Download a PDF - Stage Directions Magazine

Download a PDF - Stage Directions Magazine



Table Of Contents November 2009

20 24


12 Light on the Subject

When troubleshooting DMX problems, leave the audio gear in

the toolbox. By Richard Cadena

16 Speaking Old Poetry Using a

Contemporary Language

Designing the new Henry Miller’s Theatre on Broadway. By

Michael S. Eddy

20 Modernizing a Classic

With percussion in the box seats and Spanish onstage, Dan

Moses Schreier talks about the new (and old) twists to putting

West Side Story onstage. By Bryan Reesman

24 High School Programs That Rock

The winners of the second annual Stage Directions High School

Theatre Honors Program. By Kevin M. Mitchell

28 Room to Grow

Playwriting conferences and festivals that help get your foot in

the door. By Jacob Coakley.

Special Section: Special Effects

32 Hair-Raising Wigs

Wig designer Tom Watson talks craft and hairspray on Broadway’s

Rock of Ages. By Bryan Reesman

34 Water Works

How to design and tech water SFX of every kind, for any show

By Lisa Mulcahy

37 Special Effects Directory

A directory of SFX companies to spark up your show.


4 Letters

More thoughts about how TD’s can build a case for tenure at

colleges and universities.

6 In the Greenroom

The inaugural Steinberg Playwright Awards, Avenue Q gets an

immediate “revival” and more.

11 Tools of the Trade

Tools for every staging, lighting or audio need.

44 Answer Box

Cambiare Productions builds their shows and audience in

unconventional ways By Jacob Coakley


40 The Play’s the Thing

Plays that manipulate space and time. By Stephen Peithman

41 TD Talk

So often do we forget that the early bricks support the building.

By Dave McGinnis


Constantine Maroulis and

the company of Rock of Ages


Joan Marcus

Publisher Terry Lowe

Editor Jacob Coakley

Audio Editor Jason Pritchard

Lighting & Staging Editor Richard Cadena

New York Editor Bryan Reesman

Editorial Assistant Victoria Laabs

Contributing Writers Richard Cadena, Michael S. Eddy,

Dave McGinnis, Kevin M. Mitchell,

Lisa Mulcahy, Stephen Peithman,

Bryan Reesman

Consulting Editor Stephen Peithman


Art Director Garret Petrov


Production Manager Linda Evans


Web Designer Josh Harris


Advertising Director Greg Gallardo

National Sales Manager James Leasing

Audio Advertising Manager Jeff Donnenwerth

Sales Manager Matt Huber


General Manager William Vanyo


Subscription order


Stark Services

P.O. Box 16147

North Hollywood, CA 91615

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; Keith Kevan, KKO Network; Todd

Koeppl, Chicago Spotlight Inc.; Kimberly Messer, Lillenas Drama Resources; John

Meyer, Meyer Sound; John Muszynski, Theater Director Maine South High School;

Scott C. Parker, Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film; Ron Ranson, Theatre

Arts Video Library; David Rosenberg, I. Weiss & Sons Inc.; Karen Rugerio, Dr.

Phillips High School; Ann Sachs, Sachs Morgan Studio; Bill Sapsis, Sapsis Rigging;

Steve Shelley, Lighting Designer; Richard Silvestro, Franklin Pierce College

Stage Directions (ISSN: 1047-1901) Volume 22, Number 11 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, P.O. 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.











Tracking Down Tenure

[We get letters here at Stage Directions, but it’s

rare that we get such a thoughtful, thorough reply like

the one we received this month from Professor Mark

Shanda at The Ohio State University. His comments on

Dave McGinnis’ article “Off the Beaten Tenure Track”

from the October edition were so insightful that we’re

forgoing an Editor’s Note this month to bring you his

complete response. —Ed.]

As the chair of the USITT Tenured Technical

Director Mentoring project since 1997, I

have a rather unique platform from which to

respond to McGinnis’ assertions about tenure. While

I certainly agree that there remain a variety of challenges

associated with the tenure process for technical

directors, I cannot abide by the concluding questions

that center around if one “does a good job” one

should be granted tenure and promotion. The challenge

is not simply the quality of the work. The heart

of the matter is how both the administration and the

tenure candidate define their expectations and play

by rules of the tenure and promotion process.

When one chooses to accept a tenure-track technical

direction position one agrees to be an academic.

This inherently means that the person will be

evaluated on the basis, in most institutions, of teaching,

service, and research/creative activities. They

are also likely to be evaluated by persons who really

don't fully understand the role that the technical

director plays in the production process. Therefore,

a significant burden lies on the candidate for tenure

to contextualize their work into these three standard


1. Teaching

The technical director is teaching every day by

example and in practice, but should document their

teaching in forms familiar to those conducting the

review. McGinnis is correct that much of the teaching

done by the TD is not in a “classically structured

class,” but the savvy TD should consistently speak

and document their teaching mission within the

production program. Their classroom is the scenic

studio, not “the shop.” Artists create new work in

studios, a concept understood by most, and that

is exactly what happens in the scenic construction

process. Specific teaching routines (how I teach safe

overhead rigging) can be documented, evaluated for

effectiveness and shared broadly with others in the

institution and beyond.

2. Service

All too often the academic TD chooses to not

engage in the intellectual community and only

works on their department level productions. If you

are being asked to “build absolutely everything”

then there is an administrative problem at your

institution. However, if you are choosing to stay

and build everything, then you are not fulfilling your

other obligations. You must take the time away from

the studio to serve the greater good. By embedding

yourself into the fabric of your institution in service

roles, when promotion time comes around, people

will know the value of your skill set to the school

beyond your carpentry skills and will have a better

understanding of all that you contribute.

3. Research/Creative Activity

This category often boils down to the question

of “What is the obligation of the TD beyond our

on campus productions?” The answer, as McGinnis

appears to assert, cannot be nothing. The answer

must be a combined recognition by the administration

to structure expectations to allow the TD to

have appropriate professional development and

research time, as well as the TD understanding that

they must seek appropriate off campus outlets to

share their knowledge. For too long TD’s have let

their institutional and self-imposed work load define

their jobs. While a book-length work or an extensive

journal article produced by a TD is a rare occurrence,

there are numerous opportunities to share the dayto-day

creativity that is exhibited by the problem

solving nature of the TD. USITT’s Biennial Theatre

Technology Expo, Tech Source Guide and Theatre

Design and Technology magazine all provide appropriate

“publication” platforms for the academic TD.

Poster sessions, master classes and panel participation

at USITT conferences (national and regional),

KC/ACTF (Kennedy Center/American College Theatre

Festival) regionals and the ETA (Educational Theatre

Association/State Thespians) meetings are all ripe

places for the practicing TD to shine. Remember that

research is nothing more than asking a question and

seeking an answer. TD’s do that every single day!

The two biggest stumbling blocks to TD tenure

that I have encountered over the years have been

institutional politics, which are often beyond the

control of TD, and self-inflicted wounds by the TD

who hopes that the quality of their production work

will suffice. TD’s must recognize the former, doing

their best within what can be a difficult situation,

and must seize their control of the latter, assuming

responsibility and obligations beyond their local


Thank you,

Mark Shanda


The Ohio State University

4 November 2009 •

In the Greenroom

Playwrights Norris, McCraney and Adjmi Win Steinberg Award

Playwrights Bruce Norris, Tarell Alvin McCraney and David

Adjmi are the first recipients of the Steinberg Playwright

Awards. The awards were established in 2008 by The Harold

and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust to recognize up-andcoming

playwrights at various stages of their early careers

whose professional works show great promise.

Last year, The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust presented

Tony Kushner with the very first Steinberg Distinguished

Playwright Award, which carried a cash prize of $200,000,

making it the largest award ever created to encourage artistic

achievement in the American theatre. As previously announced,

the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award (for established

playwrights) and the Steinberg Playwright Awards (for playwrights

in earlier stages of their careers), both known as ‘The

Mimi,’ will be presented in alternating years. This year’s Steinberg

Playwright Awards carry cash prizes totaling $100,000.

In their selection process this year, the Advisory Committee

voted to award playwrights at various stages of their early

careers, none of whom have yet achieved the national recognition

and success of a mid-career playwright. The Advisory

Committee and the Steinberg Trust has decided to honor

Norris for his body of work and outstanding potential (for

which he will receive a $50,000 cash award), and Adjmi and

McCraney for being promising new voices in the theatre (for

which they will each receive a cash award of $25,000). The

playwrights will also be presented with ‘The Mimi,’ a statue

designed by Tony Award-nominated scenic designer and

architect David Rockwell.

Avenue Q Stages Immediate Off-Broadway “Revival”

At the final Broadway performance of Avenue Q on

Sunday, Sept. 13, the producers took the stage after the

curtain call and announced that the show was not ending,

but would instead move to a new theatre. It began

performances October 9 at New World Stages, an Off-

Broadway venue on 50th St. Director Jason Moore, creators

Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty, as well as

the show’s designers, choreographer and musical team

all participated in the transfer, but not all of the cast did.

Three Broadway cast members traveled with the show, but

others elected not to.

Actors’ salaries were cut after an Actors’ Equity

Association dispensation for the producers that meant

performers could be paid at a lower scale.

theatre buzz

Barrymore Awards Honor Philadelphia Theatre

The 15th annual Barrymore Awards for Excellence

in Theatre were held Monday, Oct. 5, and handed out

26 awards honoring Philadelphia theatre. Something

Intangible was the runaway winner with seven awards

for Arden Theatre Company, while Charlotte Cloe Fox

Wind was honored with the F. Otto Haas Award for an

Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist and The Lantern

Theatre Company received the 2009 Barrymore Award

for Excellence in Theatre Education and Community

Service for its Classroom Connections Program.

Something Intangible’s seven

awards included: Outstanding Overall

Production of a Play; Outstanding

Direction of a Play to Terrence J. Nolen;

Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play

to Ian Merrill Peakes as Tony Wiston;

Outstanding Set Design to James

Kronzer; Outstanding Lighting Design

to F. Mitchell Dana; Outstanding

Costume Design to Rosemarie E.

McKelvey; and Outstanding New

Play to Bruce Graham. Arden Theatre

Company’s production of Candide

was awarded Outstanding Supporting

Actress in a Musical to Mary Martello

as Old Woman, topping the company’s

award count at eight.

Other multiple winners included

The People’s Light & Theatre

Company’s production of Cinderella,

which received four awards:

Outstanding Overall Production of a

Musical; Outstanding Direction of a

Musical to Pete Pryor; Outstanding

Original Music to Michael Ogborn;

and Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical.

Two more special awards were also given out: Dugald

MacArthur received the 2009 Lifetime Achievement

Award acknowledging his work as an actor, educator,

director and mentor to many in the local theatre community.

The Ted and Stevie Wolf New Approaches to

Collaborations Award, honoring collaborative efforts

between theatre companies and organizations of other

disciplines, went to Delaware Theatre Company & The

Ferris School for Boys for No Child…

theatre buzz


In the October Education directory,

the phone number of SUNY,

Fredonia was incorrect. SUNY,

Fredonia’s correct contact info is:

SUNY, Fredonia

Dept. of Theatre and Dance

Rockefeller Arts Ctr., #212

280 Central Ave.

Fredonia, NY 14063

P: (716) 673-3596

W: • November 2009 7

industry news

Know Theatre Keeps Tix at $12

Thanks to a partnership with the Carol Ann and Ralph V.

Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation, Know Theatre of Cincinnati is again

announcing a flat $12 ticket price for every show during the 2009-

2010 season. Without subsidization, tickets prices would be $22.

The ticketing initiative aims to remove economic barriers—perceived

or actual—preventing the public from attending without

sacrificing resources.

By partnering with the Foundation, Know Theatre is following

in the steps of theatres like Signature in New York City, who partnered

with Time/Warner in 2005 to offer $15 tickets to their entire

season. The Signature Theatre Initiative was recently extended to

2014, although ticket prices did rise to $20.

Last season Know Theatre saw positive results in ticket sales,

audience development and an overall increase in operational

capacity, which they attribute to the ticket price. They gathered

this info from an audience survey during the last two productions

of their 2008-2009 season. The survey was designed to research

the effectiveness of the ticketing initiative and its results were

combined with data from their ticketing system. These data

points revealed the following insights:

• 38% of those surveyed had never attended a show at Know

Theatre before.

• 2 % listed ticket price as their “primary” motivation for attending

and 30% said that price “significantly impacted” their decision

to attend.

• Reduction in ticket cost did not affect perceived worth. Nearly

85% of the total respondents stated that the value or worth of

their ticket was greater than $12 and a full 50% valued their ticket

at $20 or more.

Online ticket sales have also helped spur sales.

“Know Theatre began selling tickets online four seasons ago,

but these sales have never exceeded 10 percent of our total sales,”

said Eric Vosmeier, managing director of Know. “However, this

year, with no major change in how we marketed our sales channels,

online sales jumped from 10 percent to nearly 35 percent.”

This is particularly helpful because it significantly reduces the

amount of staff time spent handling ticket sales while still delivering

a high quality of customer service. To continue testing these

results and driving advance sales, ticket prices will continue to be

only $12 when purchased in advance. On the day of the show,

ticket prices will increase to $15.

“We’re grateful to have at least one more year to work with this

ticketing model and see how we can improve upon the success

we’ve seen,” said Vosmeier. “The advance/day of pricing model

is a simplified version of demand based ticket pricing. There are

a number of companies experimenting with this type of pricing

at the moment. The support of the Foundation is allowing us

the luxury of time to experiment and find what will work best for

Know Theatre in the future. It has also helped shield the company

from the significant drop in ticket sales experienced as the recession

hit full swing. This was invaluable to us during the first part

of last season.”

Joyce Management Agrees to Union Request for NLRB-Supervised Election

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will hold

a supervised election at the Joyce Theater on Oct. 26,

giving the stagehands the opportunity to have a neutral

party certify that they do want Local One of the

International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees

(IATSE) to operate as their collective bargaining representative.

