take the stage themselves. This summer, the theatre served

as home base for a weeklong children’s theatre workshop that

culminated in a mini-production of Godspell. This past fall, the

children’s ministry started a weekly drama workshop for kids led by

volunteers, aiming to train them to perform their own skits for their

peers at services. Though the space isn’t suited for large-scale productions

or lengthy shows, it has proved a smart space for family

events like a preschool night featuring comedy and juggling acts.

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 51


Special Houses of Worship Section

Seeing the Light

Prior to the construction of the KidsWorld Theatre,

Sunday-morning children’s programs were held in several

multi-purpose classrooms with fluorescent lighting.

“When they were trying to reach several hundred kids

and keep their attention or create anything dramatic, they

really couldn’t do it — it was pretty much lights on, lights

off,” says Larry Winters, a longtime member of the ministry

and volunteer lighting director for CCC.

“The rest of the kids’ building is very eye-catching, just

in the way it’s decorated and the graphics and the colors

that are used,” says Isola, adding that by contrast, the

KidsWorld Theatre was designed with neutral colors: beige

carpeting and light walls with a black stage wall, with the

investment made in lighting to change the theatre’s mood

with the flip of switch. “We’ve got so much lighting technology

in there that we can change the look and feel of the

room without making the room itself the focus.”

“In normal theatres, you’ll re-hang the lighting however

you want it for each show,” says Winters. “But when you’re

dealing with a church, you have a fairly static setup, so you

have to determine what zones are going to need lighting

on a regular basis.”

Winters also had to consider that trained volunteers

would often run the lighting in the theatre, so a permanent

setup that would serve the space’s various activities is

ideal. “With the space being limited and budget being tight,

we have a 3-point lighting system,” says Winters, who

employed WYSIWYG virtual lighting software to design

the lighting system with a budget of less than $50,000.

Using ETC Source Four lights (with 26, 36 or 19 degree

beam angles), he created five lighting zones across the

downstage area and three zones along the upstage area

to provide cross lighting for various speakers and musical

performers. In the back lighting zone, he also added eight

color-scrollers, as well as Altman Q-Lite fixtures, to create

white or colored floodlight across the stage’s back wall.

Rose Brand flies in geometric shapes line the stage, serving

as blank canvases for color washes.

“We wanted to add a lot of fun and excitement, so we

chose to take six of our ETC Source Four lights, and we

shot gobos with a break-up pattern on the left and right

walls to create some color and some excitement,” explains

Winters. They also have ETC Source Four lights situated

at the back of the house to project textured patterns onto

the house’s carpeted floor. Two Giotto Spot 400s by SGM

provide the energy of moving lights during upbeat music

performances. In the lighting booth all equipment is controlled

on an ETC Express 48/96 Board with a 48-channel

Unison Dimmer Rack, while ETC Unison LED touch stations

allow staff members to quickly light key areas with

the touch of their finger.

Because Winters designed the lighting systems for all

of CCC’s auditorium spaces, he was able to make considerations

for consistency and ease of use of equipment campus-wide.

One such consideration was to program all lights

52 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


Courtesy of Larry Winers

A side perspective

on successive DMX channels, so that

if a piece of equipment is moved

from, say the KidsWorld Theatre to

the main auditorium, there’s no reprogramming

to be done.

“Most DMX boards will handle a

very large number of DMXs so you

can keep them from overlapping,”

says Winters. “Keep in mind that you

have volunteers working the lighting,

and they’re not as knowledgeable

about how to do these things,

so if they can take a light from one

theatre and plug it in another theatre,

it’ll work. That’s what they want.

Not, ‘Oh I’ve gotta come in here

and redo a bunch of stuff to make it

work.’ ” Such user-friendly elements

make the technology — and the art

it enables — accessible for all, which

certainly mirrors CCC’s special intent

to keep the creative arts a core part

of worship.

Lisa Arnett is a Chicago-based

arts and entertainment writer

and midwest editor for Dance

Spirit magazine.

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 53


Special Houses of Worship Section

Inside Bet Shalom’s stunning sanctuary

By Natural

Design

All photography courtesy of Schuler Shook

A temple outside of Minneapolis gives congregants a feeling of intimacy.

A

sense of ceremony and the need to connect with

congregants is as old as the early sacrifice of lambs to

honor God. To enhance communication, new houses

of worship often incorporate theatre design elements into

their sanctuaries.

