Table Of Contents November 2009
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
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.
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
ON OUR COVER:
Constantine Maroulis and
the company of Rock of Ages
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,
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
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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
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.
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
The Ohio State University
4 November 2009 • www.stage-directions.com
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.
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…
In the October Education directory,
the phone number of SUNY,
Fredonia was incorrect. SUNY,
Fredonia’s correct contact info is:
Dept. of Theatre and Dance
Rockefeller Arts Ctr., #212
280 Central Ave.
Fredonia, NY 14063
P: (716) 673-3596
www.stage-directions.com • November 2009 7
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
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
• 2 % listed ticket price as their “primary” motivation for attending
and 30% said that price “significantly impacted” their decision
• 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
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 • www.stage-directions.com
La MaMa ETC Annex
To Be Renamed Ellen
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 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
www.stage-directions.com • November 2009 9
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.
Mark Clements Named Artistic Director at Milwaukee Repertory Theater
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
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 • www.stage-directions.com
Tools of the Trade
America's Vectorworks 2010
has added bi-directional
associativity features and an
3D modeling environment.
It integrates D-Cubed 2D
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. www.vectorworks2010.net
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. www.lexproducts.com
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.
www.stage-directions.com • 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
After a bit of detective work, the consultant knew exactly what
Building and Blessing
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 • www.stage-directions.com
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,
14 November 2009 • www.stage-directions.com
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
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
www.stage-directions.com • November 2009 15
By Michael S. Eddy
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
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.”
16 November 2009 • www.stage-directions.com
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
“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
www.stage-directions.com • November 2009 17
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
www.stage-directions.com • November 2009 19
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
which approach to
D a n M o s e s
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 • www.stage-directions.com
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
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.
www.stage-directions.com • November 2009 21
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
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 • www.stage-directions.com
“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.
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
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
“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
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
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
“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 • www.stage-directions.com
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
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.
stacked up a few
honors: He is the
recipient of the
2004 Butch Blum
Roosevelt High’s And Then They Came for Me:
Remembering the World of Anne Frank was produced
at the 2007 International Thespian Show.
M c A u l i f f e
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
“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.
is likely the youngest
in this circle of
only been at Valley
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.
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
26 November 2009 • www.stage-directions.com
Victoria School of Performing and Visual Arts,
“Wow,” exclaims Greg
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
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.
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-
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
28 November 2009 • www.stage-directions.com
“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
“If we don’t break the copy machine
every week in the summer people aren’t
www.stage-directions.com • 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,”
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.”
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
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 • www.stage-directions.com
“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
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.
www.stage-directions.com • November 2009 31
Special Section: Special Effects
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
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 • www.stage-directions.com
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
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
“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.
www.stage-directions.com • November 2009 33
Special Section: Special Effects
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?”
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.
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 • www.stage-directions.com
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
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.
www.stage-directions.com • 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
“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 • www.stage-directions.com
P.O. Box 250
Lexington, AL 35648
1221 Jordan Lane
Huntsville, AL 35816
1510 S. Main St.
Little Rock, AR 72202
A.C.T Lighting, Inc.
5308 Derry Ave.
Agoura Hills, CA 91301
Acey Decy Lighting /
200 Parkside Dr.
San Fernando, CA 91340
American DJ Supply,
6122 S. Eastern Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90040
Avab America, Inc.
434 Payran St.
Petaluma, CA 94952
Barco/High End Systems
Inc. - West Coast
8200 Haskell Ave.
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Ben Nye Company, Inc.
3655 Lenawee Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90016
Branam Enterprises Inc.
28539 W. Industry Dr.
Valencia, CA 91355
13536 Saticoy St.
Van Nuys, CA 91402
10646 Chiquita St.
Toluca Lake, CA 91602
California Stage &
3601 W. Garry Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92704
5100 Patrick Henry Dr.
Santa Clara, CA 95054
Cutting Edge Productions
22904 Lockness Ave.
Torrance, CA 90501
4295 Charter St.
Los Angeles, CA 90058
G&G Design Associates
310 S. Long Beach Blvd.
Compton, CA 90221
4975 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
1000 25th St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
Laser Design Productions
4325 W. Post Rd.
Las Vegas, CA 89118
215 W. Palm Ave.
Burbank, CA 91502
Musson Theatrical, Inc.