“Joyce Theater Foundation’s agreeing to a swift

NLRB-supervised vote of its stage technicians for union

representation is an act of respect and appreciation for

its stagecraft employees,” said Local

One IATSE President James J. Claffey,

Jr. “I applaud them.” By agreeing to

the NLRB supervised election Joyce

Theater management is avoiding a

legal fight to prevent the election

from taking place, which would have

been costly for both the Theater

and the Local. Claffey pledged that

whatever the outcome of the election,

Local One would “respect their

collective decision.”

Local One IATSE filed a petition

with the NLRB September 14, about

a month after they had requested

voluntary recognition as bargaining

agent from Joyce management.

According to a statement released

by the Local a large majority of Joyce

stage technicians signed authorization

cards empowering Local One

IATSE to act as their collective bargaining

agent this summer.

Calls to the Joyce’s representatives

for a comment went unreturned.

8 November 2009 •

industry news

La MaMa ETC Annex

To Be Renamed Ellen

Stewart Theater

La MaMa ETC, one of the standardbearers

of experimental theatre in New

York and around the globe since it

was founded in 1961 by Ellen Stewart,

will rename its Annex theatre the Ellen

Stewart Theater. Ellen Stewart founded

La MaMa in 1961 in a tiny basement

theatre and has remained its Artistic

Director ever since. With two theatres

housed in La MaMa’s original space

at 74A E. 4 St., La Mama expanded its

operations in 1974 with the opening

The Trojan Women at the Annex, a large,

loft-like space a few doors down the

street at 66 E. 4 St.

ZFX Launches


ZFX Flying Effects has formed

a strategic alliance with Stage

Technologies, based in Las Vegas,

Nev., to offer automated solutions for

productions that require more complex

flying sequences. ZFX will add

award-winning products from Stage

Technologies, including hoists and

control systems, to its roster of complete

flying services. Adding automation

to the company’s offerings is part

of an overall change in direction and

coincides with hiring Joe Champelli

as ZFX’s new General Manager. An

automation and machinery design

expert, Champelli will spearhead the

development and implementation

of automated technology and products.

Automated control systems

allow ZFX to achieve more complex,

dynamic flying sequences. In addition

to single point and travel compensated

flying, ZFX now offers integrated

pendulum and multi-point

3-dimensional flying. Higher speeds,

repeatability and consistency in flying

sequences are also advantages to

automated flying effects.

“We are absolutely delighted to

be able to work with the team at ZFX,

whose experience and reputation we

have known for many years,” said

Nikki Scott, commercial director of

Stage Technologies. • November 2009 9

changing roles

Arden Theatre Company Names Edward Sobel Associate Artistic Director

Arden Theatre Company has hired Edward Sobel as associate

artistic director. Sobel previously was the director of new

play development at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, where

he oversaw the development of more than 40 new plays

including the Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning drama August:

Osage County. Sobel also developed the Pulitzer Prize finalists

Red Light Winter and Man from Nebraska, and the Joseph

Jefferson Award winner The Pain and the Itch. Sobel teaches

directing and dramatic literature in the department of theatre

at Temple University. He has taught directing, playwriting

and dramatic literature at DePaul University, Northwestern

University and the University of Chicago. He holds an undergraduate

degree from the University of Pennsylvania and an

MFA in directing from Northwestern.

Edward Sobel

Lara Goetsch

Mark Clements Named Artistic Director at Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Mark Clements

Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Board of Trustees

have named internationally acclaimed director Mark

Clements the company’s next artistic director. Clements

has directed at more than 100 major theaters in the

United States and Europe, including productions in

London’s West End, 11 seasons as the artistic director

of Derby Playhouse in the United Kingdom, and six seasons

as associate artistic director for Moving Theatre

Company, founded by Vanessa and Corin Redgrave.

In the U.S., his work has been seen at New York’s

Roundabout Theatre and Classic Stage Company; and

at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre. Clements, who

is currently directing Oliver! at Walnut Street Theatre,

will begin his debut season with The Rep in the fall of


Carlos Murillo New Head of Playwriting at DePaul

Carlos Murillo will share the duties of co-head of playwriting

with Dean Corrin for the 2009-2010 academic year

at the Theatre School at DePaul University. Murillo will then

transition into the position of Head of Playwriting for the

2010-2011 school year. He currently serves on the faculty of

The Theatre School for both performance and playwriting,

and frequently directs workshops as well as public productions

at The Theatre School. His plays have been produced

at Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre

of Louisville, the NYC Summer Play Festival, En Garde Arts,

Soho Repertory, The Hangar Theatre Lab and many others.

Carlos was a Jerome Fellow at The Playwrights’ Center in

Minneapolis, and has received grants from the Rockefeller

Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board. He is a

Carlos Murillo

two-time recipient of the National Latino Playwriting Award from Arizona Theatre Company. Carlos won the 2009

William Inge Theatre Festival Otis Guernsey Award, and has received commissions from Goodman Theatre, Berkeley

Repertory Theatre, The Public Theatre, South Coast Repertory, En Garde Arts and Disney Creative Entertainment. He is

a resident playwright at New Dramatists.

10 November 2009 •

Tools of the Trade

Vectorworks 2010

Nemetschek North

America's Vectorworks 2010

has added bi-directional

associativity features and an

intuitive, easy-to-approach

3D modeling environment.

It integrates D-Cubed 2D

Dimensional Constraint

Manager as well planar graphics and working plane improvements;

associative hatching; improvements to the import or

export of IFC, DWG, and SKP files; new wall sculpting and stair

features; hardscape improvements; a new event-planning suite

and video screen tools; and rendering options like decals and

improved texture mapping.

Thern Stage Equipment Pilewind Line Sets

The Pilewind system is designed for

theatres and stages where space is at a

premium and has a load capacity of up

to 2,100 lbs. The Pilewind line set supports

up to 10 lines to accommodate

various batten lengths and pick point

requirements. It can be configured for

floor, wall or ceiling mounting as well

as installation without a headblock. The Pilewind can also be

rigged with drop lines directly off of the drum at 0, 180 and 270


Lex Products Slim Dimmer

Lex Products’ new Slim

Dimmer is an ultra-portable single

1.8kW dimmer. It features a

high quality fader coupled with a

digital intensity display designed

to make intensity matching of

multiple units a snap. The Slim

Dimmer, while pocket sized, is

UL Listed. Housed in an all metal

case, it has extra protection around the display and fader area to

survive the rigors of location use.

American DJ Propar 56RGB and 56CWWW

American DJ has introduced

two new ultra-bright LED par lights,

the Propar 56RGB and Propar

56CWWW, an RGB color-mixing

and warm/cool white unit respectively.

Each are powered by 36

super-high-output 1-watt LEDs. The Propar 56RGB is equipped

with 12 red, 12 green and 12 blue 1-watt LEDs, and can change

colors fast or slow, strobe in any color, and perform gradual

fades via 0-100% electronic dimming. The Propar 56CWWW is

powered by 18 warm white (3000K) and 18 cool white (6000K)

1-watt LEDs, and allows users to create the perfect shade of

white through variable color temperature control. • November 2009 11

Light on the Subject By Richard Cadena




For best results, leave the audio gear in the toolbox

Once upon a time,

in a land not so far

away, there was a

lighting consultant who

received a call from a theatre

who wanted help. The

theatre had just purchased

its first automated lights

and they asked the consultant

to help them program

the console. The lighting

consultant was happy to

comply, but he made several

requests of the theatre

in order to make the best

use of the time. The first

was that all the fixtures

should be tested and the DMX512 addresses set before they were

rigged and flown. The second was that the fixtures should be

rigged, powered and connected to the DMX512 network before

the programming started. The theatre thought the requests were

reasonable and they complied.

When the consultant arrived he saw that all of the fixtures

were hanging in the air and he proceeded to test them. First he

checked the status indicators on the fixtures. The power indicators

were on solid but the data indicators were not. Since the

console was not on yet, that was normal. He also looked at the

DMX512 addresses and saw that they were all set correctly.

Next, he went to the console, fired it up, and went into the setup

menu to patch the new fixtures. He found the fixture profiles, loaded

them into the patch, and configured the DMX512 addresses

correctly. Then he got out of the set up menu, selected all of the

new fixtures, and homed them. But instead of all of the fixtures

going to the home position, some went off in odd directions, some

started wigging out and some did nothing. Based on what he saw,

the consultant said that there must be a bad data cable.

The theatre techs were in disbelief. “We built and tested all of

the data cables ourselves,” they said. “What could possibly have

gone wrong?”

After a bit of detective work, the consultant knew exactly what

went wrong.

Building and Blessing

in Cableland

When the techs built

the data cables, they

had a young intern solder

all of the terminations.

After the cables

were built, they tested

and blessed each one

of them before they

installed them. But

because they were

audio techs too, they

used an audio cable

tester, not a data cable


An audio cable,

which is designed to carry analog signals of relatively low frequency,

is very different than a data cable, which is designed to

carry high frequency digital signals. By the same token, an audio

cable tester is very different than a data cable tester. An audio

cable tester typically uses a DC source, like a 9V battery, and

checks for continuity. But a DC voltage might act very differently

than a high frequency square wave, which is what a digital data

signal is. Only a data cable tester can tell you with any amount of

certainty whether or not a cable is good for carrying digital data.


First of all, if the cable exhibits characteristics of a capacitor

then it will render a digital signal indecipherable. And a cold solder

joint can act like a capacitor to a high frequency data signal.

So can a microphone cable because it’s constructed differently

than a data cable.

Second, a cold solder joint represents a change of impedance,

which can cause data signal reflections. For an audio signal that

may or may not result in audible distortion but to a data signal it

can cause signal cancellation corrupt the data.

If terms like “parity errors” or “overflow errors” mean nothing to you, seek help from books like these, or other DMX guides.

Real Data Testers for Real Data

A continuity checker may or may not find problems that a

digital data signal will. There are DMX512 testing devices made

by several manufacturers including Artistic Licence, Doug Fleenor

You wouldn’t use an audio amplifier for DMX data distribution so

why would you use an audio cable checker to test a data cable?

All photography by Richard Cadena

12 November 2009 •

Light on the Subject

Design, Goddard Design, and Swisson, each of which has a cable

test mode. Artistic Licence’s Micro-Scope, for example, is a battery

or wall-powered handheld device that performs a variety of

DMX tricks including testing cables. In cable

test mode there are three different methods

of operation. In the double-ended cable test,

both ends of a data cable are connected to

the tester and it verifies that there is AC continuity

between corresponding pins on either

end of the cable and that there are no shorts.

In the single-ended test mode only one end

of the data cable is connected to the test

and it verifies that there are no short circuits

between pins 2 and 3, which carry the data

signal and its complement.

The network test mode is the most sophisticated

of the three test modes. It uses a special

function of DMX512-A, which is the latest

version of the standard, to send a test packet

of data for the purpose of analyzing the integrity

of the network. It is sent by a transmitter

and analyzed by the receiver to make sure

the information was received correctly. With

the Micro-Scope, the tester is connected on

the console end of the cable and another

on the receiving end receives the DMX512-A

test packet, analyzes it, and indicates whether

or not the data is good or bad. This not only insures that every

component in the link is working but that it is maintaining the

integrity of the data.

For reliable DMX cable testing, you’ll

need the right tool. Use a data cable

tester, like the Swisson XMT-120,

pictured here.

14 November 2009 •

Goddard’s MiniDMXter and Doug Fleenor Devices’ Gizmo

are two more examples of battery-operated, handheld DMX

testers. Both check for continuity on pin 1 between both ends

of the cable (indicating that the cable is plugged in) and then

sends short bursts of DMX512-like data. If the data is received

properly it confirms the proper pin connections at the other

end of the cable. If the cable has pins 2 and 3 reversed or if

there is high capacitance it will tell you so.

Swisson’s XMT-120 is yet another option for testing DMX

data cable. Like the other testers, the XMT-120 can transmit

and receive DMX512 data for a variety of reasons. If you want

to check an operating DMX512 network you can start at the

end of the data link and plug in the

tester. It will display any channel of the

incoming data in percentage from 0 to

100%, decimal values from 0 to 255, or

in hexadecimal from x0 to xFF. If you

start at the end of the run and find that

the data is corrupt or missing, then you

can start working back to the console

and insert the tester between each

successive data cable and the previous

fixture until you find the problem


just scratching the surface. For more advanced troubleshooting

some of these devices will find parity errors, framing

errors, break and mark after break timing errors and overflow


If these terms are foreign to you then you should immediately

seek help. It can be found in such books as Control

Systems for Live Entertainment by John Hungtington, Practical

DMX by Nick Mobsby or Recommended Practice for DMX512,

2 nd Edition, by Adam Bennette.

You wouldn’t use an audio amplifier for DMX data distribution

so why would you use an audio cable checker to test a

data cable?

My Friend Flicker Finder

Some of these testers, including

the family of DMXters (MiniDMXter,

Lil’DMXter, and the DMXter4 RDM),

the Micro-Scope, and the Gizmo have

a “flicker finder,” which allows you to

find intermittent problems in a data

network. In flicker finder mode, the

tester is plugged in somewhere in the

data link and receives DMX512 data.

The console has to be set to output

the same channel values and it can’t

change. If there is a change in the

value of the data the tester will indicate

that an error has occurred. This is

helpful for testing the integrity of the

data over time. But the console has

to be in one cue and cannot change

any DMX512 values in order for this to

work. Therefore, it cannot be used during

a show. If it’s important to monitor

the integrity of a DMX512 network

during a show you can insert a tester

somewhere near the start of the

DMX512 network and it will interleave

test packets along with the DMX512

data. By plugging in another tester at

the end of the data link you can monitor

the network live during a show.

These DMX512 testers vary in price

from $356 for the Swisson XMT-120 to

$1,296 for the Doug Fleenor Devices

Gizmo but they are invaluable for troubleshooting

DMX512 networks. Many

of them have so many more features

and functions that the cable tester is • November 2009 15

Theatre Space


By Michael S. Eddy


Old Poetry

Using a



Michael Fortunato

Designing the New Henry Miller’s

Theatre on Broadway

Only the façade stayed the same, as Henry Miller’s Theatre became the first new Broadway theatre built in more than 20 years.

