This year's Super Bowl extravaganza provided a number of suprises to the millions who tuned in around the world: the game was actually interesting, the commercials weren't, and the half-time show, featuring a stunning performance by U2, was surprisingly moving, a first for an event that is usually all spectacle and no substance.
The band played three songs, "Beautiful Day," "MLK," and "Where the Streets Have No Name," with the stunning climax being a giant scrim onto which the names of the September 11 victims were projected. The set was essentially the same heart-shaped platform as that designed by Mark Fisher for the band's recent Elevation tour; in fact, the design team for that tour was exactly the same, with EDDY Award winner Willie Williams serving as show director. Williams emailed us recently about the event:
"Indeed it was the usual suspects," he says. "Fisher designed the stage, modifying the existing Super Bowl staging sections to become our Elevation heart. Catherine Owens and I did the projection: 12 PiGi projectors and a slide rule to work out how big the text needed to be. On the night [of the Super Bowl] they were run by Brian Beasley, who did the tour. Bruce Ramus lit and called the show and I directed it.
"I have to tell you though, even after a week of preparation and rehearsal, the magnitude of the absurdity of the task didn't fully hit me till the game started. Lights, noise, gigantic footballers crashing about the place, and I thought, 'We're going to push our stage out THERE and do a gig in six minutes? You've got to be fucking joking....'
"It was quite a rush, I can tell you."
It was, indeed.
Seen at 78th Street Theatre Lab
The latest Dawn Powell Festival offering, As We Were Saying (Or Were We?), a fictionalized version of a real-life interview Powell gave to a young Herald-Tribune reporter. Laura Strausfeld's play intersperses scenes from Powell's 1930s novel The Happy Island with scenes between an initially wary, then inebriated, then bemused and semi-amorous Powell and her interviewer.
Most of the set elements used in (click here to see Seen & Heard, January 25, 2002) were used for As We Were Saying. Troy Hourie's fabulous green and brown floor, chartreuse walls, and heavily used sliding doors were back, as was a light box with a photo of the New York skyline. New to this production were a loveseat and a small plexi-fronted bar with "Hotel Lafayette" written on it.
Karen Lee Ott is listed in the show program as the show's costume dramaturg. Not quite sure what that job entails (a "Slashie" Award perhaps?), but I'd give the outfits a mixed review, divided along gender lines. Powell's outfit featured an unfortunate wig, but otherwise her ensemble was believable and functional. Her interviewer wore a suit that didn't fit either his character or his frame. The female character in the Happy Island segments, Prudence, wore a black 40s style dress that could be tarted up for New York party scenes and stripped down to basics--with a "country" hat--for scenes set in rural Ohio. Her male counterpart was in a hopeless ensemble but occasionally wore a good, believable fedora.
Joel Moritz was the LD; sound design was by Jose Ortiz. As We Were Saying (Or Were We?) continues through February 12 at 78th Street Theatre Lab, 236 W. 78th Street. For more festival information, go to the Sightlines Theater website, www.sightlinestheater.com.
Seen and Heard in Manufacturer Land
Vari-Lite, Inc. held an open house at the Manhattan Center Ballroom in New York City yesterday, February 7. The highlight of the open house was the hands-on introduction to the Vari*Lite VL1000™ automated ERS luminaire as well as close up viewing of the 2202, 2402, and the 2216 luminaires. Vari-Lite was also showing off some off its new dealers, split between rentals and sales – yes, I said sales. Vari-Lite is making a big push into the sales area with its fixtures.
The VL1000™ ellipsoidal reflector spotlight was shown in a good setting, where you could see it up close both working and opened up for internal viewing, as well as from a truss projecting onto a screen, where it could be put through the paces. A number of Vari-Lite engineers were on hand to explain the mechanics as well as Jim Waits, who led the demonstrations from the Virtuoso console. Only the incandescent unit was on display and it performed very well. The engineers have made some improvements to the fixture, mostly in terms of noise. The first production units came off the line last week and have started shipping to clients, mostly rental companies. There are a number of people waiting for delivery, as Vari-Lite has taken a number of orders and has units on spec for installation projects. A number of the designers want to get their hands on some of the units and put them to practical tests on a show. The VL1000 is my Product Pick of the Month for April in both Lighting Dimensions and Entertainment Design magazines, and I will arrange a more in-depth product review with some designers.
Vari-Lite attendees included chairman and CEO Rusty Brutsché, president and COO Clay Powers, and vice president of sales and marketing Bob Schacherl. Also showing off the new wares were Craig Burross, Northeast regional sales manager, John Bilyk, regional sales manager for Canada, Jeff Morrison, and VL engineers and developers.
Industry member attendance was very good, with about 200 to 300 people through the doors, including a number of New York–based lighting designers. We chatted with Dawn Chiang, recently back from Denver, where she lit Almost Heaven, the new John Denver musical; Abbey Rosen Holmes, who just lit the B-52s' 25th anniversary concert and record launch; Alan Blacher of The Rosie O’Donnell Show; Stan Pressner, LD and now TV lighting director (with his second show, Animal Psychic); Marsha Stern; Kyle Chepulis and Andrew Hill from Technical Artistry; Liz Garvin of Robert Israel; David LaVigna of Simply by Others; Anne Valentino from Quest Comm; and Steve Dunnington just in the time we were there.