890 Walsh Ave.
Santa Clara, CA 95050
Premier Lighting &
12023 Victory Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA
Reel EFX, Inc.
5539 Riverton Ave.
North Hollywood, CA
West Coast Office
1265 Los Angeles St.
Glendale, CA 91204
San Diego Stage &
2203 Verus St.
San Diego, CA 92154
Strand Lighting, Inc.
6603 Darin Way
Cypress, CA 90630
TMB, Los Angeles
10643 Glenoaks Blvd.
Pacoima, CA 91331
Tools For Stagecraft
713 Quail View Ct
Oak Park, CA 91377
Warner Bros. Studio
Administrative & Rentals
4000 Warner Blvd., Bldg.
Burbank, CA 91522
Advanced Lighting &
P.O. Box 837
Manchester, CT 06045
52 Harbor View Ave.
Stamford, CT 06902
Gobos To Go
42 Lukens Dr.
New Castle, DE 19720
2254 Nw 93rd Ave.
Miami, FL 33172
3309 Bartlett Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32811
1900 Premier Row
Orlando, FL 32809
3000 N. 29th Ct.
Hollywood, FL 33020
3101 Fairlane Farms Rd.
Wellington, FL 33414
20209 Ne 15th Ct
Miami, FL 33179
Lighting And Production
Orlando, FL 32856
700 Sawgrass Corporate
Sunrise, FL 33325
Orlando Special Effects,
14222 Lake Maryjane Rd.
Orlando, FL 32832
Sigma Services, Inc.
8310 S. County Rd. 39
Plant City, FL 33567
1635 Dale Mabry Hwy.
P.O. Box 1726
Lutz, FL 33548
Stage Equipment And
12250 Ne 13th Ct.
Miami, FL 33161
10779 Satellite Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32837
Tei Lighting Inc.
750 W. 18th St.
Hialeah, FL 33010
1300 W. Mcnab Rd.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309
101 Krog St.
Atlanta, GA 30307
Aura Technologies, Inc.
222 N. Maplewood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60612
2525 N. Elston Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
Chicago Spotlight, Inc.
1658 W. Carroll St.
Chicago, IL 60612
1210 Us Hwy. 34
Oswego, IL 60543
200 Catherine St.
East Peoria, IL 61611
231 Wrightwood Ave.
Elmhurst, IL 60126
Grand Stage Company
630 W. Lake St.
Chicago, IL 60661
Hall Associates Flying
3230 Sycamore Rd.
Dekalb, IL 60115
Z11 Pyro Supply
www.stage-directions.com • November 2009 37
Apollo Design Technology,
4130 Fourier Dr.
Fort Wayne, IN 46818
Sales & Rentals, Inc.
905 Massachusetts Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46202
Indy Pro Audio Production
4233a Lafayette Rd.
Indianapolis, IN 46254
6643 W. 400 N
Greenfield, IN 46140
845 S. 9th St.
Louisville, KY 40203
Star Light And Magic,
218 Jefferson St.
Lexington, KY 40508
611 Industry Rd.
Louisville, KY 40208
2715 Pittman Dr.
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Lighting & Production
65 Teed Dr.
Randolph, MA 02368
3 Draper St.
Woburn, MA 01801
471 Pleasant St.
Lee, MA 01238
Pembroke, MA 02359
14857 Martinsville Rd.
Belleville, MI 48111
John S. Hyatt & Associates
420 Alabama Ave. Nw
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Pegasus Theatrical, Inc.
20570 W. 8 Mile Rd.
Southfield, MI 48075
317 E. Elmwood Ave.
Troy, MI 48083
825 Rhode Island Ave.
Golden Valley, MN 55426
Stage Technology, Inc.