Bet Shalom Congregation in Minnetonka, Minn., built and

completed a new temple in 2002 in which an intimate,

hexagonal sanctuary that seats 480 lies at the center of the

domed building. The space is elegant and meditative, a warm

and deceptively simple room. Walls of translucent glass rise

in deeply recessed triangles to a cedar cupola with clerestory

windows. Below the cupola, a ring of 36 larger clerestory windows

flood the room with natural light. Six slender columns

around the room’s perimeter leave the space open so that the

By Elizabeth Weir

eye settles upon the room’s focal point, the bimah, ark and

eternal flame.

But this sanctuary is less simple than it appears. Three sides

of the back wall can be made to disappear. Sophisticated

acoustics are tuned for the spoken word, programmed lighting

can create the illusion of reducing the room to a cozy space

around the bimah, and columns do much more than support

the dome.

Congregant Tom Silver, who led the building committee

for Bet Shalom, says that the congregation wanted

both an intimate sanctuary and a sanctuary that

could expand for high holy days, yet still feel inclusive to

those sitting in the expanded room. “We didn’t want anyone

to feel marginalized by their seat location.” he says.

54 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


A periscopic look at the ceiling

The committee chose the Minneapolis architectural firm

of Benz/Thompson/ Rietow, Inc. to design the temple on a

challenging 9.8-acre site with significant wetlands and a busy

highway to the west. “Architects Milo Thompson and Gary

Milne-Rojek honed our concept,” says Silver. “It was Milo’s

idea to have the walls open to the social hall, behind the sanctuary.

Milo is broad brush stroke; Gary makes it happen.”

With a simultaneous turn of two separately operated keys,

the three12-inch-thick steel-trussed walls, that measure 36

feet in width and 20 feet in height, part in the middle in the

manner of an old-fashioned freight elevator and recess, one

half rising into the clerestory space and one sinking into

the lower level. The floor reseals, and the curved social hall

becomes one with the sanctuary to seat 1,200 people.

“The walls at Bet Shalom were my first project for Door

Engineering,” says Kevin Landgraff with some pride. “We

custom-designed a winch-style, vertical operating system

with steel tracks and a pulley system housed in three of the

columns. The beauty of it is that the operating system controls

the bottom wall panels; because the massive doors make the

lower walls heavier, they counter-weight the upper walls. The

system only has to lift the 400 to 500-pound difference.”

To solve the sound insulation and acoustic challenges of

the glass sanctuary walls, the project architect Milne-Rojek

and Thompson teamed with acoustician Steve Kvernstoen of

Kvernstoen, Ronnholm and Associates, a Minneapolis-based

consulting firm specializing in architectural acoustics and

environmental noise control. “Our aim was to have everything

integrated into a finished look that was warm, beautiful and

functional,” explains Kvernstoen. “The room’s not a bad size

acoustically, but the hexagonal shape makes for challenges,

and we had to get a reasonable amount of sound insulation

between the sanctuary and the social hall. We used laminated

glass, two layers of glass with a cloudy middle layer. The look

was visually strong, but then we had to adjust the plane of

each pane to avoid flutter echo.”

Invisible to the uninformed eye, each triangle of glass

is slightly tilted so that it does not parallel or reflect its

equivalent pane across the room. The result is a quiet

room, ideal for the spoken word, and just a hint more lively

to accommodate song.

Bet Shalom’s hexagonal sanctuary forms the center of a

Star of David, and the triangles of the walls augment this iconic

geometry, yet never quite form a star. “The design process

is a magical thing,” marvels Kvernstoen.

To further add surface volume to the sanctuary, each column

is slatted in bentwood cedar sections and backed by dimpled

aluminum. The aluminum, called “Interweave” and made

by Harrington and King Perforating Co., conceals effectively,

is sound-absorptive, and allows 53 percent air transmission

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 55


Special Houses of Worship Section

for ventilation. These qualities make the product ideal for Bet

Shalom, since some of the support columns not only house

the counter-weight pulleys, but serve as air vents for the silent

HVAC system, too.

The same cedar wood slats-over-Interweave combination

backs the long curved curtain wall of the social hall and

absorbs sound for times when the sanctuary is expanded on

busy religious days. “This curtain wall serves a further function,”

says Milne-Rojek. “The Interweave allows large quantities

of air to enter the room in a case of fire, and we designed

an extractor fan into the center of the cupola.”

When spot-lit, the textured look of milled Interweave reflects

light pleasingly. Milne-Rojek applied steel geometric designs

on a base of Interweave to wrap the reading desk on the bimah

and to back the stylized, gold-leaf menorah design of the ark

that holds the Torah scrolls; the look is cohesive and attractive,

and the Interweave further softens sound in the sanctuary.

Bet Shalom’s original sound system designer, MTS, went

out of business after installing the two six-foot stacks of equipment.