The Henry Miller's Theatre is the first new Broadway theatre

in more than 20 years and the first theatre to be designed

to green standards in New York City. The 1,055-seat theatre,

located on 43 rd Street is a part of the new Bank of America

tower that was designed by Cook+Fox Architects in collaboration

with theatre consultant Fisher Dachs Associates and acoustical

consultant JaffeHolden. Operated by the Roundabout Theatre

Company, the theatre opened in September with a revival of Bye

Bye Birdie.

The original Henry Miller’s Theatre was built by and named for

the actor and producer Henry Miller in 1918. It had a long, distinguished

history of theatrical productions including the original

Broadway productions of Our Town, Journey’s End, Born Yesterday,

The Trip to Bountiful, and The Subject Was Roses. Sold in 1968,

the theatre became a movie house and then a disco until 1998,

when it returned to legitimate use for Roundabout’s Cabaret. The

theatre would again close after the long run of Urinetown in 2004

to be demolished for a new office tower. The Durst Organization,

who built the office building, decided to christen the newly-built

theatre the Henry Miller’s Theatre. Though it is the first completely

new Broadway theatre since the Marquis opened in 1986, the

neo-Georgian façade of the original was historically preserved,

so it had to be carefully protected during the demolition of the

theatre and subsequent construction.

Leading with LEED

The entire building project was designed to meet the LEED

Platinum Certification with the theatre on track for LEED Gold

certification. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

(LEED) Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S.

Green Building Council, encourages global adoption of sustainable

green building and development practices. “The theatre

benefits from the larger project since the Bank of America tower

has a series of very large-scale systems that puts it on track to

achieve LEED Platinum status,” says Rick Fox, partner of Cook+Fox

Architects. “Those benefits include the onsite power generation

and a combined heat and power system, which generates power

onsite at three times the efficiency of the grid.”

Fox continues, “In addition to finding a way that the theatre

could benefit from being a part of a much larger project, we

wanted to respect Henry Miller’s original vision for what made

a perfect American theatre while at the same time design a

new theatre. He believed that you wanted to create an intimate

room where the performance connected with the last seat in the

house.” The theatre planning and design consulting firm for this

project was Fisher Dachs Associates (FDA) led by Principal Joshua

Dachs. “We worked with Rick Cook’s office and developed the

geometry of the room, which emerged out of Henry Miller’s ideas

about drama,” explains Dachs. “He was part of a general trend in

those days to make rooms for drama that had a certain kind of

intimacy and in fact he believed very strongly that it should almost

feel like you are with a group of friends in your living room at the


“The real challenge was to recreate the intimate house feel

while getting about two-thirds of the seats on the orchestra level,”

says Fox. “The way he did it in 1918 was to create a two-balcony

house. This compressed the distance to the back of the house. In

the modern Broadway economy, there is a very strong desire to

“We wanted to respect Henry Miller’s original vision for what made

a perfect American theatre while at the same time design a new theatre.”

—Rick Fox

16 November 2009 •

dbox for Cook+Fox Architects

Richard Pieper for the Historic American Building Survey

The new oval box office lobby mediates the transition from preserved elements of the

theatre to new construction.

The box office lobby from a building survey 2004.

have a vast majority of seats being on the orchestra level and have

one mezzanine.”

“Broadway has its own typology and it has to do with shallow,

curving balconies and a box or two that link that balcony

to the stage,” adds Dachs. “We wanted to make a room that had

intimacy, where everybody was very close to the stage; and as a

performer standing on the stage, you feel that you could reach

out and touch the audience.”

The bulk of the new Henry Miller’s Theatre is below the street

level so when you enter you are at the top of the mezzanine level

and you go downstairs for the orchestra seats. “You find that a fair

amount in London,” comments Dachs. “I think that this will be the

only Broadway theatre where you enter essentially at the balcony

level and you make your way down to the main level. Rick has

done a masterful job of bringing in natural light and making that

journey very pleasant.”

FDA also focused on the design of the stage and the stage

technology. “That means making sure that everything needed to

be done to put on a show here can be done efficiently and economically

so that it can be successful and sustainable,” explains

Dachs. This included making a huge elevator to bring scenery

down from street level to the new stage level 40 feet below. The

25-foot-long by 8-foot-wide freight elevator, which is undercover

of a crossover, is about half the size of a truck. “It is not some skinny

little passenger elevator,” says Dachs. “This means that the loadins

will be far more efficient.”

Grid and Walls

The theatre is designed like all Broadway theatres as a four-wall

rental. Broadway theatres generally speaking don’t have technology;

they have space, structural capacity and a lot of electricity.

Each production will bring in its own dimming, rigging and technology

suited to that specific show. “We know that the one thing

about a Broadway theatre is that needs will change over time,”

says Dachs. “We have tried to make it extremely easy for people

to bring in whatever their show requires and there will be power

for it; there will be a way to run the cable for it; we had to think

through all of those kinds of tasks so it doesn’t cost a fortune and

so that you don’t have to rip apart the auditorium ceiling.”

Even though the theatre is a typical four-wall rental, there is

some base technology to make the space work. The house lighting

A rendering of the 1,055-seat audience chamber, designed to preserve the scale and intimate

proportions that Henry Miller considered essential.

controls were manufactured by Electronic Theatre Controls and

AMX; along with power connections built by Union Connector.

The lighting system was provided and installed by Barbizon

Lighting. Seating is from Irwin Seating. The rigging, drapery and

staging vendor was I. Weiss who provided the house curtain along

with counterweight rigging and motorized fire curtain from JR

Clancy as well as Wenger’s platform system for the trapped stage

and orchestra pit filler.

Being underground as well as surrounded by a high-tech office

tower created more than a few acoustic issues. “A state-of-the-art

Broadway theatre naturally requires a low level of background

noise so that every nuance and detail of the actors' voices is conveyed

to the audience,” explains Mark Reber, principal, acoustics

with JaffeHolden. “The challenge was that the new Henry Miller's

Theatre is surrounded, almost literally, on all sides by noisy heating

and cooling equipment that serves the entire 54-story tower.

The solution was to provide a completely separate structure for

the theatre that only comes into contact with the tower structure

at the building's foundations. Surrounding the theatre at every

floor is a two-inch gap that prevents the equipment noise from

migrating structurally into the theatre. The double structure

approach also solved the potential problem of amplified theatre

sound transmitting into occupied Bank of America space directly

dbox for Cook+Fox Architects • November 2009 17

Theatre Space

above the theatre.” Reber was pleased to be part of solving the

challenges of this project. “The original Henry Miller's had a rich

history, and successfully creating a new state-of-the-art facility to

replace it was an exciting way to carry on that history.”

Fox was also pleased with FDA as the theatre consultant for

this project. “Josh has a real love for this Broadway typology,” says

Fox. “It helped us understand what portions of it we wanted to

make sure that the new Henry Miller’s Theatre had and what parts

of it were unique to style and not necessarily relevant any longer.”

Dachs also found the collaboration with Cook+Fox successful,

saying, “We spent a lot of time looking at Broadway theatres so he

could better understand what the architects of those days were

doing that made the room feel the way that it felt. He really got

into the way they were thinking and adapted a contemporary

language to achieve the same ends so you will find a room that is

really warm; intimate and makes you feel very close to the stage.

He spoke old poetry with a contemporary language.”

Fox feels that personally and as a firm, “It was a once in a lifetime

opportunity; very few of us have an opportunity to design a

brand-new Broadway theatre, so we viewed it as an opportunity

to contribute to the theatre community and ideally respecting

Henry Miller’s thoughts.”

Dachs adds: “I am from New York; I grew up going to Broadway

theatres and of course my partner Jules Fisher has spent a fair

amount of time in them too. To have the opportunity to make

a new Broadway theatre—from scratch and yet one that is

completely respectful and understanding of the long-tradition

of Broadway is a great thrill and a great honor. I am absolutely

delighted and very proud of how it has turned out.”

Elements of Adamesque plasterwork have been salvaged and reinstalled in the new theatre. The

dancing muses on the salvaged plasterwork inspired the form of the main public staircases.

dbox for Cook+Fox Architects • November 2009 19

Sound Design


By Bryan Reesman

All photography by Joan Marcus

Modernizing a Classic

With percussion in the box seats and Spanish onstage, Dan Moses Schreier talks

about the new (and old) twists to putting West Side Story onstage

The works of Stephen Sondheim have been undergoing

quite a revival on Broadway lately, from Sweeney

Todd to Company and now West Side Story. While

all those shows are major works, the latter musical is a

landmark theatre classic that has always electrified audiences

with its urban Romeo and Juliet tale. So when it was

announced that the show was being reintroduced to the

Great White Way after nearly 30 years, with two famous

songs that would feature lyrics sung in Spanish, many

eyebrows raised up; some in intrigue, others in concern.

Not to worry. This energetic incarnation of West Side

Story is well acted, well choreographed and well staged,

and it’s actually a bit grittier than previous versions.

While the Spanish lyrics have now been excised, they did

work during their time in the production, which received

a massive standing ovation when I witnessed it. (Of

course, I know Spanish, so it was certainly easier for me to

go with the flow.) And the show certainly has attracted a

lot of high profile patrons. The night we were there, Billy

Crystal and Steven Spielberg, not even aware of each other’s

presence initially, were seated right in front of us.

After witnessing the onstage spectacle, Stage Directions

tracked down sound designer Dan Moses Schreir, who

has worked on many recent Sondheim revivals, to get the

inside story of this acclaimed new production.

Stage Directions: I noticed that West Side Story is not

overly loud like many current Broadway shows. There

is nice range of dynamics, but nothing hits you over

the head. What was your sonic philosophy in designing

this show? Were you given an edict at all by the

producers about

which approach to


D a n M o s e s

Schreier: The

dynamic range of

the show is specifically

written into the

score by Leonard

Bernstein. I spent a

lot of time studying

the full score going

into production, and

Dan Moses Schreier at rest

I wanted the sound

design to reflect

what is written in the score. West Side Story is a true

hybrid—it is a crossbreeding of many musical forces,

specifically classical, jazz and Latin music all existing in

the traditions of the American musicals of the 1950s. The

score is remarkable on so many levels. My approach was

to honor its classical traditions and yet still bring it into

the modern era of sound design.

How do you feel you modernized the sound design of

West Side Story?

The original production had no microphones on the

orchestra and area mics for the actors/singers. The technology

has changed so the approach to the sound design

has changed. The history of music coincides with the

history of the technology of music. Every since Les Paul

invented the electric guitar, many things have changed.

20 November 2009 •

What types of mics and transmitters were you using for the


Sennheiser SK5212 transmitters with Sennheiser EM3532

receivers. I am using a combination of DPA 4061 and Sennheiser

MKE-1 microphones.

How many of the cast members are double miked?

Five of the principles are double miked. My biggest concerns

were for the actors who had the most dancing and then

had to sing, like Anita in “America” and Riff in “Cool.” The dancing

is incredibly demanding and sweat outs were an issue.

Did you use any foot mics at all? Were all the finger snaps

in “Cool” captured through the actor's mics?

The snaps are mostly captured through the actors' mics,

except at the top of the show where Riff is wearing a wireless

on his waist to get his solo snaps during the beginning of “The


The complex dances and number of swing dancers who rotate through the show keep FOH mixer Lucas Indelicato on his toes. • November 2009 21

Sound Design

A moment from West Side Story

How large was the orchestra and how did you mic them?

There are 29 musicians for West Side Story, which is very

large by today's standards. The orchestra is primarily miked by

Scheops CMC4 and CMC21 microphones. My approach was

to make the orchestra sound as acoustic as possible. There are

some moments, like the prelude to “One Hand, One Heart,”

where the orchestra is entirely acoustic. Some of the dance

numbers like “The Rumble” and “The Prologue” have a slightly

“larger” sound. It is also interesting to noteethat the entire

orchestra does not fit into the pit. It was Stephen Sondheim who

told me that when they originally did the show on Broadway,

the percussion was put into the mezzanine boxes house right

and left. Keeping to the classical model, it was great being able

to use the acoustic power of the percussion section. The percussion

plays such an enormous role in the score. It was a much

better solution than putting them in a dressing room on the 7th

floor of the theatre.

What were the main audio issues in having the percussionists

perform in the mezzanine boxes?

The important issues were getting the timing issues right

so that the orchestra sounded like a cohesive ensemble and

then to get the internal balances with the orchestra right.

I noticed you miked each percussionist with several mics.

How much of a challenge is that to mix?

Once the levels were set during the sound check during

the preview period, those levels did not change. The dynamics

are provided by the musicians.

Did the gang rumble at the end of Act I present any challenges,

particularly given that the actors were pushing

each other and rolling around?

The most complicated aspect of “The Rumble” was keeping

the detail of the orchestrations and the music the primary

focus, while at the same time getting the right balances

between the actors and their ad libs. It was not so much the

rolling around that presented problems, but it took a while

to figure out how to get the actors’ ad libs consistently in the


How has your live engineer performed so far during the

show's run?

Lucas Indelicato is our production sound engineer, and he

is doing a terrific job keeping up with the heavy demands of

the production. The instruction to have the actors ad lib during

the show has been one of the biggest challenges to mix every

night, and it really keeps Lucas on his toes. There are also many

swings who go into the show because of the complexity of the

dances. Lucas has a lot of work to keep up with the constant

shifts in the company to keep the mix consistent.

22 November 2009 •

“Sweat outs” were a big problem on actors’ mics thanks to the strenuous choreography the show required.

Was there anything new that you learned on this show?

I decided to use Studer's Vista 5 console for West Side Story after

a very long deliberation. This is the first time a have used a digital

console for a large Broadway musical. I have resisted using digital

consoles for my shows for many reasons, but I finally have found a

digital console that meets my demands in audio quality and that

could handle a show of this size with relative ease.

To get a chance to work on this production with book writer

Arthur Laurents and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, two of the original

creators of the piece, was an incredible honor and joy. No matter

what the pressures are while working on such an iconic musical, I

have learned to savor these moments in the theatre.

What was it like working with Sondheim and Laurents?