3110 Washington Ave. N
Minneapolis, MN 55411
451 S. Union Ave.
Springfield, MO 65802
P.O. Box 787
Branson, MO 65615
4350 Mckinley St.
Omaha, NE 68112
3325 W. Sunset Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89118
Las Vegas - Main Office
4325 W. Reno Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89118
4325 W. Reno Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89118
Fisher Technical Services,
6955 Speedway Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89115
Flying By Foy
3275 E. Patrick Lane
Las Vegas, NV 89120
N & N Productions
5540 High Rock Way
Sparks, NV 89431
Owned And Operated
By 4wall Entertainment
3325 W. Sunset Rd.,
Las Vegas, NV 89118
Circuit Lighting, Inc.
299 Rt. 22 East
Green Brook, NJ 08812
City Theatrical, Inc.
475 Barell Ave.
Carlstadt, NJ 07072
1648 White Horse Pike
Egg Harbor City, NJ
TMB, New York
100 Asia Place
Carlstadt, NJ 07072
Hogle’s Theatrical Supply,
3225 Richards Ln
Santa Fe, NM 87507
1501b Mountain Rd. Nw
Albuquerque, NM 87104
57 Alexander St.
Yonkers, NY 10701
456 W. 55th St.
New York, NY 10019
BMI Supply, NY
571 Queensbury Ave.
Queensbury, NY 12804
300 Rte 109
Farmingdale, NY 11735
Group One, Ltd.
70 Sea Ln
Farmingdale, NY 11735
Jauchem & Meeh, Inc
524 Sackett St.
Brooklyn, NY 11217
100 Red Schoolhouse
Chestnut Ridge, NY
One Dream Sound
36-15 48th Ave.
Long Island City, NY
Scharff Weisberg Inc.
36-36 33rd St.
Long Island City, NY
SLD Corp. Lighting
318 W. 47th St.
New York, NY 10036
/ RC4 Wireless
RC4 Wireless Dimming
60 Industrial Pkwy., #580
Cheektowaga, NY 14227
Syracuse Scenery &
Stage Lighting Co., Inc.
101 Monarch Dr.
Liverpool, NY 13088
Times Square Lighting
5 Kay Fries Dr.
Stony Point, NY 10980
1016 Mcclelland Ct
Charlotte, NC 28206
Creative Stage Design
P.O. Box 9425
Charlotte, NC 28299
3401 Indiana Ave.
Look Solutions USA,
118 Walnut St.
Waynesboro, NC 17268
1100 Capital Blvd.
Raleigh, NC 27603
Stage Research, Inc.
P.O. Box 670557
Northfield, OH 44067
11707 Chesterdale Rd.
Cincinnati, OH 45246
18370 S. Miles Rd.
Cleveland, OH 44128
Hollywood Lights Inc,
5251 Se Mcloughlin
38 November 2009 • www.stage-directions.com
Portland, OR 97202
12986 Mapleleaf Ct Ne
Aurora, OR 97002
Northern Sound &
11 Shingiss St.
Mckees Rocks, PA 15136
340 E. Boundary Ave.
York, PA 17403
P.O. Box 149
New Caslte, PA 16103
2000 St.. John St.
Easton, PA 18042
East Coast Lighting &
88 Jefferson Blvd.
Warwick, RI 02888
BMI Supply, SC
209-b Depot St.
Greer, SC 29651
PDA Lighting And
2799 Three Lakes Rd.
North Charleston, SC
Barco/High End Systems
2105 Gracy Farms Lane
Austin, TX 78758
2348 Irving Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75207
World Audio & Lights
422 Chestnut St.
San Antonio, TX 78202
2181 W. California Ave.
Salt Lake City, UT 84104
Special Effect Supply
164 E. Center St.
North Salt Lake, UT
Special FX Lighting
P.O. Box 177
Hurricane, UT 84737
6437g General Green
Alexandria, VA 22312
Dr. Bob's Theatricity
5325 Cleveland St.
Virginia Beach, VA 23462
160 Technology Park Dr.
Kilmarnock, VA 22482
116 Sylvia Rd.
Ashland, VA 23005
2100 196th St. Sw, #138
Lynnwood, WA 98036
Hollywood Lights Inc,
660 S. Dakota St.
Seattle, WA 98108
510 Tasman St.
Madison, WI 53714
5264 Ross St.
Vancouver, BC V5W 3K7
30 Dorchester Ave.
Jack A. Frost, Ltd.