Now, Farber Sound resolves problems as they arise,

maintains the system and installs updates.

The theatre consulting firm Schuler Shook, which has

offices in Dallas, Chicago and Minneapolis, designed the lighting

in Bet Shalom’s sanctuary. “The biggest challenge was the

amount of glass, since glass is reflective,” says Michael DiBlasi.

“We wanted the lighting to be intimate; we didn’t want to overpower

the room with light.”

To bring the lighting down from the high cupola, DiBlasi

helped to design a hexagonal, steel chandelier that reflects

the room’s shape. “The chandelier allowed us to design soft

up-lighting to show the gorgeous cedar wood ceiling of the

cupola, and down-lighting for the congregation,” he says, demonstrating

the range of the Electronic Theatre Controls’ digital

Unison panel. “It’s a simple, two-circuit track system that is

adjustable, with presets in a control panel behind the bimah.”

Recessed lights ring the ceiling below the cupola, and two

groups of four ellipsoidal spots on fixed mountings are preset

for accent lighting. Two of the spots wash the sandstone-like

finish of the bimah in light and cast an intricately patterned

shadow from the eternal flame.

When a congregant approaches the bimah, during “aliya,”

to help lead the service in this most inclusive community, that

person walks up a barely perceptible cone of incline to the

dais of a bimah that has virtually no steps. “People are uplifted

literally and spiritually as they approach the bimah,” says Rabbi

Cohen. Not only does the inclined floor meet the requirements

for accessibility set by the Americans with Disabilities Act, it

also embraces Bet Shalom’s egalitarian spirit. “We didn’t want

A view of the temple’s bimah from the congregation

a high bimah, with the clergy up here and the people down

there,” he adds. “A rabbi is a teacher. Here I can see eye to eye

with people.”

Bet Shalom used to lease a cramped and dark former

church. Rabbi Cohen says that he no longer has to worry about

how movement flows in the sanctuary and how ceremony is

56 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


perceived. “In this room, the power of the

service speaks for itself. The design of the

building makes it happen naturally.”

Elizabeth Weir is a freelance writer in the

Minneapolis area.

www.stage-directions.com • December 2006 57


Revelers from Playhouse Square’s “Jump Back” parties

Feature

continued from page 45

rests. Each tribute costs $500 or

$1,000 depending on the location

of the seat.

Balls can also be a fun way to bring

patrons through the door. Hemsath’s

venue does an annual Jump Back

Ball that invites people to jump back

to a different era. The theme could be

Camelot or 42 nd Street, but it must

have some sort of thread. “People are

interested if a party has a theme,” he

says. The idea is a moneymaker — he

says they make about $100,000 a year

on these events.

One big way Hemsath brings in revenue

for his arts institution is through

corporate sponsorships like Coca-Cola,

which contributes a five figure donation

annually. They stock plastic bottles of

the products. Thirsty theatregoers easily

down 10 cases a night. People like

bottled beverages because they can

bring leftovers home. The organization

has a relaxed policy regarding drinks in

the venues, with the exception of certain

performances.

“You triple the amount of money when

you do that,” he says, noting that the concrete

flooring makes cleanup a lot easier

than a carpeted space. Occasionally he’s

gotten some grumblers, but he’s got a

history-laden reply for them: “Tell that to

Bill Shakespeare. Drinks and the theatre

have been going on for centuries. We’re

theatre for the common man.”

In the end, the concession proves to

be a fail-safe income generator. Hemsath

may have been keen to rent spaces at his

venue, but he also knows that “it’s not

a huge money maker. It’s not as big as

the bar.”

Christine Sparta is a freelance writer

from the New York City area.

Theatre Space

continued from page 31

Biscayne Boulevard, once a family vacation

destination that eventually fell into

decay. All around the Center, condos

and offices have sprung up, echoing the

Center’s modern design. Pelli’s structure

is not only visible from a South Beach

approach, but is also a desirable view for

residents of the glossy high-rise towers

clustered around the Center. The arts

complex also provides a stunning new

venue for lectures, parties and corporate

meetings that can accommodate crowds

of up to 6,000 people.

Espejo likens the Carnival Center to

the Sydney Opera House, the iconic building

that transformed Australia’s resort

destination into a major and recognizable

arts center. “When thinking of Sydney,

many people think of the Opera House,”

says Espejo. Within Miami’s blossoming

arts scene, there are many who hope the

Carnival Center will have the same transformative

effect on the city of Miami.

The Carnival Center for the Performing

Arts opened its doors on October 5,

2006. For more information about

the facility, please visit the website at

www.miamipac.org

Christine Puleo is a freelance writer

from Miami.