Demanding and fulfilling. It is a great thrill to be working with

the best. I had just finished designing Gypsy with Arthur when he

asked me to work on West Side Story, and I had recently completed

work on Steve's new musical, Road Show. I have also designed

many of Sondheim's recent Broadway revivals, so there was a lot

of history going into this production

Feature By Kevin M. Mitchell


High School Programs That Rock

Readers cite great programs in six regions in North America

The second annual Stage Directions High School Theatre

Honors Program has once again yielded some exciting

results from five U.S. regions and Canada. The mix is varied:

public and private institutions; big and not-so-big cities. Some are

very active in competitions, and others prefer to focus energies


Common threads do exist. “We don’t do high school theatre—

we do the best possible theatre with high school students,” says

Lori Sessions of J.P. Taravella High School, seemingly speaking

about all the programs. Another commonality is the passion of

those helming these programs: “It’s quite a bit of my life,” says

Matthew DeMerrit of Valley Christian. “It’s a wonderful program

and I do have fun doing it.”


Bromfield School, Harvard, Mass.

Michael McGarty

hails from a theatre

family that traces

their roots to their


who came over from

Ireland to work on

Buffalo Bill’s Wild

West show. Every

Students perform in the spring ‘09 production of generation since has

Peter Pan at the Bromfield School

worked on

Broadway, mostly

backstage, and today McGarty has a brother working on Hamlet

and another working on Billy Elliot. “I’m the only one that got away

from Broadway,” he laughs.

Since 1976 he’s been both in charge of the school’s program

and artistic director of the Harvard Community Theater. The town

itself has a population of around 6,000 people, and the school

has just under 1,000 students. It’s a public school that caters to

grades 6 through 12. The theatre seats 650 and was built in 1990.

“They did a good job supplying us with the technical aspects we

needed,” he says. “Around 10 years ago we replaced the old lighting

board with an ETC Express 24/48 Board.”

The program offers beginning and advanced acting, a technical

design class and choral classes. “We’re really good at working

with the music department—we all get along really well, which

is unusual!” he laughs. Last year’s productions included London

Suite, Misconceptions (a new play by Mejjacka Del Marcca) and

Peter Pan.

“For Peter Pan, Flying by Foy was brought in, and the kids had

a blast,” says McGarty.

The school is also the location of the Massachusetts High

School Drama Guild Festival, where 125 schools compete with

their one acts at three different levels. This year's productions

include Defying Gravity, with a musical to be named later. Once a

year, they also turn their stage into a black box and do 10-minute

plays that allow the students more experience acting, directing

and writing.

A recent production by the community theatre was The Mistress

Cycle, by alumni Jenny Giering, an up-and-coming composer on

Broadway. While created for five women, one high school student

was talented enough to perform in it. “That’s not the first time kids

have been part of one of their productions,” he says, citing Little

Shop of Horrors and 110 in the Shade as other examples of students

getting to work with adults. “It works out beautifully.”

The program has won many honors and awards, including

several from the festival including for their production of Acts &

Contrition (2002 Winner). Other honors include the 2002 EMACT

Best Production for ‘night Mother (2002); and 2003 Winner of the

Boston Globe State Drama Festival, among others.


J.P. Taravella High School, Coral Springs, Fla.

Lori Sessions literally

knows what it’s like

for her kids in her

theatre department—after


she’s an alumna herself.

After she graduated

from the high

school, she went to

The cast of J.P. Taravella High School’s Brigadoon Florida State

University and got a

degree in Theatre

and a Master’s in Education. In 1993, she returned as an instructor.

She cites her beginning years as being important to any success:

Supportive administrators allowed her to moonlight as a professional

in area theatres (including a technical internship at the Flat

Rock Playhouse). This allowed her further learning experiences.

J.P. Taravella High School is found in a western suburb of Fort

Lauderdale, Fla. The school itself has 3,000 students, and it offers

a comprehensive theatre program aimed toward those who want

to pursue a career in the arts. They offer an intro to theatre class,

a drama II class and an acting class. Also available is a musical theatre

and a stagecraft course.

“I teach all of those!” Sessions laughs.

Sessions and her students pull off six to seven productions a

year: a big musical, a musical revue, a main stage play, a one-act

for competition, an evening of one-acts which students direct, a

student-produced festival and a children’s play for local schools.

They compete in the state’s Thespian Society’s festival, which is

the largest in the world, drawing 5,000 students.

While some of sets are professionally designed, the students

build them all. Their current show, Curtains, requires more than

200 costumes, many of which are coming from the school’s fashion

design class. Other shows on the slate for this year include

Sam Shepard’s Icarus’s Mother, The Seussification of Romeo and

Juliet, and a play featuring all 208 characters from the Brothers

Grimm’s fairytales. Last year’s productions include A Doll’s House

and Brigadoon.

“We try to give them challenging work, but also a variety,” says


She has started a Florida chapter of the Critics and Awards

Program (CAPPIES), which she says is very rewarding. In addition

24 November 2009 •

to placement in the a Florida State Thespians’ competition, in 2005

Sessions won the Broward County Teacher of the Year Award.

The students are treated like professionals: they sign a contract

pledging themselves to a schedule worked out way in advance.

“We try to drive home the commitment necessary,” says

Sessions. “I have a really high expectation of all the students and

they never fail me—they always meet it or rise above it.”


Hilliard Davidson High School, Columbus, Ohio

Music Man at the Hilliard Davidson High School

Diana Vance is “Ohio

bred,” and came to

Columbus as a college

student. She

holds a B.S. in

Education, a B.A. in

Theater, and an M.A.

in Theater from Ohio

State University. It’s

her 35 th year at

Hilliard, and she’s

department chair of a team that includes Trace Crawford, who

handles the acting and directing classes while Vance teaches the

technical classes. They offer Acting I, II and III and a directing class,

plus a beginning and advanced theatrical design/production


Hilliard has for a long time been one of the fastest growing

schools in the state. When Vance started, the school had

1,000 students in one high school; today the district boasts

three high schools for a total of 5,300 students. It appears to

give Vance pleasure to report that several key people in the

other schools’ drama department are in fact graduates of her

program (including her son). “I’m unofficially mentoring some

past graduates,” she says. “A lot of what we’ve accomplished

collectively is the result of being able to band together.”

The community has changed a lot, too: Predominantly

farm families in the beginnings, professors from the nearby

college also came to call the area home. Vance says they’ve

benefited from both demographics: “Everything really centered

around the school, and all the parents wanted to have

really excellent art programs.”

Vance is also quick to give credit to her predecessor: The

man who held her position prior was Dick Berman, who went

to be Ron Howard’s agent and producer of the Grumpy Old

Men movies, among others. “He did these phenomenal productions,

so when I came, the community was used to that.”

They like to start the season with a children’s show—this

year it’s Stuart Little.

“The earlier younger kids see live theatre, the more likely

they will become members and participants,” comments

Vance. Then an evening of improv, followed by a comedy.

This year it’s Fools. The winter warrants two productions, one

just for the ninth and tenth graders (Almost Maine), another

just for the eleventh and twelfth (Radium Girls). More special

event/improv shows lead up to the big musical: Wizard of



In 2010, they will get to take 18 students to the Edinburgh

Festival, their fourth invitation there since 1998. They’ve also

received honors from the Kennedy Center and the Educational

Theatre Association Hall of Fame. Vance has received the Ohio

Theatre Alliance Lifetime Achievement award.


Roosevelt High School, Seattle, Wash.

Ruben Van

Kempen has

stacked up a few

honors: He is the

recipient of the

2004 Butch Blum

Award of

Roosevelt High’s And Then They Came for Me:

Remembering the World of Anne Frank was produced

at the 2007 International Thespian Show.

Excellence, the

2000 Christa

M c A u l i f f e

Washington Award

for Excellence in

Education and the

1986 Seattle Excellence in Education Award. He has seen

former students perform on Broadway in Curtains, Chicago,

Thoroughly Modern Millie, A Chorus Line and Lennon, among


Holland-born Van Kempen immigrated with his family to

Seattle when he was 10, and early on was inspired to pursue

theatre. He acted throughout high school, and received a

degree from the University of Washington in Acting/Direction

with an emphasis in Musical Theatre. He performed for a few

years before realizing he really wanted to teach. He’s been at

Roosevelt since 1979.

Today the public school has 1,650 students and is a high

academic school with a strong performing arts component.

Built in 1922, they shut the school down in 2004 for a major

renovation that tossed the program out the streets for two

years. In 2006, it was reopened with a brand new 720-seat

theatre with a 36-foot proscenium, 40-foot deep stage, a full

orchestra pit, a fly gallery as well as scene and costume shops.

The program offers Acting I through VII, plus a tech class in the

fall and two in the spring—to serve the big spring musical.

The first major event of their year is a one-act play festival

featuring the work of student directors, which features 10–13

one-act plays.

“Professional actors and directors are brought in to adjudicate,”

he says. There are residency programs, one with the

Seattle Rep and one in playwriting. Another program guides

students through adapting short stories into performance art.

“In the winter months, we do two straight plays,” Van

Kempen says. “This year they will be She Stoops to Conquer and

The Importance of Being Ernest. This is followed by the musical

that typically casts around 65 students.” They’re also adding

a second musical in the fall and early winter this year: White


The program has garnered international acclaim with their

production of And Then They Came for Me: Remembering the

World of Anne Frank. Frank’s stepsister, Eva Schloss, flew in

for their production, which was also done at the International

Thespian show in 2007.


Valley Christian High School, San Jose, Calif.

Mathew DeMerritt

is likely the youngest

in this circle of

honorees: He’s

only been at Valley

Christian since

2002. He moved

here to teach after

earning a B.A. in

Valley Christian High School built a turntable for Theatre from

their production of Les Misérables.

South Dakota

State University. He had been on tour performing and

directing when he got the unexpected call.

“I jumped at the opportunity to come to a school that

placed high importance on their artistic program,” he says.

“One of the greatest things about the past six years, while

everyone else is cutting programs and funding, we’ve

added. Just this year we’ve added an additional production

onto our season this year. And we have a fantastic


Valley Christian is a private Christian high school with

two campuses serving students K-12. They put on three

main stage shows a year, plus offer a summer program

involving 100 students. There’s the musical, a full-length

student directed show in the late spring, two junior high

productions, two elementary productions and two dance

programs. Students can engage in an intensive training

program and either major or minor in the arts, and create

an area of emphasis in theatre arts. “Students design

shows, direct, construct, work behind and in front of the

camera—we really put it all in the hands of the students.”

Full time tech director Donny Fugate manages the theatre

space—including a 1,600 square-foot scene shop the

school recently added.

“Right now, looking out my office, I see the kids are

assembling a turntable on our stage,” he says. “They construct

wood, weld, fabricate, hang the lights, focus and

design every area of production.”

The Importance of Being Ernest was a recent production,

with The Crucible coming up next. The spring musical is

going to be Singin’ in the Rain.

“That’ll be a little daunting,” DeMerritt confesses. “We

haven’t tried to make it rain on a show before. But then

again, we never built a turntable before last year’s Les Miz.”

DeMerritt seems especially proud of the summer theatre

program, which is open to kids 7–16 years old throughout

the San Francisco Bay area. They just did Aladdin Junior

and are next doing Wizard of Oz. They’ve received honors

for their 2007 Thoroughly Modern Millie and other awards,

“but the main focus in not to be in competitive awardsbased

programs,” he says. “We don’t compete in programs

generally. We focus on the program.”

“Our motto is the quest for excellence,” says DeMerritt.

“Whatever we do, we’re going to it in the best possible

way we can. We measure our program against the best in

the country, and constantly try to improve on the models

out there.”

26 November 2009 •


Victoria School of Performing and Visual Arts,

Edmonton, Alberta

“Wow,” exclaims Greg

Dowler-Coltman on

receiving the news

that SD had selected

his program as the

best in Canada. “What

a wonderful bit of

news to get after

coming home from a

Victoria School’s production of The Laramie Project first rehearsal for

White Christmas!”

Dowler-Coltman is from the Edmonton area, and received

his B.F.A. in acting at the University of Alberta. Soon he was

doing more directing then acting, working with several professional

companies. Next he was drawn to teaching. He’s been at

Victoria since 1998, and heads a staff of five, the newest member

a former graduate of the program.

The school itself is one of the oldest in the city, and in 1986 it

was turned into an arts program school. The total school population

is 1,700, but that’s includes grades K-12. It’s International

Baccalaureate recognized and has high academic standards.

“One aspect we celebrate is the opportunity to explore different

arts,” says Dowler-Coltman. “Our kids can keep a foot in

dance and choral, for example. They can pursue more than one


The high school is for grades 10 through 12, and an audition

is required to be allowed into the arts program. The

theatre program offers different levels of acting, performance

ensemble, improvisation and technical studies. Directing and

playwriting is also part of the offerings. “We also host Playworks, an

annual festival of 28 one-act plays.”

The theatre itself seats 700, and “is really the jewel of the program

with state-of-the-art audio and lighting systems. Professional lighting

designers come in and mentor the kids, but the kids do the work.”

Last year’s efforts include My Fair Lady and The Village of Idiots.

This year, besides White Christmas, they will be doing Arthur Miller’s

American Clock. Added to that are several integrated showcases

and smaller events. One is called “Inspire” which is a collaboration

between the band and theatre departments where students will be

presenting inspirational speeches throughout history set to music.

“We’re also blessed with a local arts community that has embraced

our kids and we’ve had fabulous partnerships,” Dowler-Coltman

says, adding that the town’s biggest professional theatre, the Citadel,

has turned to his program for performers in shows like Oliver!. The

community regularly raises hundreds of thousands of dollars to

make scholarship money available to their students and have master

classes with Broadway stars held on their campus.

They’ve done well in the CAPPIES, though “we’ve elected not to

compete too much because our kids are so busy with our own productions

and the festival.”

“The lovely thing is that we make a big enough impression on

these kids that they want to stay in touch with us and see how they

can contribute,” adds Dowler-Coltman. “That’s a testimonial.”