3245 Wharton Way
Mississauga, ON L4X 2R9
29 Basin St.
Toronto, ON M4M 1A1
Pyrotek Special Effects,
7676 Woodbine Ave.
Ste. 7 & 8
Markham, ON L3R 2N2
409 Saddler St. West
Durham, ON N0G-1R0
Ultratec Special Effects,
1960 Blue Heron Dr.
London, ON N6H 5L9
MDG Fog Generators
10301 Ave.nue Pelletier
Montreal, QC H1H 3R2
1670 Semple St.
Quebec, QC G1N 4B8
Flying by Foy, Ltd.
Center, Unit 4
United Kingdom, WD6
www.stage-directions.com • 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, www.originalworksonline.com]
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 • www.stage-directions.com
By Dave McGinnis
The Hammer That Built the Carpenter
So often do we forget that the early bricks support the building.
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.
www.stage-directions.com • November 2009 41
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 http://info.hotims.com/23554-278
Angstrom Lighting 42 http://info.hotims.com/23554-176
Apollo Design 29 http://info.hotims.com/23554-104
Arena Drapery Rental 42 http://info.hotims.com/23554-248
Atlanta Rigging 7 http://info.hotims.com/23554-177
AV for Sale 43 http://info.hotims.com/23554-378
Ball State University 25 http://info.hotims.com/23554-170
BMI Supply 22 http://info.hotims.com/23554-107
Bulbtronics 9 http://info.hotims.com/23554-110
Charles H. Stewart & Co. 42, C3 http://info.hotims.com/23554-113
Chauvet Lighting 3 http://info.hotims.com/23554-155
Checkers Industrial Products 8 http://info.hotims.com/23554-269
Chicago Canvas 42 http://info.hotims.com/23554-179
Eartec 21 http://info.hotims.com/23554-276
Elation C4 http://info.hotims.com/23554-182
Five Towns College 28 http://info.hotims.com/23554-379
Flying By Foy 18 http://info.hotims.com/23554-244
Full Compass 23 http://info.hotims.com/23554-274
Graftobian 42 http://info.hotims.com/23554-208
Advertiser Page Website
Graham Swift & Co/ Theatre Guys 42 http://info.hotims.com/23554-168
JR Clancy 41 http://info.hotims.com/23554-159
Light Parts 43 http://info.hotims.com/23554-354
Light Source, The 1 http://info.hotims.com/23554-160
Regent University 27 http://info.hotims.com/23554-220
Schuler Shook 14 http://info.hotims.com/23554-171
Sculptural Arts Coating 35 http://info.hotims.com/23554-141
Selecon Performance Lighting 15 http://info.hotims.com/23554-283
Serapid 11 http://info.hotims.com/23554-142
Stagelights.com 43 http://info.hotims.com/23554-167
SUNY - Fredonia 21 http://info.hotims.com/23554-224
Texas Scenic 6 http://info.hotims.com/23554-148
Theatre Wireless/ RC4 Wireless Dimming 42 http://info.hotims.com/23554-166
Theatricalhardware.com 14 http://info.hotims.com/23554-247
Tomcat 5 http://info.hotims.com/23554-380
Univeristy of Michigan, Ann Arbor 9 http://info.hotims.com/23554-370
USHIO 13 http://info.hotims.com/23554-282
Vortek 19 http://info.hotims.com/23554-265
Wenger C2 http://info.hotims.com/23554-153
By Jacob Coakley
Cambiare Productions builds
their shows and audience in
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
TheatreFace.com 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 TheatreFace.com 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
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 (http://www.cambiareproductions.com/
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 ustream.tv. 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 • www.stage-directions.com