There were a number of new Vari-Lite dealers, including almost all of the Barbizon NY office, Carey Levitt and Walt Otto from Parlights, Inc., Darren DeVerna of PRG, Jeff Turner of Fourth Phase, and Dan Bonitsky, Andrew Nikel, and Ken Romaine of the Vari-Lite Production Services NY office.
There will be another Vari-Lite Open House in Los Angeles on March 7. It is tentatively scheduled to be at USC. When the time and location are set, I will post the information on our websites.
--Michael S. Eddy
Seen and Heard on the Dance Floor
The Altogether Different Festival at the Joyce Theater, January 3-20. Six dance companies graced the stage of the Joyce in three weeks, with two companies running in rotation at a time. Lighting supervisor for the festival was Aaron Copp, who also was designer for the first group, Paradigm. Other LDs included Michael Korsch for Complexions, David Moodey for Molissa Fenley, David Ferri for Jane Comfort & Company, and Dave Overcamp for Merian Soto. Copp designed the overall rep plot, each company got 10 specials, and one tech day. Audiences were treated to a mix of dance both modern and Neoclassical and some more theatre-oriented pieces. Lighting Dimensions will cover the festival more in-depth as an Online Exclusive for the month of March.
David Ferri has been very busy lately. In addition to the above-mentioned work for Jane Comfort at the Altogether Different festival, he is lighting supervisor of another similar dance festival, the eighth annual 92nd Street Y/Harkness Dance Project, coming to the Duke on 42nd Street, February 13 through March 17. He also recently worked at LaMama ETC, on choreographer Tamar Rogoff's Daughter of a Pacifist Soldier. Lighting Dimensions magazine will feature a profile on Ferri in an upcoming issue.
Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company recently performed three new works at Alice Tully Hall in New York City in conjunction with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Orion String Quartet. Instead of the musicians anonymously playing in the orchestra pit, they performed in full view of the audience, sometimes even taking part and interacting with the dancers. Lighting was by Robert Wierzel, with costumes by Liz Prince and sets by Bjorn Amelan. Read Lighting Dimensions' profile of Wierzel in the March issue.
--Amy L. Slingerland
Seen in London South Pacific was Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s greatest hit, but rarely gets major revivals, in part because it has acquired reputation for being hopelessly sentimental. The current revival at Britain’s Royal National Theatre, however, reveals it to be a deeply moving tale about naïve Americans confronting the realities of the wider world, a topic that couldn’t be more timely. Trevor Nunn’s production makes a considerable number of revisions, rearranging and adding scenes, plus restoring a number, “My Girl Back Home,” that was cut from the original production. The production is far from perfect; Lauren Kennedy lacks star power in the lead role of Lt. Nellie Forbush, and the singing of Edward Baker-Duly, as Joe Cable, is rather thin and strained (although he acts well). Furthermore, the revised production runs nearly three and a half hours. Still, Philip Quast is an appealing, full-voiced Emile de Becque.
John Napier’s setting makes extensive use of the Olivier Theatre’s revolve, along with vintage wartime films; Elise Napier’s costumes are nicely detailed and attractive. David Hersey’s lighting is typically seamlessly brilliant. The only weak point in the design is Paul Groothius’ sound; in the chorus numbers particularly, the voices appear to be piped in from a London suburb.
Unlike the Royal National Theatre Oklahoma!, which opens on Broadway next month, South Pacific is not likely to transfer. The London reviews were good but not ecstatic and Ben Brantley recently attacked the production in The New York Times. One has to wonder when New York will see a fully staged South Pacific.
Noel Coward wrote Private Lives when he was 31. He starred in it with Gertrude Lawrence, who was a year or two younger. The show was an enormous success. Since then, the average age of Private Lives’s leads has crept upward, reaching an apogee when Joan Collins took a stab at the play about 10 years ago. In the new West End revival, the 50-ish Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan have been deliberately cast as a past-their-prime Elyot and Amanda, as part of director Howard Davies’ conception of the play.
The results are definitely mixed. The first act is hilarious, but an air of languor descends in the second act, as the dialogue stops repeatedly for long pauses and musical interludes meant to evoke feelings of regret and sadness. Davies tries to jump-start things in the third act, with a burst of farcical staging, but by then boredom has set in. Would it be too much to cast a pair of young people in these roles? At any rate, Tim Hatley has provided a pair of dazzling settings, a matched set of terraces in a French hotel, and a Paris apartment that seems to go on forever. Jenny Beavan has provided a full line of sleek black outfits for Duncan, but she dresses Emma Fielding, as Rickman’s second wife, as if she were the dowdy. middle-aged spouse of a minor British administrator in India. Peter Mumford’s intricate lighting scheme is sometimes too intricate: at key points Duncan was forced to deliver lines while standing in darkness, to no dramatic effect. This production received superlative reviews and is headed for Broadway in April. It will be interesting to see what audiences make of it.