Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's beloved 1943 children's book Le Petit Prince has been transposed to an extremely visual stage production at the intimate Casino de Paris, in Paris, France. This journey through worlds of enchantment and colorful characters, a metaphor for man's vices and virtues, was directed by Jean-Louis Martinoty, with decor by Hans Shavernoch and costumes by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. French LD Jean Kalman opted for a large rig of automated luminaires to light a series of enchanted environments created by semi-transparent plastic rear-projection screens with painted graphic images. “I didn't want to just light the decor; I wanted to change colors, and play with the color palette, using everything from natural to unnatural shades to keep the images alive,” says Kalman.
Faced with this painted decor, Kalman used a battery of 100 Clay Paky CP Color 400 color-changing luminaires. The fixtures are aligned in five rows of 20 each on the upstage wall of the theatre to serve as kinetic backlight. “These fixtures have beautiful output and I like the cold white basic color of the lamps,” Kalman notes. One challenge he faced was getting the lamps to go to total blackness. “The lamps had to disappear completely when turned off, so Clay Paky sent out a group of five technicians to solve the problem, and then it was fine,” adds Kalman, who also likes the infinite options of the CMY color-mixing system in these fixtures.
Kalman's assistant LD Yves Caizergues confirms the versatility of the fixtures. “I was able to program and operate all the CP Color 400s as if they were a single element,” he says. “The background appeared colored because we painted it with light. The real advantage is that we were able to create as many colored backgrounds as needed without the slightest modification of the set. I enjoyed being able to control the 0-100% dimmer from the lighting desk. This allowed me to vary the intensity of light and color variations simultaneously.”
There are five different projection screens that measure 8.5m by 12m (28'×40'), and they are placed from 1m to 5m (3.3-16.5') from the wall of the CP 400s. These backdrops fly in and out parallel to each other with an extra gray projection screen added for frost, and gauze scrims that are lit as one image disappears and flies out while another flies in. They absorb the rear-projected color, blend it with the surrounding light, throwing back exceptional “paintings of light.”
The lighting system was supplied by Roland Morvan's Cameleon, and includes conventional fixtures that Kalman used for crosslight onstage. “There is very little overhead light,” he notes. “That didn't work well with the backlighting of the images, or with the mirrored floor and side panels. These open to let in sidelight.” Le Petit Prince runs through June 2003.