Bright orange, lime green, saturated red, chrome yellow. These are just a few of LD Luc Lafortune's weird color choices that look absolutely delicious as they prowl playfully around the stage in La Nouba, Cirque du Soleil's permanent production in Orlando, FL. Directed by Franco Dragone, La Nouba opened last January in a stunning white tent-like theatre designed by architect David Rockwell and Canadian theatre consultants Sceno Plus as the focal point of Downtown Disney.
Not too many lighting designers would make the choices (or take the risks) that Lafortune does. But the creative canvas at Cirque du Soleil is broad enough to let his imagination run wild with light. A man on a tightrope walks through a Parisian park with dappled cobblestones projected onto the stage floor. Stark towers of white light cut through billowing smoke. An LED message from cyberspace--".com delete exit @ www shift"--flickers in the darkness.
"The use of patterns creates different environments," says Lafortune, whose lighting rig for La Nouba includes such items as Altman punch lights, High End Systems Dataflash(R) units and Diversitronics strobes, as well as Wildfire UV fixtures, over 1,000 ellipsoidals and PARs from Altman, City Theatrical, and ETC, a battery of moving lights from High End Systems and Clay Paky, a few Robert Juliat followspots, and dozens of Wybron color scrollers.
Starting with the idea that there might be something lurking under your bed in the dark, or someone moving around in the attic, La Nouba evolved into an urban myth with circus figures lost in a zany metropolis. "The scenery is not too specific," says Lafortune, who points out that designer Michel Crete gave him a set of black shapes to light. "They are reminiscent of castles and dungeons, with mountains or ruins in the background." To test the lighting of these black shapes, he hung a velvet curtain and placed a Source Four on the floor in front of it. "We went with the colors that best suited the concept of the show."
The upstage wall, a wooden grid with 3"-square openings, stands in front of a khaki scrim. "The lightness of this color responded very well to the colors of the light," says Lafortune, who adorned it with projections of clouds and star fields. He also hung some High End Studio Colors(R) horizontally on the back wall and directed the light out toward the audience.
The other moving lights are used more traditionally. "They are used more in a rock and roll sense," Lafortune admits. "There is more movement, more flashing, and more strobing than in any Cirque production in a long time. This was dictated by the notion of urbanity and the rhythm of the music."
Despite its unusual color palette, La Nouba is a pretty dark show and earned Lafortune a new nickname: the Prince of Darkness. "There is a constant contrast between an urban look and a feeling of romanticism," says Lafortune, who has carved an exquisite universe out of the dark.