58 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


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Off The Shelf

By Stephen Peithman

‘Tis the

Season

Gift ideas for the theatre person in your life

December is the month for gift

giving, and one or more of the

titles in this month’s roundup

of new books and CDs should please

the theatre person in your life — or

yourself, for that matter.

Rising to the top is Theaters by

Craig Morrison, a beautifully illustrated

history of American performance

venues in all their colorful and varied

forms, from music halls to vaudeville,

from circuses to grand operas,

from nickelodeons to movie palaces.

You’ll also find burlesque theatres,

show boats, military theatres,

Shakespearean theatres, summer

theatres and arenas, plus the entrepreneurs

and showmen who acted as

prime movers of our theatrical heritage.

Essentially an annotated photo

album, organized by era and geography,

each section begins with an

extensive overview, followed by the

photos of each theatre, with extended

captions. An accompanying CD-ROM

includes the book’s images in .tif format

for Mac and PC, plus a direct

link to the Library of Congress online

searchable catalogs and image files,

as well as data files in the Historic

American Buildings Survey, Historic

American Engineering Record, and

other collections. This is a reference

book that also invites the reader to

browse its pages for a unique vantage

point on the history and styles

of American theatres. [ISBN 0-393-

73108-1, $75, Norton/Library

of Congress]

The Performing Set: The Broadway

Designs of William and Jean Eckart

will please two groups — lovers of

stage design and musical theatre

buffs. The Eckarts were designers and

producers during

the last golden years of

the American musical, and their work

revolutionized Broadway productions,

including Damn Yankees (1955), Once

Upon a Mattress (1959) and Mame

(1966), among others. Author Andrew

B. Harris uses the Eckarts’ sketches

and production stills (many of them

not seen before), to illustrate the artistic

vision and technical skill behind

their work. He also provides a large

helping of backstage stories that make

this book as much fun as it is informative.

In short, the book is a delight

from start to finish. [ISBN 1-57441-

212-4, $37.95, University of North

Texas Press]

If you have children on your list,

The Story of Costumes by John

Peacock, has 325 colorful hand-drawings

and clearly written descriptions

on every page. Peacock covers every

historical period, from Ancient Greek

and Roman times, through the Middle

Ages and Renaissance, and on to the

present day. He portrays servants and

laborers, as well as nobility and royalty,

and provides intriguing details

on shoes, hats, jewelry and hairstyles.

Besides pleasing children, The Story

of Costumes is a resource for parents

and teachers, as well. [ISBN 0-50051-

309-0, $19.95, Thames & Hudson]

Finally, for anyone interested in

the long-term health of the American

musical, there is the remarkable Grey

Gardens, which concerns the eccentric

aunt and cousin of Jacqueline

Kennedy Onassis. Once among the

brightest names in the social register,

by the 1970s they were East

Hampton’s most notorious recluses,

living in a dilapidated 28-room mansion.

Facing an uncertain future, Edith

Bouvier Beale and her adult daughter,

“Little” Edie, are forced to revisit

their past and come to terms with

it for better and for worse. With a

book by Doug Wright, a score by

composer Scott Frankel and lyricist

Michael Korie, the show stars Tony

Award-winner Christine Ebersole,

and Mary Louise Wilson. The music

beautifully echoes the styles of

the eras it represents, and the performances

are nothing less than

astonishing. [PS Classics]

60 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


The Play’s The Thing

By Stephen Peithman

The Outsiders

Plays from the perspective of those who don’t fit in

People who are excluded from, or who do not feel

accepted by, society often think of themselves as outsiders.

That said, the experiences of people who don’t

match cultural ideals or social expectations often help bring

those ideals and expectations into sharp focus, as we see in this

month’s roundup of recently released plays .

Beyond Victims and Villains: Contemporary Plays by

Disabled Playwrights is the first anthology of its kind, edited

by Victoria Ann Lewis, founder and director of Other Voices

Workshop at the Mark Taper Forum. Included are Creeps by

David Freeman and A Summer Evening in Des Moines by

Charles Mee, Jr. Subjects and styles vary widely. As a whole,

this collection is a prime example of how disabled people

can offer a valuable critique of a world that non-disabled

people take for granted. [ISBN 1-55936-250-2, $19.95 Theatre

Communications Group]

Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is really about two

outsiders — Shylock, the Jew in 16th-century Christian Venice,

who is confronted by Portia, a woman of means in a world

dominated by men. She is courted by Bassanio, who wants to

impress her, but lacks the necessary funds. He turns to his merchant

friend, Antonio, who is forced to borrow from Shylock,

a moneylender. When Antonio’s business falters, repayment

becomes impossible, and by the terms of the loan agreement,

Shylock is able to demand a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Portia

intervenes, and all ends well (except, of course, for Shylock).

