Brooklyn-based theatre company GAle GAtes et al. recently debuted The Field of Mars, a highly stylized multimedia piece, at its new 40,000-sq.-ft. (3,600 sq. m) warehouse, located in what the group hypes as an "exotic new neighborhood": Brooklyn's DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Taking full advantage of the space, the group, known for site-specific installation performances, presented a show in which audience members roam throughout the warehouse as they follow the many scenes being played out around them. The piece resists traditional narrative structure--indeed, what is actually spoken by the performers, is, perhaps, not quite the point. In his program notes, director, writer, and set designer Michael Counts, GAle GAtes' artistic director, states, "This performance is like a dream or a landscape. Its meaning is more or less what you determine."
Creating much of the sensory stimulation is the lighting by Jason Boyd, who used almost 200 instruments to create Counts' vision of a "moving painting." His lighting, by turns subtle and vibrant, begins in the front room where the audience assembles; the GAle GAtes sign is lit by strip lights that go through the entire "spectrum loop" over a period of eight minutes. It continues in the lobby space with a man suspended above the audience. As he goes through his almost acrobatic routine (exploring the theme of time), the background cutout becomes illuminated with inviting shades, which the designer describes as "neither harsh nor overly dramatic, just really colorful and rich," before returning to its initial clear color, signifying a shift from night to day, and back to night.
The audience then moves to an apartment scene, which Boyd conceived as being "highly filmic," mainly using color correction and clear. "It's like black and white--it's really stark, so it cleanses your palette." There is little color used until the audience moves into the main area where multiple scenes take place. The audience passes an opium den--complete with hookah--with stars "shooting over the top of the wall," and as they continue to move further in, the lighting becomes more vibrant, with one exception. "All the face specials are white for the most part, save for a few comic moments," Boyd says. "For instance, when one of the guys says to the actress playing his mother, 'It makes my face turn yellow,' she sprays his face and it turns blue. There are little gags like that here and there."
Once in the main room, Boyd designed an explosion or "barrage" of color, as characters interact at a long banquet table, a clear Plexiglas bathroom stall complete with toilet (lit with fluorescents), and in a wooded area. There is even a "big hip-hop number" with characters dancing throughout and dragging a large bar unit through the audience, whose members choose what scenes to focus on. These scenes highlight Boyd's extensive use of two High End Systems Cyberlight(R) SVs and one Intellabeam(R), which delivered both tight beams and washes of color, a strong red in particular that shoots across the room. Boyd describes the instruments as "really advanced paintbrushes."
This all-out intensive color fades as the audience reaches the "maze" portion of the evening, in which different scenes play out as audiences wander through a series of mini-sets. "Had there been color in the maze, it would have been too much for the eye," Boyd explains. "To appreciate the color moments you need the other ones as well."
The final return to color comes as the audience reaches the last setting, a room that opens up to reveal a sunset (crossfading from R21 to R83) as the closing music swells. "You push and pull the color and the clear and try to find a balance," Boyd says, acknowledging the assistance he received from Counts and production designer Jeffrey Sugg. "It's a great collaboration with those two."
Practically speaking, it took 500 cement anchors to hang the various units, which also included 6x9s, 6x12s, 6x16s, 6x22s, 4.5x6s, PAR-36s, a Diversitronics strobe, and more. Boyd points out that the cement anchors had to be drilled anywhere he wanted a light. The show's control consisted of one ETC Express 250 and one ETC Vision. Equipment was supplied by Production Arts and John Lewis-Lonestar Lighting Rental.