Feature By Jacob Coakley


Room to Grow

Developing plays and playwrights.


Sara Jessup

Dramaturg John Baker, playwright Duane Kelly and director Christopher Curry rehearsing for the sit-down reading of The Thing with Feathers at the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference.

Playwrights conferences, festivals or workshops

are more important now than ever,

as their small size and low overhead allow

them to take risks and seek out new playwrights

and fresh voices. While a large regional theatre

may only be able to extend one slot per year to a

new or emerging playwright, these festivals help

ensure that new works have a place to grow.

“It’s kind of like this funny, two-edged sword in

a way,” says Amy Mueller, artistic director of the

Playwrights Foundation in San Francisco. “Because

of the recession and various other reasons, people

have become much more conservative with what

they’re producing. At the same time, there’s a

huge amount of interest in new writers. So they’re

often attached to various theatres in various ways,

but not necessarily getting produced.”

But festivals provide a deeper service than just

developing plays, allowing artists to have a place

to improve their craft and develop as artists.

“It’s difficult to find development situ- com


For full transcripts of the interviews with Amy

Mueller of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival and

Jeni Mahoney of Seven Devils—and to share your

experiences at these or other conferences—head

over to


28 November 2009 •

“If we don’t break the copy machine every week in the summer people

aren’t working hard enough.” — Amy Mueller

ations that are purely interested in the

development of writers for the sake of

developing writers, because, ultimately, theatres

have to ultimately be interested in

productions and making money,” explains

Jeni Mahoney, artistic director of the Seven

Devils Playwrights Conference.

Over the next couple of months I’ll take a

closer look at some of the festivals out there,

diving into what makes them unique, and

what you can expect if you get accepted.

I’ll start this month with a look at

the Bay Area Playwrights Festival in San

Francisco, Calif., and the Seven Devils

Playwrights Conference in McCall, Idaho.

The Playwrights Foundation

The Playwrights Foundation in San

Francisco, Calif., has many programs to help

writers develop their plays and their career,

but the centerpiece of their mission is the

Bay Area Playwrights Festival. Founded in

1976 by Robert Woodruff, the Festival was

started as a way to popularize Bay Area

playwrights who were experiencing success

internationally but less here in the States.

“Robert was working with Sam Shepard

at the time and Sam Shepard couldn’t get a

phone call back,” says Mueller, current artistic

director of the program. “So, Robert identified

him and several other writers who lived

here as extraordinary voices and talents, and

decided to create a festival of new plays that

would help to both get those plays up on

their feet and created, and premiered, and

also to shine a light on those writers to the

larger theatre community.”

For the first years of the Fest it was a full

producing organization—Woodruff would

bring in writers, directors, actors and designers,

sometimes with a script, sometimes with

just an idea for a show, and the artists would

collaborate to create a show during the

Fest. After 10 years, though, the main funding

organization, which was based in Marin

County, north of San Francisco, stopped

funding the Fest because it didn’t actually

produce in Marin County. They were forced

to radically change, and decided to “really

focus on the writing and on the most essential

ingredients of a production, which is the

actor and director. The Bay Area Playwrights

Festival morphed into a staged reading festival

of brand new plays,” says Mueller.

The idea of collaboration still takes centerstage

at BAPF, though, as they focus on

the collaborative process of getting a play

on its feet as the next step in the writing of

the play. They spend a great deal of energy

and thought matching playwrights with the

right directors, dramaturgs and actors to

bring the work to life.

“They’re there to illuminate the play,

every moment of the play, so that the playwright

can feel it, see it, hear it and also get

direct feedback,” says Mueller.

To augment this the process at the

BAPF starts with a three-day retreat with all

the staff. The play gets read out loud and

discussed in this artistic think tank. Next

comes a week of rehearsals and a public

reading. This is followed by another week

of rehearsal with time for re-writing. A lot

of re-writing.

“If we don’t break the copy machine

every week in the summer people aren’t • November 2009 29


working hard enough,” jokes Mueller. This is followed by a second

public staged reading.

“It’s a layered process where the writer really gets to dive deep,”

notes Mueller.

After years of reading 500-600 submissions all the way through,

the Playwrights Foundation decided they wanted to work more with

some of the plays that didn’t make it to the festival itself, and so have

developed more services to help playwrights at various stages in their

careers and at various stages of a play’s development.

Their Rough Reading Series is aimed at mid-career playwrights that


That idea of protecting the playwright’s voice is central to the

Foundation’s philosophy, since a unique voice is what they’re

most interested in.

“It’s not so much a crazy, wild, unique, out-there, never-heardbefore

kind of thing, when I say that it’s a unique voice—but

there’s something about the individual writer that is there on the

page,” explains Mueller. “They’re not trying to imitate what they

think of as the well-made play. They have a unique perspective,

and a unique writing voice that stands out.”

Richard Ciccarone

Robert Parsons and others in the 2009 Bay Area Playwrights Festival production of Anomienaulis by Christopher Chen

“We don’t want them to feel like they’re going to be judged by a bunch of

literary managers.” — Jeni Mahoney

can handle working on a first draft in front of an audience. Writers are

paired with a director and actors who are given about eight hours

of rehearsal time before a public reading. The Foundation produces

eight of these each year between November and May.

Another program they offer is the Producing Partnership Initiative.

“That program really is about the connection between writers and

people who can produce them,” says Mueller. The Foundation acts in

several capacities in this program, including co-commissioning a work

from a writer they’ve worked with before, usually with a producer

in the Bay Area, offering them developmental resources including

rehearsal space, actors, a travel fund, housing and other resources that

smaller theatres don’t have access to. They’ve also gone a step further

and acted as co-producer on some productions with local Bay Area

theatres such as the Cutting Ball and Fool’s Fury.

Lastly, they’ve also started a residency program and invited six

writers to call the Foundation home, giving them space to meet

every three weeks and a staff dramaturg to meet with them and

develop their work.

“It’s a non-judgmental environment, where the playwright is

at the center of the conversation” explains Mueller. “Their work is

at the center of the project, as opposed to looking at it from an

outsider’s perspective, where you’d hear things like, ‘Oh, that’s

unproduceable.’ Or: ‘Really, if you did this it would be so much

But just to keep writers on their toes, Mueller adds that there’s

more she needs, too: “I also really look for a playwright who can

handle maintaining a sense of mystery in a play. Not mystery as in a

mystery story, necessarily—although that’s fine, too—but mystery in

the sense that they’re not telling you everything. That the playwright

understands that there’s an audience there that’s bringing themselves

to the play, and that they need to do some work, they need to

figure things out for themselves.”

Seven Devils Playwrights Conference

While Woodruff started the BAPF specifically to shine a light on Bay

Area playwrights, the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference in McCall,

Idaho, is less interested in promoting playwrights as much as they are

interested in advancing a playwright’s craft.

“I think we really started out with the faith that if we really helped

people make their plays stronger, their plays would do better,” says

Jeni Mahoney, artistic director of the Conference (and co-artistic director

along with Sheila McDevitt of id theater). “And I think it has proven

itself to be true to an extent now, where having been at Seven Devils

means something.”

What it means to Mahoney is that in order to keep the focus solely on

helping to improve the play—as opposed to judging a play on its prospective

production possibilities—Seven Devils never produces plays.

30 November 2009 •

“We never produce,” says Mahoney. “Because I think it’s

a human thing—if you’re going to produce eventually, then

you’re looking for plays that you can produce.”

What this means, though, is that in the current theatrical

landscape it’s hard for a playwright just starting out to get the

kind of help they need to really develop as an artist. If every

theatre is judging a play based on how produceable a show it

may be, then that play is never truly evaluated on its own merits

as a piece of art. And in order to keep the focus on the art

side of the equation, Seven Devils doesn’t produce, because

the sense of where they believe they are,” says Mahoney. After

10 years she says she’s gotten a good sense of what they are

able to accomplish in the time they have to work on a play,

and what they can offer a playwright.

“We don’t want to do plays where the problem is so big

we’re not going to help, where we’re just going to make it

worse,” explains Mahoney. “Sometimes you have to talk for

a little while to get a sense of what they really believe about

the play—not what everybody else told them they should do.

And that’s difficult, because people tell you how to fix your

Sara Jessup

Daveed Diggs (left) and Nicole Lungerhausen in Greg Beuthin’s A Time

Upon at the 2008 Bay Area Playwrights Festival.

Mary Portser and Bobby Moreno in the staged reading of Idaho/Dead Idaho at the Seven Devils Playwrights Conference

they don’t want to get caught up in the idea of having to sell

something. During the conference they offer four fully-staged

readings (props, lights, etc.), and between two to four table

readings. All the readings are completely free to the public—

no tickets are sold.

“It’s all free of charge,” says Mahoney. “This is how serious

we are about not producing—everything’s free.”

Such an attitude is only possible thanks to the strong support

of the McCall community. While the Conference receives

support from the N.E.A. and the Idaho Commission on the

Arts, as well as from the A.K. Starr charitable trust, they receive

most of their support from the town of McCall itself.

“They house everybody,” explains Mahoney. “We have

our theatre space for free, all our rehearsal space is free.

Community businesses give us coupons for food. They really

take good care of us and that helps a lot.” In turn, Mahoney

passes this altruism on to every playwright that comes in

contact with Seven Devils. Full scripts are read cover to cover

multiple times; a low submission fee makes the festival more

accessible to playwrights and goes directly and completely

to the readers. When the pool is down to 16-20 finalists,

Mahoney and McDevitt hash out what can physically be done

in order to best serve the plays. While this is going on they

are also interviewing the playwrights, asking them what they

want to get out of the Conference.

“We ask them to basically tell us what they’re interested in

working on, and usually by asking them that we kind of get

play. What we really try to do is try to not tell people how to

fix their play, but try to actually figure out how to talk to them

about what they want the play to be, and how to get it to that

place.” Once they know the destination, they can help the

writer get there.

That destination is reached through an intense period of

rehearsals. The staged readings have a week of rehearsals:

(two days on, one day off, two days on) and they move fast.

The sit down readings will share actors—one group of actors

for two plays, generally—and these readings are shaped more

like getting ready for a rehearsal as opposed to being a show.

“We try and do it as if—for the actors and the director and

everybody—we’re talking about it as if the next day is going

to be the first ‘on their feet’ rehearsal.”

Playwrights are encouraged to rewrite as much as they like

and new pages are brought in constantly.

Even within this intense environment, though, Mahoney

says that the idea is to take the pressure off of the playwright.

“We don’t want them to feel like they’re going to be judged

by a bunch of literary managers, people looking for plays to

do,” she says. (They have a reading series in New York City if

that sort of exposure is what a writer wants.) “We try to make

it really like a dialogue with the community of the conference

and the community of McCall, Idaho.”

That dialogue leads to an improved play, which should be

able to generate good word of mouth all on its own. • November 2009 31

Special Section: Special Effects

Hair-Raising Wigs

Wig designer Tom Watson talks craft and hairspray

on Broadway’s Rock of Ages

The fun and nostalgic ‘80s flashback that is Rock Of Ages

has become a pop culture phenomenon on Broadway.

The jukebox musical—about a would-rocker named Drew

and a would-be actress named Sherrie who go to L.A. to chase

their dreams, only to learn the harsh and seedy realities of

Hollywood life (through song, of course)—surprised some by

gathering five Tony nominations. Star Constantine Maroulis has

signed on through early 2010. The tongue-in-cheek show has

inspired guest appearances (notably, Styx’s Tommy Shaw and

By Bryan Reesman

For Watson, studying ‘80s hairstyles was the key to his

success with Rock Of Ages. His extensive knowledge of hair

allowed him to draw parallels to other eras; in this case, the

English Restoration of the 15 th Century, “where they had all

that crazy, big, long, wild hair,” Watson observes. “It's all really

been done. The ‘80s could be Restoration, although it does

have its own modern look, but has the same big hair, layered,

lots of curls. A lot of energy went into it.” That energy certainly

translates onstage.

All photography by Joan Marcus

The wig of Stacie Jaxx (played by James Carpinello, shown here) features four different colors and

even dyed roots, for true verisimilitude.

The actresses’ wigs in Rock of Ages have a little bit of room in front to show the

actresses’ real hair.

“All of those wigs are totally hand tied. Each one takes about

35 to 40 hours to make.” —Tom Watson

REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin) and a few after show parties at

the neighboring China Club where Twisted Sister, Extreme guitarist

Nuno Bettencourt and former Poison guitarist Richie Kotzen

have appeared. There are some fans who have seen the show

repeatedly; one claiming 75 times.

One of the most fun aspects of the production is the hair—

those gloriously long, often spiky or curly manes that were the

signature of Sunset Strip rockers back in the heyday of the L.A.

glam scene. What is impressive is that not only does everything

feel authentic, but that nearly the entire cast is wigged. Given that

fact, it’s even more surprising to learn that hair and wig designer

Tom Watson, despite having over 40 Broadway and Off-Broadway

credits, comes from the opera world, where he has resided for

nearly 30 years. His company works on over 60 theatrical productions

per year, with 27 of them being at the Metropolitan Opera,

where he is the head of the wig department.

Stage Directions: Rock of Ages is a fun show. I've seen it a

couple of times. I have some friends who've gone many


Tom Watson: It seems to have a certain person it appeals

to. In the ‘80s I was already working in opera, so I didn't know

lot about big hair bands. I had to treat it like a period piece and

did research. When I saw the images I certainly knew what they

were talking about, but when they were mentioning these

groups I had no idea what they were talking about. I did have

to approach it like you would a period piece because the ‘80s

is now period—the fashion and hair and all that.

Obviously a lot of the actors in Rock Of Ages are wearing

wigs, because when you see the Playbill photo of the actor

playing Dennis the club owner, he clearly does not have

long hair. How many of them are wigged?

32 November 2009 •

The only cast people that don't have long hair are the

two conservative German guys. Lonny’s little mullet is a wig.

Nearly everybody is wigged. The band is wigged. Two of the

band guys and then one of the cover band guys. They have

very contemporary looks, and we just wanted to give them

that bit of an edge. Henry, the guy on keyboards, wears a wig

and looks pretty great actually.