As Harold Bloom points out in a thought-provoking essay, both

Portia and Shylock use money as a means, but to very different

ends. Her wealth means an expansion of possibilities, whereas

Shylock’s world shrinks dramatically by play’s end. Burton

Raffel provides an introduction and the helpful annotations.

[ISBN 0-300-11564-4, $6.95, Yale University Press]

Despite its reputation as an early example of theatrical realism,

August Strindberg’s Miss Julie offers many clues that the

action is somehow outside time and space. The setting is late-

19th-century Sweden, during an all-night festival celebrating

the summer solstice. The play’s title character — daughter of the

local lord — is bored, restless and lonesome. She finds herself

an outsider at a servants’ party, flirting with the footman, Jean.

Both characters are trapped by class and temperament, looking

so desperately for an escape that they risk destroying each

other in the process. David French’s adaptation of Strindberg’s

disturbing and enduring drama is exemplary, with a contemporary

feel that sometimes seems more like a Sam Shepard play

than something from the late 19th century. [ISBN: 0-88922-

549-4, $15.95, Talonbooks]

Whether focusing on domestic drama or the broader realms

of culture, history and politics, Chicago’s Victory Gardens

Theater has always worked outside the mainstream, encouraging

diverse perspectives and supporting original work. In 2001,

it received the Tony Award for Regional Theatre, and was hailed

as one of the country’s most important theatres for emerging

playwrights. That reputation remains secure with the publication

of Victory Gardens Theater Presents: Seven New Plays

from the Playwrights Ensemble. The works tackle a wide range

of topics. Included are Pecong, by Steve Carter; Battle of the

Bands by Dean Corrin; Affluenza! by James Sherman; Voice of

Good Hope by Kristine Thatcher; Hanging Fire by Claudia Allen

and Free Man of Color by Charles Smith. [ISBN 0-8101-2346-0,

$ 34.95, Northwestern University Press]

62 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com


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Answer Box

By Erik Viker

Creating

Evan Shuster

a Diversion

If your rigging is causing a problem with

your scenic elements, you might consider

the following solution.

A view of the diverters

Andrew Rich

The scenic design for The Winter’s Tale at Susquehanna University included a pair of flying arch flats

immediately behind and slightly overlapping a central arch flat. Rolling diverters allowed the scenic transitions

to happen smoothly, with no risk of friction, and no need to adjust where lighting and scenery were

placed by the designers.

Having many rigging linesets to choose from can sometimes

become a curse when the battens are too close

together to accommodate that extra-wide piece of

scenery. If your counterweight rigging system pick-up lines

pass through an accessible steel grid, you can use roller diverters

to slightly change the vertical positions of each line and

move an entire batten upstage or downstage several inches.

The devices pictured here are suitable for a channel-steel grid

and are modified from a design used at the Bass Concert Hall in

Austin, Texas.The rollers are two-inch diameter conveyer rollers

made of 12-gauge steel with steel ball bearings. Most industrial

supply companies, such as McMaster-Carr, can provide rollers

of this type, and a 300-pound capacity roller with a retractable

7

/ 16

” hex axle is used in this model. The retractable axle allows

you to easily install the roller to the assembled frame.

Begin by cutting the steel components for each diverter, and

carefully grind all cuts as necessary for safe handling. Each

frame is made from two sections of two-inch wide 3 / 16

” angle

steel for the sides and 1” wide 3 / 16

” steel strap for the rollerlength

connector panel. Drill 5 / 8

” diameter holes for the roller

axle ends and 3 / 8

” diameter holes for the J-bolts used to fasten

the diverter to a channel steel grid. Weld the frames together,

and carefully grind or file the welds and exit holes after drilling.

Use 5 / 16

” J-bolts to place each diverter so it touches the steel

cable lift line at the center of the roller. Thoroughly tighten each

J-bolt to ensure the diverters cannot slide out of position.

The diverter technique should be used carefully because

lift lines must be moved only slightly from their professionally

installed locations to avoid causing friction where the

vertical steel cables exit the grooved blocks. If more than three

inches of extra space is needed between battens, a redesign

of the flying scenery or equipment locations might be the best

course of action.

Erik Viker is an assistant professor of theatre at

Susquehanna University, where he serves as technical

director for the Department of Theatre and teaches

courses in theatre production, stage management and

dramatic literature.

64 December 2006 • www.stage-directions.com

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