Broadway may only need to look upstate for its next generation of theatre professionals. Odyssey Academy, a sixth through 12th grade "school of choice" in Greece, NY, recently created a sophisticated production of Seussical the Musical, using an ETC-filled lighting rig and control system.
The school theatre was renovated in summer 2004, and Seussical was the first production to use a new rig complete with ETC Source Fours®, Source Four Jrs, Source Four PARnels®, and ETC’s automated luminaires Source Four Revolutions. Odyssey offers their students the chance to learn theatre design and get hands-on experience with the lighting equipment, and 142 students participated in Odyssey’s show.
Bringing in 22 years of design experience, Odyssey’s lighting designer Art Whitfield is a skilled mentor for his students. He handled the fundamental stage lighting design on Seussical, but students performed the console programming and operation. Sophomore Adam Baugher programmed and ran the main console, an ETC Express™ 48/96. Two students managed backstage electrics, such as foggers, and called the show, while three more ran the followspots. Twelfth grader Kevin Whitfield, who did all the automation design and programming, is already talking like a pro: "The [Source Four Revolution’s] module system was a real timesaver when changing gobos on the fly."
Seussical was inspired by the whimsical stories and images of Dr. Seuss and was written by Tony-Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Although not directly derived from any one book, the play’s plot draws elements from at least 15 of Seuss’ works and involves many of his most popular characters, including the Grinch and the Cat in the Hat. The imaginative story inspired Art Whitfield and his young theater-tech crew to create ambitious lighting designs. Since the play has a very cartoon-like feel, Whitfield and his students often implemented bright, saturated colors on the gel string. In a circus scene, Whitfield used brightly-colored, rotating gobos in the Revolutions to enhance the playful feeling that one would expect from a Dr. Seuss story.
LD Whitfield praised the new moving lights: "The Revolutions blended wonderfully with the rest of our ETC rig. They were flexible enough to replace a number of specials normally handled by ellipsoidals, yet also had enough eye-candy features to provide us with bright, over-the-top effects normally reserved for concert fixtures." The student lighting technicians used the Revolutions for strong side-lighting, intense pools of light directly over the actors, and subtle blending to minimize shadows. The frost filter they used (and nicknamed ‘splosh’) allowed them to change the beams from profile to wash with one simple command.
In one scene, Jojo, a major character, dreams of swimming in a pool, so Odyssey’s student lighting designers used the Revolutions’ automation to make the scene as life-like as they could. Mid-scene, they transitioned to an underwater effect by using Revolution’s rotating gobos focused on a painted waterfall backdrop to imitate rippling water. The actor playing Jojo "swam" in midair using a flying rig, and the lighting, coupled with haze, made him appear to be truly underwater.
Ben Moyer, seventh grader and spotlight operator, knows his lighting: "The Revolutions had some awesome features, and Seussical wouldn’t have been as exciting without them."