All of those wigs are totally hand tied. Each one takes

about 35 to 40 hours to make. For the one we did for blonde

bad boy Stacee Jaxx, we dyed the roots. It probably has about

four different colors in it. You can't just buy hair with roots, so

you have to dye the roots. It takes time, and there's a lot of

after about three months. That's another reason why there’s

that little bit of hair that we blend into the wig. They're nearly

all wigs.

How much work do you have to put into maintaining

them? How many times have you redone wigs?

There are two people on the hair crew, and they go

in maybe three hours every day to touch things up.

The Sherrie wigs are redone for every show, and for

the ensemble maybe two or three times a week they’re

pumped up, and we use a lot of Aqua Net. That holds for

a while.

“There’s a lot of teasing, hot irons and crimping irons in all of those

styles, and for somebody to do that to their own hair eight times a

week, it would be fried after about three months.” —Tom Watson

Nearly everyone in the cast of Rock of Ages wears a wig, which must be maintained daily.

thought that goes into it. The biggest compliment is if you

come away thinking that there weren't that many wigs in it.

That's always the goal. The original Stacee Jaxx was different

off-Broadway, and I suppose if you saw the image of him you

would think they were the same, but with the way that things

are cut each face is taken into consideration and what suits

them. It just isn’t a rubber stamp. Each of the girls has a different

look, something that suits them.

How many of the women are wearing wigs, and how

many of them just have their hair teased up?

Most of the girls in the ensemble have pieces or wigs, but

the only part of their own hair is about a half-inch of the front.

We pull that bit of their hair because honestly they work it

so much and are so active—the dancing is so physical, and

the front can be the most delicate part—and because of the

action we decided to go with almost a full wig but the very

front bit is their own hair. There’s a lot of teasing, hot irons

and crimping irons in all of those styles, and for somebody to

do that to their own hair eight times a week, it would be fried

So you're hoping to keep Aqua Net in business with this


And all my other shows. I love Aqua Net.

How much time does it take to get each cast member

ready every night?

Part of the technical rehearsal process is figuring it

out so we can get everybody ready within a half hour.

That's another reason for wigs—it's just something that’s

plopped on. So the girls prep themselves, and then we

come in and put the wigs on. Our work is maybe three

or four minutes per person. It has to be very fast. They’re

at the theatre so much, not to mention rehearsing new

people and stand ins. You can only expect them to come

for a half-hour, so we take all of that into consideration

in the beginning because we just can't call people in two

hours before a show eight times a week. Everybody gets

tops five minutes, including Sherrie and Stacee. It's down

to a routine, and it's a routine that most actors like to keep.

We don't ever just change it. • November 2009 33

Special Section: Special Effects

Water Works

How to design and tech water SFX of every kind, for any show. By Lisa Mulcahy

Including a water effect in your show certainly adds a dash

of the spectacular, but in order to safely include this effect

you’ll need to make sure you’re covered in four crucial

areas: basic set-up/execution techniques for your space;

ease of utilization when it comes to actors working with the

wet stuff; teamwork to ensure a fantastic SFX end result; and

above all, safety measures that will fully protect your personnel.

Design and Delivery

Your first steps in planning any water effect have to be

logistical. Whether you’re dealing with a drizzle or a flood, it’s

essential to know where you’re going to hold your water supply,

how you’re going to immerse the stage, and how you’re

going to remove water from the stage without damaging

your set pieces or, worst case scenario, your space itself.

“Assuming real water in a rain effect, the designer would

have to take into account the delivery system—pumps, piping,

overhead nozzles and a water collection system,” says

Jeff Wade, CEO of Back Stage Technologies, Inc. in Winter

“In regard to water collection,

making it rain is the first part of

the challenge. What happens to

the water once it hits the stage?”

—Gregory Meeh

Water Sculptures, a U.K. firm, designed the rain storm from last season’s Mary Stuart on Broadway.

More than 400 gallons of water was purified with UV light before raining down each night.

Joan Marcus

Garden, Fla. “On the other hand, rain has been known to be

produced without water, using scrims, screens, projections or

a special type of plastic string.”

Knowing your venue’s structural limitations is extremely

important—if your flooring is weak, for instance, your stage

may not be able to support or store water even minimally.

“Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon, so even a small water

tank will be very heavy,” warns Greg Meeh, founder and

president of Jauchem & Meeh Special Effects in Brooklyn, NY.

“I highly recommend gravity feed if it can be managed. This

requires a weight bearing tank location.”

It is tremendously helpful to consult a scenic specialist who

is familiar with water delivery SFX before you decide how to

plan your specific water SFX. Even if you think your venue is

sturdy, ask your expert to analyze every angle of your stage,

your backstage/wing space and underfloor space to ensure

this is indeed the case. Once you get the go-ahead, your crew

should waterproof the stage area completely—sealing spaces,

slats and floor seams, and putting down an appropriate

temporary stage surface, such as linoleum. In terms of actual

34 November 2009 •

water supply, how well your effect will ultimately work has

everything to do with how much pressure you have at hand.

For small SFX, such as a light rain shower, tapping into the city

water feed will probably do fine, but larger volume SFX will

probably require a pump and tank or barrel. Pipes and spray

heads or sprinklers can be set at virtually any point onstage—

again, when it comes to placement, your consultant can be

a great resource, and should work with your set designer to

guarantee the best-looking water flow areas.

Then there’s the essential matter of directing, and collecting,

the water you use.

“In regard to water collection, making it rain is the first part

of the challenge,” Meeh says. “What happens to the water

once it hits the stage? Controlling where the water goes and

collecting it either to drain or for recirculation are essential

elements of an installation. Speaking of recycling, we recirculate

water whenever possible—this requires filtration in addition

to normal water quality treatment.” Any drains and catch

basins you establish should additionally be large enough to

handle your maximum pipe water flow, and your flooring

should be lift on a slight angle to easily allow for dissolution.

Singing (and Acting) in the Rain

Your actors should know from the get-go—preferably,

from auditions—that they’ll be expected to work with water

SFX. Delivering a complex and powerful performance while

drenched from head to toe takes fortitude and preparation.

(Just ask the cast of Titanic.) “Actors need to know how you

plan to execute the water SFX,” says

Wade. “Meet with them, and then

rehearse the scene with the SFX with

all the actors involved.”

It’s amazing how many designers

tend to disregard an actor’s needs when

he or she will be working wet—even in

terms of basic body temperature.

“If actors get wet, the water must

be heated,” says Meeh. “This is not

necessary, though, if actors are wearing

waterproof garments, or carrying

umbrellas and don’t actually get

wet. It’s often necessary to provide a

heated area for performers if they are

wet, however.“ Every drop of water

that touches your performers should

also be scrupulously clean—you don’t

want any wayward bacteria making

your cast sick. Maintain your water

supply with a non-chlorinated water

treatment, and change unfiltered

water consistently.

Training performers as to what to

expect on a wet floor is also crucial.

“Treat the stage surface to improve

traction,” advises Meeh. “Also, directorial

and choreographic considerations

must cover the limitations of working

on a wet surface.” Encourage your

actors to speak up if they’re having

any difficulty, and make adjustments

so they can work most comfortably.

Controlling where water goes is important—the SFX setup for the 2003 Broadway revival of Nine

had to collect water from the infinity pool so it didn’t flood the trap room.

Gregory Meeh • November 2009 35

Special Section: Special Effects

The rain finally comes in 110 In

the Shade with Audra McDonald

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Keeping It Real

Achieving the most true-to-life water

SFX can simply boil down to how well

you communicate, and work with, your

team. “The creative success of water

effects is collaboration,” Meeh stresses.

“Especially with lighting—you can provide

rain onstage, but if it is not lit well it

will be almost invisible. On An Inspector

Calls, designer Rick Fisher dedicated

hundreds of instruments specifically to

lighting the rain, and the results were

stunning. Scenic design also plays an

important role in a successful installation.

On the Broadway revival of Nine,

designer Scott Pask provided a beautifully

tiled watertight pool with fill and

drain ports—that made the effect possible

without flooding the trap room.”

You may have to reconfigure this

kind of complex wet effect numerous

times before it works. Your director

and designers should check eye lines

from every possible angle, and consider

dimension extra-carefully. “For

Broadway’s An Inspector Calls, the production

required a long duration, fullstage

rain effect,”says Meeh. “We supplied

rain in several textures to create

a feeling of density and depth.” Give

each member of your team the chance

to contribute their expertise and opinion

on how the SFX looks, start to finish,

for the best results.

Removing the Risk

Never cut corners when it comes to


“Water and electrticity don’t mix,”

stresses Wade. All equipment must be

safely grounded (consult with a good

electrican), and drill your cast and crew

in common sense (no grabbing a hot

mic with wet hands, please).

Overflow is also a concern, explains

Wade: “Make sure all catch basins have

a grating, and contain all water in the

areas for water—don’t allow water

onstage in a performer’s area, where

he or she might slip unexpectedly.”

Preparation is your best insurance

against problems.

“Simulate an accident such as a spillage,”

suggests Wade. Assign your crew

precise clean-up duties, and dry-run

them several times. This way, safety

will be second nature—and your group

can concentrate on making your SFX,

and show, terrific.

36 November 2009 •

Special Effects


Snow Masters

P.O. Box 250

Lexington, AL 35648

P: 256-229-5551

F: 256-229-5552

W: www.snowmasters.


TLS, Inc.

Main Office

1221 Jordan Lane

Huntsville, AL 35816

P: 866-254-7803

F: 800-229-7320




1510 S. Main St.

Little Rock, AR 72202

P: 501-375-2243

F: 501-375-2650

W: www.stageworks.



A.C.T Lighting, Inc.

5308 Derry Ave.

Unit R

Agoura Hills, CA 91301

P: 818-707-0884

F: 818-707-0512


Acey Decy Lighting /

200 Parkside Dr.

San Fernando, CA 91340

P: 818-408-4444

F: 818-408-2555


American DJ Supply,


6122 S. Eastern Ave.

Los Angeles, CA 90040

P: 323-582-2650

F: 323-725-6100


Avab America, Inc.

434 Payran St.

Petaluma, CA 94952

P: 707-778-8990


Barco/High End Systems

Inc. - West Coast

8200 Haskell Ave.

Van Nuys, CA 91406

P: 818-947-0550

F: 818-908-8975


Ben Nye Company, Inc.

3655 Lenawee Ave.

Los Angeles, CA 90016

P: 310-839-1984

F: 310-839-2640


Branam Enterprises Inc.

28539 W. Industry Dr.

Valencia, CA 91355

P: 661-295-3300

F: 661-295-3865


Burman Industries

13536 Saticoy St.

Van Nuys, CA 91402

P: 818-782-9833

F: 818-782-2863

W: www.burmanfoam.


Calbor Enterprises

Two, Inc.

10646 Chiquita St.

Toluca Lake, CA 91602

P: 818-760-3222

F: 818-760-2238


California Stage &

Lighting, Inc.

3601 W. Garry Ave.

Santa Ana, CA 92704

P: 714-966-1852

F: 714-966-0104


Coherent, Inc.

5100 Patrick Henry Dr.

Santa Clara, CA 95054

P: 408-764-4000

F: 408-764-4800


Cutting Edge Productions

22904 Lockness Ave.

Torrance, CA 90501

P: 310-326-4500

F: 310-326-4715


Elation Professional

4295 Charter St.

Los Angeles, CA 90058

P: 323-582-3322

F: 323-582-3108


G&G Design Associates

310 S. Long Beach Blvd.

Compton, CA 90221

P: 310-632-6300

F: 310-632-6333


Gam Products

4975 W. Pico Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90019

P: 323-935-4975

F: 323-935-2002


Holzmueller Productions

1000 25th St.

San Francisco, CA 94107

P: 415-826-8383

F: 415-826-2608

W: www.holzmueller.


Laser Design Productions

4325 W. Post Rd.


Las Vegas, CA 89118

P: 702-450-7976

F: 702-407-0853


215 W. Palm Ave.

Unit 101

Burbank, CA 91502

P: 818-557-0903

F: 866-836-5725

W: www.lightbroker.


Musson Theatrical, Inc.

890 Walsh Ave.

Santa Clara, CA 95050

P: 800-843-2837

F: 408-986-9552


Premier Lighting &

Production Company

12023 Victory Blvd.

North Hollywood, CA


P: 818-762-0884

F: 818-762-0896


Reel EFX, Inc.

5539 Riverton Ave.

North Hollywood, CA


P: 818-762-1710

F: 818-762-1734


Rosco Laboratories,


West Coast Office

1265 Los Angeles St.

Glendale, CA 91204

P: 800-767-2652

F: 818-662-9470


San Diego Stage &


2203 Verus St.

San Diego, CA 92154

P: 619-299-2300

F: 619-299-0058


Strand Lighting, Inc.

6603 Darin Way

Cypress, CA 90630

P: 714-230-8200

F: 714-899-0042

W: www.strandlighting.


TMB, Los Angeles

10643 Glenoaks Blvd.

Pacoima, CA 91331

P: 818-899-8818

F: 818-899-8813


Tools For Stagecraft

713 Quail View Ct

Oak Park, CA 91377

P: 87780

F: 818-707-1471

W: www.toolsforstage

Warner Bros. Studio


Administrative & Rentals

4000 Warner Blvd., Bldg.


Burbank, CA 91522

P: 818-954-1297

F: 818-954-3685



Advanced Lighting &

Sound Solutions

P.O. Box 837

Manchester, CT 06045

P: 800-622-8872

W: www.advancedlight




Shelton, CT

P: 800-461-7625

F: 800-461-4329


Rosco Laboratories,



52 Harbor View Ave.

Stamford, CT 06902

P: 800-767-2669

F: 203-708-8919



Gobos To Go

42 Lukens Dr.

Ste. F

New Castle, DE 19720

P: 302-426-1898

F: 866-558-3953

W: www.gobostogo.



Barbizon Lighting

Company, Miami

2254 Nw 93rd Ave.

Miami, FL 33172

P: 305-591-1449

F: 305-593-2331


Barbizon Lighting

Company, Orlando

3309 Bartlett Blvd.

Orlando, FL 32811

P: 407-999-2647

F: 407-999-7685


Chameleon Designs

1900 Premier Row

Orlando, FL 32809

P: 407-859-9300

F: 407-859-9444

W: www.chameleonor


3000 N. 29th Ct.

Hollywood, FL 33020

P: 800-762-1084

F: 800-544-4898

W: www.chauvetlight

Gear-source, Inc.

3101 Fairlane Farms Rd.

Ste. 4

Wellington, FL 33414

P: 866-669-4327

F: 561-792-0602

W: www.gearsource.


Laser Production


20209 Ne 15th Ct

Miami, FL 33179

P: 305-690-6885

F: 305-690-6881


Lighting And Production

Resources Llc

Orlando, FL 32856

P: 407-967-7716

F: 877-803-2183


Martin Professional,


700 Sawgrass Corporate


Sunrise, FL 33325

P: 954-858-1800

F: 954-858-1811


Orlando Special Effects,


14222 Lake Maryjane Rd.

Orlando, FL 32832

P: 407-648-1867

F: 407-273-0328

W: www.orlandospfx.


Sigma Services, Inc.

8310 S. County Rd. 39

Plant City, FL 33567

P: 813-737-1904

F: 813-737-1063

W: www.sigmaservices.


Snowmaker Productions,


1635 Dale Mabry Hwy.

P.O. Box 1726

Lutz, FL 33548

P: 813-948-1717

F: 813-354-2513


Stage Equipment And

Lighting, Inc.

Main Office

12250 Ne 13th Ct.

Miami, FL 33161

P: 305-891-2010

W: www.stageequip

Techni-lux Inc.

10779 Satellite Blvd.

Orlando, FL 32837

P: 407-857-8770

F: 407-857-8771


Tei Lighting Inc.

750 W. 18th St.

Hialeah, FL 33010

P: 305-8882

F: 305-885-4950


Vadar Production

Company Inc.

1300 W. Mcnab Rd.

Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309

P: 800-221-9511

F: 954-978-8446



Barbizon Lighting

Company, Atlanta

101 Krog St.

Atlanta, GA 30307

P: 404-681-5124

F: 404-681-5315



Aura Technologies, Inc.

222 N. Maplewood Ave.

Chicago, IL 60612

P: 312-829-0200

F: 312-829-1095


Barbizon Lighting

Company, Chicago

2525 N. Elston Ave.

Ste. D220

Chicago, IL 60647

P: 773-276-8500

F: 773-276-8504


Chicago Spotlight, Inc.

1658 W. Carroll St.

Chicago, IL 60612

P: 312-455-1171

F: 312-455-1744

W: www.chicagospot

Consolidated Display

Company, Inc.

1210 Us Hwy. 34

Oswego, IL 60543

P: 888-851-7669

F: 630-851-8756


D’ Entertainment


200 Catherine St.

Bldg. 3

East Peoria, IL 61611

P: 309-699-7200

F: 309-699-7300


Diversitronics, Inc.

231 Wrightwood Ave.

Elmhurst, IL 60126

P: 630-833-4495

F: 630-833-6355

W: www.diversitronics.


Grand Stage Company

630 W. Lake St.

Chicago, IL 60661

P: 312-332-5611

F: 312-258-0056

W: www.grandstage.


Hall Associates Flying


3230 Sycamore Rd.

Ste. 143

Dekalb, IL 60115

P: 888


Z11 Pyro Supply

P: 815-969-9652

W: • November 2009 37

Special Effects


Apollo Design Technology,


4130 Fourier Dr.

Fort Wayne, IN 46818

P: 260-497-9191

F: 260-497-9192

W: www.apollodesign.


Indianapolis Stage

Sales & Rentals, Inc.

905 Massachusetts Ave.

Indianapolis, IN 46202

P: 317-635-9430

F: 317-635-9433


Indy Pro Audio Production


4233a Lafayette Rd.

Indianapolis, IN 46254

P: 800-229-4472

F: 317-293-8393

W: www.indyproaudio.


Mid-America Sound


6643 W. 400 N

Greenfield, IN 46140

P: 317-947-9980

F: 317-947-9981

W: www.midamerica


Axxis, Inc.

845 S. 9th St.

Louisville, KY 40203

P: 502-568-6030

F: 502-568-6204


Star Light And Magic,


218 Jefferson St.

Lexington, KY 40508

P: 800-275-4800

F: 859-253-1962


ZFX, Inc.

611 Industry Rd.

Louisville, KY 40208

P: 502-637-2500

F: 502-637-7878



Atmosphere, Inc.

2715 Pittman Dr.

Silver Spring, MD 20910

P: 301-585-2100

F: 301-585-7615

W: www.atmospher



Lighting & Production

Services, Inc.

65 Teed Dr.

Randolph, MA 02368

P: 866-961-3066

F: 781-961-3256


Barbizon Lighting

Company, Boston

3 Draper St.

Woburn, MA 01801

P: 781-935-3920

F: 781-935-9273


Limelight Productions,


471 Pleasant St.

Lee, MA 01238

P: 800-243-4950

F: 800-243-4951

W: www.limelightpro


Roctronics Park

Pembroke, MA 02359

P: 781-826-8888

F: 781-826-8889


Tower Lighting

Swansea, MA

P: 508-673-4484

F: 508-672-2782

W: www.towerlighting.



Fantasee Lighting

14857 Martinsville Rd.

Belleville, MI 48111

P: 734-699-7200

F: 734-699-7400

W: www.fantaseelight

John S. Hyatt & Associates

Main Office

420 Alabama Ave. Nw

Grand Rapids, MI 49504

P: 616-451-9245

F: 616-451-2813


Pegasus Theatrical, Inc.

20570 W. 8 Mile Rd.

Southfield, MI 48075

P: 248-353-6130

F: 248-353-5013

W: www.pegasustheatri

Vincent Lighting


Grand-vincent Detroit


317 E. Elmwood Ave.

Troy, MI 48083

P: 800-644-7263

F: 248-307-9048

W: www.vincentlight




825 Rhode Island Ave.


Golden Valley, MN 55426

P: 800-220-6920


Stage Technology, Inc.

3110 Washington Ave. N

Ste. 100

Minneapolis, MN 55411

P: 800-889-4081

F: 612-455-0224

W: www.stagetechnol


Associated Theatrical


451 S. Union Ave.

Springfield, MO 65802

P: 800-672-8277

F: 417-862-0036

W: www.associatedthe

Theatreworks, Llc

P.O. Box 787

Branson, MO 65615

P: 877-332-1821

F: 417-332-1915

W: www.theatreworks.



Strong Entertainment


4350 Mckinley St.

Omaha, NE 68112

P: 800-262-5016

F: 402-453-7238

W: www.strong-lighting.



4Wall-Las Vegas

3325 W. Sunset Rd.

Ste. F

Las Vegas, NV 89118

P: 877-789-8167

F: 702-263-3863


Advanced Entertainment


Las Vegas - Main Office

4325 W. Reno Ave.

Las Vegas, NV 89118

P: 702-364-1847

F: 702-364-1852


Alumifax, Inc.

4325 W. Reno Ave.

Las Vegas, NV 89118

P: 702-364-1854

F: 702-364-1845


Fisher Technical Services,


6955 Speedway Blvd.

Ste. T101

Las Vegas, NV 89115

P: 702-251-0700

F: 702-251-0400

W: www.fishertechni

Flying By Foy

3275 E. Patrick Lane

Las Vegas, NV 89120

P: 702-454-3500

F: 702-454-7369


N & N Productions

5540 High Rock Way

Sparks, NV 89431

P: 775-355-9080

F: 775-355-7859

W: www.brassgobos.


Owned And Operated

By 4wall Entertainment


3325 W. Sunset Rd.,

Ste. F

Las Vegas, NV 89118

P: 702-263-3858

F: 702-263-3863

W: www.usedlighting.


New Jersey

Circuit Lighting, Inc.

299 Rt. 22 East

Ste. 12

Green Brook, NJ 08812

P: 732-968-9533

F: 732-968-9231

W: www.circuitlighting.


City Theatrical, Inc.

475 Barell Ave.

Carlstadt, NJ 07072

P: 800-230-9497

F: 201-549-1161

W: www.citytheatrical.


Earl Girls

1648 White Horse Pike

Egg Harbor City, NJ


P: 609-965-6900

F: 609-965-3330


TMB, New York

100 Asia Place

Carlstadt, NJ 07072

P: 201-896-8600

F: 201-896-8601


New Mexico

Hogle’s Theatrical Supply,


3225 Richards Ln

Ste. B

Santa Fe, NM 87507

P: 505-424-7435

F: 505-424-7434


Pro Theatrical

1501b Mountain Rd. Nw

Albuquerque, NM 87104

P: 888-875-1850

F: 505-764-1837

W: www.protheatrical.


New York

Altman Rentals

57 Alexander St.

Yonkers, NY 10701

P: 914-476-7368

F: 914-375-0381

W: www.altmanrentals.


Barbizon Lighting

Company, NY

456 W. 55th St.

New York, NY 10019

P: 800-582-9941

F: 212-247-8818


BMI Supply, NY

571 Queensbury Ave.

Queensbury, NY 12804

P: 800-836-0524

F: 518-793-6181



300 Rte 109

Farmingdale, NY 11735

P: 800-433-7057

F: 631-752-8781


Group One, Ltd.

70 Sea Ln

Farmingdale, NY 11735

P: 516-249-1399

F: 516-249-8870


Jauchem & Meeh, Inc

Special Effects

524 Sackett St.

Brooklyn, NY 11217

P: 718-875-0140

F: 718-596-8329


Mehron, Inc.

100 Red Schoolhouse


Chestnut Ridge, NY


P: 800-332-9955

F: 845-426-1515


One Dream Sound


36-15 48th Ave.

Long Island City, NY


P: 718-433-3030

F: 718-433-1389

W: www.onedream

Scharff Weisberg Inc.

36-36 33rd St.

Long Island City, NY


P: 212-582-2345

F: 212-757-6367

W: www.scharffweis

SLD Corp. Lighting

318 W. 47th St.

New York, NY 10036

P: 800-245-6630

F: 201-531-1979


Soundsculpture Incorporated

/ RC4 Wireless

RC4 Wireless Dimming

& Motion

60 Industrial Pkwy., #580

Cheektowaga, NY 14227

P: 866-258-4577

F: 866-237-6641


Syracuse Scenery &

Stage Lighting Co., Inc.

101 Monarch Dr.

Liverpool, NY 13088

P: 800-453-7775

F: 315-453-7897


Times Square Lighting

5 Kay Fries Dr.

Stony Point, NY 10980

P: 845-947-3034

F: 845-947-3047


North Carolina

Barbizon Lighting

Company, Charlotte

1016 Mcclelland Ct

Charlotte, NC 28206

P: 704-372-2122

F: 704-372-7422


Creative Stage Design

P.O. Box 9425

Charlotte, NC 28299

P: 704-375-1439


Dudley Theatrical

3401 Indiana Ave.

Winston-salem, NC


P: 336-722-3255

F: 336-722-4641

W: www.dudleytheatri

Look Solutions USA,


118 Walnut St.

Unit #111

Waynesboro, NC 17268

P: 800-426-4189

F: 888-760-7366


Stageworks Lighting

1100 Capital Blvd.

Raleigh, NC 27603

P: 800-334-8353

F: 919-839-8973



Stage Research, Inc.

P.O. Box 670557

Northfield, OH 44067

P: 888-267-0859

F: 888-668-0751

W: www.stageresearch.


Theatre Effects

11707 Chesterdale Rd.

Cincinnati, OH 45246

P: 800-791-7646

F: 513-772-3579


Vincent Lighting


Cleveland Office

18370 S. Miles Rd.

Cleveland, OH 44128

P: 18009225356

F: 216-475-6376

W: www.vincentlight


Hollywood Lights Inc,


5251 Se Mcloughlin


38 November 2009 •

Special Effects

Portland, OR 97202

P: 800-826-9881

F: 503-232-8505


Magic Gadgets/McIntire


12986 Mapleleaf Ct Ne

Aurora, OR 97002

P: 503-678-6236

W: www.magicgadgets.



Northern Sound &


11 Shingiss St.

Mckees Rocks, PA 15136

P: 412-331-1000

F: 412-331-1035

W: www.northernsound.


Production Express,


340 E. Boundary Ave.

York, PA 17403

P: 717-854-5265

F: 717-843-7031



P.O. Box 149

New Caslte, PA 16103

P: 800-956-7976

W: www.pyrotecnico.



2000 St.. John St.

Easton, PA 18042

P: 800-762-0744

F: 610-252-6200

W: www.smooth-on.


Rhode Island

East Coast Lighting &

Production Services,


88 Jefferson Blvd.

Warwick, RI 02888

P: 888-467-9070

F: 401-785-2299

W: eastcoastlighting.


South Carolina

BMI Supply, SC

209-b Depot St.

Greer, SC 29651

P: 800-670-4264

F: 864-877-1062


PDA Lighting And


2799 Three Lakes Rd.

North Charleston, SC


P: 843-554-3466

F: 843-554-0169

W: www.pdalightin


Barco/High End Systems

Inc. Headquarters

2105 Gracy Farms Lane

Austin, TX 78758

P: 512-836-2242

F: 512-837-5290


Inlight Gobos

2348 Irving Blvd.

Dallas, TX 75207

P: 469-916-2910

F: 469-916-2911

W: www.inlightgobos.


World Audio & Lights

422 Chestnut St.

San Antonio, TX 78202

P: 210-472-3932

F: 210-472-3933

W: www.worldaudio


General Theatrical

Supply (GTS)

2181 W. California Ave.

Ste. 250

Salt Lake City, UT 84104

P: 801-485-5012

F: 801-485-4365

W: www.gtsmarket

Special Effect Supply


164 E. Center St.

North Salt Lake, UT


P: 801-936-9762

F: 801-936-9763


Special FX Lighting

P.O. Box 177

Hurricane, UT 84737

P: 435-635-0239

F: 435-635-3929



Barbizon Lighting

Company, D.c.

6437g General Green


Alexandria, VA 22312

P: 703-750-3900

F: 703-750-1448


Dr. Bob's Theatricity

5325 Cleveland St.

Ste. 306

Virginia Beach, VA 23462

P: 757-499-0720

F: 757-499-2723

W: www.prolightingsup

Entertainment Systems


160 Technology Park Dr.

Kilmarnock, VA 22482

P: 800-582-2421


Optikinetics, Ltd.

116 Sylvia Rd.

Ste. A

Ashland, VA 23005

P: 800-575-6784

F: 800-678-4575

W: www.optikinetics.




2100 196th St. Sw, #138

Lynnwood, WA 98036

P: 888-786-2482

F: 425-776-5129


Hollywood Lights Inc,


660 S. Dakota St.

Seattle, WA 98108

P: 800-547-2353

F: 206-215-9370

W: www.hollywood


Graftobian Make-up


510 Tasman St.

Madison, WI 53714

P: 608-222-7849

F: 608-222-7893



British Columbia

Richmond Sound

Design Ltd.

5264 Ross St.

Vancouver, BC V5W 3K7

P: 800-664-5861

F: 604-628-3391

W: www.richmond


Airmagic Special


30 Dorchester Ave.

Toronto, ON

P: 877-704-0425

F: 416-703-0424


Jack A. Frost, Ltd.

3245 Wharton Way

Mississauga, ON L4X 2R9

P: 800-263-7678

F: 905-624-2386


Performance Solutions


29 Basin St.

Toronto, ON M4M 1A1

P: 416-410-1102

F: 416-461-0770

W: www.performanc

Pyrotek Special Effects,


7676 Woodbine Ave.

Ste. 7 & 8

Markham, ON L3R 2N2

P: 800-481-9910

F: 905-479-3515


TMB, Toronto

409 Saddler St. West

Durham, ON N0G-1R0

P: 519-369-9990

F: 519-369-9992


Ultratec Special Effects,


1960 Blue Heron Dr.

London, ON N6H 5L9

P: 800-388-0617



MDG Fog Generators

10301 Ave.nue Pelletier

Montreal, QC H1H 3R2

P: 800-663-3020

W:, Inc.

1670 Semple St.

Ste. 199

Quebec, QC G1N 4B8

P: 18775297481

F: 418-529-8519



Flying by Foy, Ltd.

Borehamwood Enterprise

Center, Unit 4

Theobald St.

Borehamwood Herts

United Kingdom, WD6

4RQ • November 2009 39

The Play's the Thing By Stephen Peithman


Time Further Out

Plays that manipulate space and time

Spacetime” is a scientific concept that combines threedimensional

space and time as a fourth dimension. It’s

a concept that theatre takes to easily, as we see in this

month’s roundup of recently-released titles that play with

time and space in intriguing ways.

For example, Canadian playwright Michel Tremblay’s

award-winning play Albertine in Five Times presents the

story of one woman at five different moments in her life. Five

different actresses play the parts, and each Albertine warns

the others of what will come, or of what has already passed.

At the opening, Albertine at 30 is sitting on the veranda of

her mother’s house. Albertine at 40 is rocking on the balcony

of her house in Montreal. Albertine at 50 is leaning on the

counter of her restaurant. Albertine at 60 is walking around

her bed. And Albertine at 70 has just arrived at a home for

the elderly. Together, the five Albertines provide a moving

portrait of the extraordinary life of one “ordinary” woman.

Now available in a new, updated English translation by Linda

Gaboriau (commissioned for the Shaw Festival) Albertine in

Five Times is a fascinating human drama. [Talon Books, $16.95;

royalty information included]

Time also shifts frequently in BFF ("Best Friends Forever"),

by Anna Ziegler, as Lauren and Eliza are challenged by the

onset of adulthood is this emotionally affecting play about

friendship and romantic love. The story of the two best

friends in high school takes us from Lauren's present-day

love affair with Seth back to her and Eliza's elementary school

days, and back again. It comes as no surprise that the “forever”

part of this best-friends saga will be tested with serious

consequences. But it is to Ziegler’s credit that when the

expected does happen, it is still surprising—and devastating.

Two females, one male. [Dramatists Play Service]

At the heart of Ken Urban's The Private Lives of Eskimos is

a modern-day techno-thriller of the sort that Alfred Hitchcock

might relish if he were alive today. Marvin's life is thrown into

chaos when he receives the news that his sister has been

killed in a tragic train bombing. His only remaining connection

to her is the voice mail she left on his cell phone—which

he has just lost. His search for it leads him down a cyber noman’s-land,

filled with mysterious spam-speaking Eskimos,

black snow, a violent detective and a strange woman in a

distant land who claims to have acquired his phone through

“dishonorable means.” It’s a surreal, funny and often poignant

tale of loss and life, whose central character is both disturbing

and pitiable. Three females, two males, with doubling.

[Original Works,]

Frank Loesser created two of Broadway's most enduring

musicals, Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed In Business without

Really Trying. But he switched from the wry, urban sensibility

of those shows to unexpected homespun tenderness

in his mostly-forgotten 1960 fantasy charmer, Greenwillow,

which has been released for licensing by Music Theatre

International. This wistful, dreamlike musical, with a lush and

romantic score, tells a tale about restlessness, adventure,

magic and the pleasures of small town life in an undetermined

time and place. The show boasts a fine score, including

“Never Will I Marry” and “Summertime Love,” and “The Music

of Home.” (The original cast recording, with Anthony Perkins,

is available on DRG Records.) Ten males, 11 females, including

children, plus chorus. [Music Theatre International, www.]

There’s no doubt about the time and place of the audience-participation

comedy, The Awesome 80s Prom, by Ken

Davenport—it’s set in 1989 at the fictional Wanaget High

Senior Prom. All the expected stereotypes are present—the

captain of the football team, the foreign exchange student,

the geek and the head cheerleader—and all are competing

for Prom King and Queen. It’s predictable stuff, perhaps,

except that it’s well written, and the audience gets to decides

who wins—so every performance can end differently. Eleven

males, eight females. [Samuel French, www.samuelfrench.


In an isolated house at the edge of a cornfield, in the mountains

of Virginia, something almost beyond belief is happening

to the Cleary family. When Bridget Cleary goes missing

in the dead of the night, her husband and son scramble to

help find her. Then, as suddenly as she vanished, Bridget

reappears, talking about strange visitations and otherworldly

beings. Is she lying, or are supernatural or extraterrestrial

forces at work? That’s the thrust of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s

thriller, Dark Matters, which expertly blends reality and fantasy,

as it explores secrets that hold families together and the

truths we sometimes choose to ignore in the people we love.

Three males, one female. [Dramatists Play Service]

40 November 2009 •

By Dave McGinnis


The Hammer That Built the Carpenter

So often do we forget that the early bricks support the building.

TD Talk

This month’s edition began as a simple wish list—a list of

new gear I would appreciate for my shop. Then again, a

new shop also made the list, so who knows how far the

list might have gone? As I wrote it, however, I came to the console

that I thought would best suit my needs—the ETC Express

24/48—and recalled that the console with which I have maintained

a long-term love affair has rolled off the assembly line for

the last time.

I’m taking this opportunity to eulogize the eponymous console

line (Expression/Express) that has single-handedly delivered so

many theatres—whether community, academic or professional—from

the medieval age of the two-scene preset into the contemporary

era of computerized lighting controls.

Of course, time ticks forward, and the dominance and availability

of moving fixtures has required every company to advance

their consoles to accommodate the new big dogs and available

parts. I understand that. That said, I’ll always retain a soft spot for

the console that taught me how to program, even if by guiding

me through the process in tiny red letters one step at a time.

I’ll always love the Express for its ability to allow anyone of any

caliber to program any fixture. Sure, the touch pad took some getting

used to (as its predecessor, the wheel, seemed so much more

intuitive in the beginning), but once a programmer or operator

got the hang of its nuances (which took

around 20 minutes), the Express took us

in directions we once thought reserved

only for the bigger shows.

I’ll always love the Express because it

could serve a 99-seat thrust space and

a 1,500-seat monster hall on consecutive

days and perform admirably in both.

While so many consoles will operate

moving fixtures and standard fixtures

concurrently, I still have difficulty finding

one that does it so easily.

Now, even as I weep for the console

that bred me, I look forward to the future

of theatre lighting, and we finally have

within our grasp so many of those capabilities

once reserved only for huge tours.

Newer consoles (like ION or EOS) than my

dear Express have brought them so nearly

within our reach, with new capabilities

and protocols with which my darling

simply can’t compete. I love her no less,

however. Part of me now loves her more.

I do hope that one of my dear Express’

legacies will find purchase in one of

her descendants: complex operations

through simple protocols. The Express

introduced an entire generation of lighting

techs to the field by allowing anyone

to learn the console with little difficulty.

She leveled the playing field and allowed

the artistry of lighting to once again

become more important than the mastery

of programming code, such as all things should be, and such

as all things were when they began and were good.

The hunt now begins. What console will take the place of the

one I have held in such humble esteem? To match the Express,

I have created a list of criteria that the Express met and that any

console must now meet to take her place:

Anyone with any lighting experience (not necessarily programming)

must be able to master the console in one hour or less.

• The console must control both standard and moving fixtures

with little or no difference in programming.

• The console must have both playback and submasters.

• Can run on Ethernet, but must be able to adapt to DMX.

• Must run at a price point no more than 10% higher than the


• Must be tough.

• Must come with an ironclad lifetime guarantee.

I never thought I could get so sentimental about equipment,

but waving good-bye to the ETC Express 24/48 feels like waving

good-bye to a mentor both trusted and knowing. She opened

the doors to other consoles and provided a haven to which one

could run when the digital mud got too deep. I don’t fear, or even

distrust, the future; on the contrary, I look forward to it. I just hope

at least one of my dear’s children follows that blessed path. • November 2009 41

Classified Advertising

For more information about the companies advertising in

Stage Directions® and serving the theatre profession, go to

the links listed below.

Advertiser Page Website

American Association of Community Theatre - AACT 36

Angstrom Lighting 42

Apollo Design 29

Arena Drapery Rental 42

Atlanta Rigging 7

AV for Sale 43

Ball State University 25

BMI Supply 22

Bulbtronics 9

Charles H. Stewart & Co. 42, C3

Chauvet Lighting 3

Checkers Industrial Products 8

Chicago Canvas 42

Eartec 21

Elation C4

Five Towns College 28

Flying By Foy 18

Full Compass 23

Graftobian 42

Advertiser Page Website

Graham Swift & Co/ Theatre Guys 42

JR Clancy 41

Light Parts 43

Light Source, The 1

Regent University 27

Schuler Shook 14

Sculptural Arts Coating 35

Selecon Performance Lighting 15

Serapid 11 43

SUNY - Fredonia 21

Texas Scenic 6

Theatre Wireless/ RC4 Wireless Dimming 42 14

Tomcat 5

Univeristy of Michigan, Ann Arbor 9


Vortek 19

Wenger C2

Answer Box


By Jacob Coakley


Sacrifice Nothing

Cambiare Productions builds

their shows and audience in

unconventional ways

All Photography by Will Hollis Snider

Gabriel Luna as Orestes and Smaranda Ciceu as Helen in Cambiare’s Orestes

Cambiare Productions from Austin, Texas, came online to to talk about their lightning-fast development

of a new adaptation of the Orestes myth, which cadges from

Sophocles’ Elektra, Aeschylus' Oresteia and Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis,

Iphigenia Among the Taurians in addition to his Orestes. The resulting

work ended up reflecting all those different sources in a “fractured

fever dream” of a narrative. The production was nominated for several

Austin Circle of Theatres B. Iden Payne Awards, including Outstanding

Production of a Drama.

Cambiare Managing Director Travis Bedard and Artistic Director

Will Hollis Snider came on and talked about how

they kept the audience situated in time and space throughout the

feverish production as well how they streamed their production

over the Internet, and why. You can read the full transcript at www.

Jacob Coakley: How did your production process help

keep the audience situated?

Will Hollis Snider: We spent the first week of rehearsals

letting our actors serve as an audience. They offered

advice and changes, and we spent the first week workshopping

and doing rewrites.

Travis Bedard: We handed them the script and asked

them point blank what worked and what didn't.

Jacob Coakley: That's one way to do a trust building

exercise. :-)

Travis Bedard: And to build cast ownership of a new

work. It went from being something that Will and I owned

to being OURS.

Will Hollis Snider: There were significant changes to the

script in that first week that really helped shape the play.

Jacob Coakley: You guys streamed at least one performance

of the play on the Internet, and still have the video

archived online (

video/orestes.html). Could you talk about how you set that up?

cast of Orestes. Thanks to an archived copy on the Internet, people from as far as New Zealand have been able

to give members feedback on the production.

Will Hollis Snider: It's actually pretty easy to do. There

are various companies out there that offer streaming

services. The one we used was I don't know

ALL the technical details, but it's Web-based and takes the feed

from any camera or mic connected to a computer, and broadcasts

that feed to the internet. So it's almost just like using a webcam

and mic in front of your computer for a video chat. We, however,

wanted slightly higher quality, so we used an Canon XL2 connected

via Firewire to a PC.

Jacob Coakley: Did the camera influence design?

Will Hollis Snider: The camera didn't influence design

one bit. We always knew we were going to livestream

the show, but it was never a consideration when I was

directing or for any of our designers.

Michelle Moore: How many cameras did you use?

Travis Bedard: Just the single XL2 on a tripod.

Will Hollis Snider: Set up all the way in the back of the

theatre so we could get a wide shot, and also zoom in for

any intimate moments.

Travis Bedard: For us the livestreaming isn't meant to

be a replacement for

being there, but an

opportunity for those who didn't

reach the tipping point to have

an opportunity to have a flavor.

There was a lot of valid feedback

that I was able to get on Orestes

that we never would have gotten

without having it broadcast and

archived—from Chicago and

Vancouver and Australia.


For the full transcript

of the chat

with Cambiare, visit

44 November 2009 •

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines