The Broadway Lighting Master Classes, sponsored by Entertainment Design and Lighting Dimensions, set new attendance records for its eighth session, December 7-10, in New York. One-hundred-forty-six students came from all over the globe to take part in four days of discussions on the art of Broadway theatrical lighting design.
The week kicked off on Wednesday, December 6, with a day of optional automated lighting console training, held both at the BLMC's base site, Fordham University, and the offices of High End Systems in Midtown Manhattan. Classes then began in earnest the next day with BLMC faculty head Jules Fisher's keynote address, titled “One Approach to Lighting Design,” which considered the issues of creativity in lighting for several different angles. Other speakers that day included Beverly Emmons (The Heiress, Annie Get Your Gun) on issues of style in lighting design, and Chris Parry (The Who's Tommy, Not About Nightingales), who presented a number of lesser-known but useful lighting units. That evening, students attended a performance of the smash Broadway musical The Lion King; a backstage tour and discussion followed.
On Friday, December 8, the day began with Peggy Eisenhauer, Fisher's artistic partner, speaking about cueing in musicals. She was followed by Don Holder, LD of The Lion King, discussing the design of that production in depth. Other speakers that day included Vivien Leone, associate designer on Fosse and Saturday Night Fever, on the paperwork associated with a Broadway lighting design, and projection designer Wendall K. Harrington.
Emmons returned on Saturday, with dance LD Clifton Taylor (American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey) for an extensive and highly presentational look at the use of color in lighting. David Hays, famed scenic/LD, founder of the National Theatre of the Deaf, and bestselling author, recalled his set design for the original American production of Long Day's Journey Into Night — and its relationship to the production's lighting. Later, Eisenhauer returned to talk about the use of automated lighting and Holder presented a talk on the use of ground rows and backdrops. The day ended with English LD/theatre consultant Richard Pilbrow (aided by Chris Parry) on the European approach to lighting design. That evening, many students attended an optional performance of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, with tours of Radio City's recently renovated public and backstage areas. Richard Hoyes of Fisher Dachs consultants, and LDs Ken Billington and Jason Kantrowitz took part.
In addition to the sessions, attendees checked out many of the industry's newest products at the manufacturers showcase that was held Thursday through Saturday. Corporate sponsors of the BLMC were AC Lighting, Altman, Apollo Design Technology, Avab/transtechnik, City Theatrical, ETC, Fourth Phase, Gamproducts, High End Systems, Lee Filters, Le Maitre Special Effects, Lycian Stage Lighting, MDG Fog, New Century Lighting, Rosco/Entertainment Technology, SSP International, Strand Lighting, TMB Associates, Vari-Lite, and Wybron, with additional support from Field Template.
The BLMC concluded on Sunday with a brunch panel featuring Don Holder, and a number of other Lion King personnel, including associate LD Jeanne Koenig, associate scenic designer Peter Eastman, associate costume designer Mary Peterson, associate choreographer Aubrey Lynch, and production electrician Jimmy Maloney. This group offered students a unique view of the issues and challenges of maintaining a long-running show and reproducing it in other cities and for touring situations.
As always, a highlight of the BLMC weekend is the EDDY Awards, sponsored by Entertainment Design. This year's awards took place at a gala celebration held at the AMC Empire 25 Theatres on 42nd Street. The evening began with a panel hosted by Steve Terry, president of Fourth Phase, on “Products of the Century.” Terry's co-panelists included Jim Bornhorst of Vari-Lite, inventor David Cunningham, Richard T. Hart of Xenotech/Strong, Gordon Pearlman of Rosco/Entertainment Technology, Nils Thorjussen of High End Systems, and Keny Whitwright of Wybron. EDDY Award winners included legendary theatre/film costume designer Ann Roth, presented by film and theatre actress Glenn Close; the design/technical team behind Blue Man Group Live at Luxor, presented by PS 122 artistic director Mark Russell; concert/industrial scenery company Tait Towers, presented by rock-and-roll lighting designer LeRoy Bennett; and the design team of Anne Bogart's SITI company — set designer Neil Patel, costume designer James Schuette, LD Mimi Jordan Sherin, and sound designer Darron L. West, presented by Bogart.
The 2000 EDDY Lighting Products Awards were presented to: Artistic Licence for Common-Sense Interface; George & Goldberg for the Hot Shot Distro Panel; Interactive Technologies for the Figment DMX; Rosco/ET for the IPS Capio Dimmer Series; Strand Lighting for the SLD Dimmer Series; and Vari-Lite for the VL2402™ Wash Luminaire [see page 38 for more information]. The 2000 EDDY Sound Product Awards were presented to: Digidesign for Pro Tools 5.1 Software; JBL for the EVO Loudspeaker System; Level Control Systems for the CueConsole; Metric Halo Labs for Mobile I/O Firewire; Neutrik for the MiniLyzer ML1; and Soundfield for the Mark 5 Microphone System.
Next year's Broadway Lighting Master Classes are scheduled for December 5-9. Look for more details in future issues of Entertainment Design and Lighting Dimensions. To find out more or inquire about registration, call (212) 229-2965, ext. 816, or check out the event's website at www.blmc.net.
The News, Naturally
Do you ever get the feeling that there isn't enough news on the air these days? Well, the National Geographic Channel, which launched January 7, 2001, is here to bring you another daily news show, called simply National Geographic Today. But this isn't just run-of-the-mill news that can be obtained on countless other cable channels, not to mention the networks. “Information from around the globe with a natural ecology bent to it,” is how the task of developing a studio look was presented to James Fenhagen of Production Design Group, Ltd., a Jack Morton Company.
So when approaching the design for the digital production studio at National Geographic's Washington, DC headquarters, Fenhagen says, “I used wood tones, and greens and blues.” The floor tiles give off an oceanic vibe, while a cloudy sky seems to float above the anchor desk. In the center of the floor is the classic rosette compass diagram familiar to map aficionados. And the yellow and black National Geographic colors are used throughout as borders and accents. “But one of the most interesting things they told me was that they didn't want it to be just another news set,” says Fenhagen, whose work with partner Erik Ulfers on The NBC Nightly News, MSNBC, and ESPN has given him plenty of experience in this area. “They wanted to make it comfortable for explorers to come in, sit down, and talk, and not seem out of place.”
The 8,000-sq.-ft., 360° studio is in an apt location, in part of National Geographic's old Explorers Hall, at the corner of 17th and M Streets, NW in Washington. The street-level studio is open to outside view on three sides, giving it the storefront identity similar to NBC's The Today Show. The anchor desk is in the center of the floor plan, with the control room visible behind it, on the fourth side of the studio. “I wanted for once to really work the control room in, make it germane to the design,” says Fenhagen. “Conceptually, we centered the studio around this nerve-center, info-gathering heart of the modern-day National Geographic. Then we surrounded that with the artifacts and history of National Geographic, so you have the juxtaposition of the old and traditional with the brand-new and high-tech. That museum feeling surrounding the technological core is a concept I stuck with all the way through.”
To evoke the Society's history wasn't difficult. “I was able to access National Geographic archives to make that happen,” says the designer. In one corner, a large carcharodontosaurus skull is surrounded by items that might have been displayed in the old Explorers Hall. “They have a warehouse full of stuff from explorers that we're going to rotate in and out,” Fenhagen says. An area intended for interviews with photographers is dressed with a century's worth of camera equipment, including underwater rigs and portable models that strap on animals, from National Geographic's basement. In another corner is a comfy interview area know as the map room, and nearby is a casual homebase area for a weekday morning show.
The anchor desk was the most difficult design to complete. “I think we showed them about 12 different designs,” says Fenhagen. “As a gift to all the people we worked with over there we made a document and framed it, called the Anatomy of the Anchor Desk. It was, ‘We want it to be an anchor desk, but we don't want it to be an anchor desk.’ To function as one, but not to look like one. So there were some really way-out designs, open to the legs and everything. The final one has a frosted Plexi top, wooden tapered base, and glass legs. It's not your traditional big fat news desk. And it's counter height, with stools, which automatically makes it more casual.”
Computer-aided design, of course, facilitates such an evolutionary process. Another area given a boost by the computer age is set detail. “I have this theory, that the way computer drafting is now linked with computerized cutting machines, Old World craftsmanship is coming back,” Fenhagen explains. “We could give a CAD file of our floor layout to Amtico, the tile manufacturer, and they cut it out like a jigsaw puzzle in their computer, delivered it to the floor installer as a map, and he just laid it down. It all matches perfectly,” he says, pointing to the spots where the square blue tiles hit the circular centerpiece, and the clean lines formed by a yellow-and-black checkerboard pattern.
The studio is the latest example of what Fenhagen says has become a Production Design Group area of expertise: a space that's “a hybrid of set design and architecture.” The studio came complete, for example, with four structural columns that were used for mounting video monitors and other visual material. In addition to Andrew Carl Wilk, executive vice president of programming for National Geographic Channel, and Mark G. Anderson Consultants, the project managers, Fenhagen worked with some familiar collaborators on the studio: Janson Design Group architect Dennis Janson; The Systems Group, in charge of digital systems integration; and Steven Brill of The Lighting Design Group.
The result pleases at least one person: Tom Foreman, who shares anchor duties with Susan Roesgen. At the December 12, 2000 ribbon-cutting by Washington mayor Anthony A. Williams, Foreman weighed in on the studio design — “It's got a very livable feel, relaxed and no-nonsense. It feels like you're in somebody's living room.” At this point, unfortunately, National Geographic Channel is being beamed via AT&T and DirecTV into only about 10 million somebodies' living rooms, though a partnership with Fox Cable Networks should help that number to grow. In the meantime, you can always stroll down M Street and take a peek.
They're not naked, they're not ladies, and, on a routine basis, they trick audiences around the globe into shouting the word “underwear.” They're Canada's Barenaked Ladies, and they have been bringing humor, as well as flying Clay Paky Golden Scan birds and a giant inflatable abstract head, to fans across the country. The Maroon tour brings together veteran scenic designer Jim Lenahan and longtime Barenaked Ladies lighting designer Brent Lipp for a show that brings a bit of fun back into the concert scene.
The stage is dominated by a massive blue inflatable head, which serves as an entrance and exit for the band members and is vaguely reminiscent of the abstract art of the 1950s. “The art on their CD is very Miro-esque,” says Lenahan. “In fact, it's so very abstract that it's kind of difficult to make in 3D.” So Lenahan started doing some research and came upon the work of Andrew Calder. “I originally intended to do some great big Calder mobiles out over the audience,” he explains. Instead, the scenic designer looked toward the moving lights on the tour. “I've always wanted to dress some moving lights as butterflies, but for this, I changed it to birds,” he says. Consequently, five colorful motorized birds, courtesy of the Westsun scenic shop in Toronto, became part of the show.
As Lenahan continued his research, he came across a book called Fantasy Worlds, and discovered the work of Niki De St. Phalle in Tarot Park in Garavicchio, Italy. “The park is filled with monumental sculptures that are all very abstract figures from the Tarot,” Lenahan explains. “I saw those things and said ‘Wow!’ They look like scenery; they have the 3D element that Miro doesn't, but it's still in the same abstract vein as the Calder and the Miro work.”
Rather than using one of De St. Phalle's sculptures, Lenahan created his own character, inspired by the works in Tarot Park. “I didn't model this one on the computer, the way I do with most of my sets,” Lenahan explains. “I needed to get clay in my hands, so I actually did it in Sculpey first, and the scale of the model was determined by the size of my oven.”
Due to the shape of the head, Lenahan realized immediately that it would be ideal as an inflatable. “People always want to do inflatables, but in many cases, the shape just won't work,” he says. Lenahan called on the Inflatable Design Group, which made the 30' — tall head, as well as the two accompanying smaller characters, in less than 30 days.
Lipp's lighting design augments Lenahan's set, and adds a visual punch to the show. Lipp has a full complement of both conventional and automated fixtures, including ETC Source Fours, Molefays, PAR-64s, Clay Paky Golden Scans, Coemar HE 1200s, and High End Systems Studio Colors® , all provided by Westsun of Vancouver. “The Source Fours are used as specials on each band member, while I use the PARs for a band wash and an upstage wash,” Lipp explains.
Although the show features several big audience looks, Lipp is fairly restrained in his use of the automated fixtures. “I do a lot of stationary work with the moving lights,” he says, adding that he feels “moving lights should move in the dark and let up for a different look.”
When choosing his color palette, Lipp works with the tempo of the song itself. “A song is either a slow song, a medium rock song, or a full-on, ‘let it rip’ song,” he explains. “If it's slow, you darken it up, if it's a medium song, you use medium-range colors like light lavenders or reds, and if it's fast, you go for no color, ambers or yellows,” he explains.
The show also uses six truss spots — two on the back truss and four on a truss bridge in the audience. “We try not to use the house spotlights; we get a much better angle for the guys when I use a truss bridge,” the lighting designer says. “That way, my spotlight color temperature stays the same every night and the spot angle on the bridge is better, since it lets the band see the house at all times.” Lipp, along with Todd Martin, programmed the show, and Lipp is out on the road with the Ladies, using a Flying Pig Systems Wholehog® console.
The Maroon tour continues on the road until mid-March, and is expected to be back sometime during the spring.
Tempest Strikes London
London's diminutive Almeida Theatre will close this spring for a 14 — month refit — and Paul Brown's waterlogged design for The Tempest has ensured that it will close with a splash.
“The idea originated from the fact that the play opens with a storm,” Brown says. “I wanted to be able to show the transition from the chaos and discord of a heavy tempest to the calm that settles on a place in the days that follow.” Brown's concept involved flooding the entire acting space to a maximum depth of 10' — and also creating a gaping hole in the stage roof to indicate the demolition to come. “It's a valedictory piece,” says Brown. “It was Shakespeare's farewell and provides the Almeida with a fitting end to a 10 — year period of creativity.”
The watery stage, which was fabricated by Clearwater Scenery, is based around an irregularly shaped tank, which was lined by Absolute Roofing using a heat-welded membrane of heavy-duty plastic. The Almeida's production manager James Crout says about the choice of supplier and materials, “The irregular shape of the tank meant that conventional pool liners would not work — but keeping water in uses a very similar technique to keeping it out, so a roofing specialist seemed like a logical choice.” Crout's decision has been vindicated by the lack of leakage during the play's 10 — week run. The 55,000 — liter tank is heated and cleaned using standard swimming pool gear, chosen at the suggestion of a local supplier.
A series of lifts built inside the tank provide variable-height “islands” for the cast, and an upstage tunnel allows Ariel (played by a willing Aidan Gillen) to jump into the cloudy water and disappear completely — much to the consternation of the audience. “Aidan has been wonderful — he's embraced the part wholeheartedly, despite being wet and cold for most of the evening,” Brown says. “Ariel needs a magical quality — and it's very appropriate to use theatre magic to make him seem slightly unreal.” Personal flying gear, designed and supplied by Summit Steel and AFX, is also used extensively, ensuring that the whimsical Ariel spends almost no time on terra firma. The entire design was coordinated by Souvenir Scenic Studios of South London.
In addition to the tanks, Brown uses an upstage rain curtain and a series of flown 10 — gallon water containers to add further impact to the storm scene. “The stage at the Almeida is 15m (50') wide and is practically the same size as the auditorium,” he explains. “The audience is very much in the storm, rather than just watching it. Onstage, if you're standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, you get very wet.” Though the storm sequence appears random, it is, of course, carefully orchestrated — though all lamps in the vicinity of the deluge are low-voltage types.
Brown's design is the latest in a long line of critically acclaimed productions to be staged at the Almeida — this success, he claims, is largely due to the attitude of the theatre's personnel. “This is a huge production for a small theatre — but nobody said no. The Almeida staff is extraordinary — their financial rewards are very limited and the work is low on glamour. The quality of the company's productions relies heavily on their goodwill, and they remain wonderful to work with.”
The large hole in the Almeida's roof has added its own unpredictable contribution to the production during the UK's wettest winter since record-keeping began. Brown, who has in the last year been involved in rebuilding the famous Gainsborough film studios as a temporary venue for the Almeida Company, and has also rehearsed productions in an incomplete and windswept Royal Opera House, is glad to be coming in from the cold. “I feel like I've spent the whole year wearing a hardhat!” he exclaims. “It would be nice to work in a theatre that was actually complete for a change.”
Following the closure of The Tempest, the company will relocate for 15 months to a new venue — an abandoned coach terminus only a mile or so from the theatre. This is being converted into two performance spaces; the larger with a capacity of 550 and a smaller 350 — seat studio. These will open in March with Nicholas Wright's radical version of Wedekind's Lulu, and will house several other productions, including a summer opera season, until the company's base is reopened in June 2002. Apparently, one of the first jobs at the company's temporary new home will be patching up the holes in the roof.
ESTA Market Research Program Moves Forward
As we go to press, a substantial number of companies have signed up to participate in the new market research program sponsored by the Entertainment Services and Technology Association. The companies include, ADB-TTV Technologies, Apollo Design Technology, Arriflex, Artistic Licence, Avab Scandinavia, Avolites, Bytecraft, Camco, City Theatrical, Colortran, Compulite R&D, Electronic Theatre Controls, ETA Systems, Doug Fleenor Design, Flying Pig Systems, Future Light, Gamproducts, GE Lighting, Group One Ltd., High End Systems, Jands, Jem Smoke Machines, Lehigh Electric Products, Lighting & Electronics, Lycian Stage Lighting, MDG Fog Generators, Martin Professional, NSI, Ontario Staging, Osram Sylvania, Pathway Connectivity, PerkinElmer Optoelectronics, Philips Lighting, Pook, Diemont & Ohl, Prolyte Products Group, Reel EFX, Rosco Laboratories, Selecon, Stage & Service, Strand Lighting, Strong Entertainment Lighting, James Thomas Engineering, Tomcat USA, transtechnik, Ushio, Vari-Lite, Wybron, and Zero 88.
According to Lori Rubinstein, ESTA's executive director, this level of participation means that studies will go forward in the following categories: moving lights, fixed luminaires, followspots, lamps, dimmers, control and networking, atmospheric effects, and trusses and towers. A few other categories are awaiting green-light status, based on the number of companies willing to participate.
Rubinstein stresses the many benefits the program is designed to bring to the industry: “Manufacturers have historically had to guess at the size of their market and their share in it. This service will put an end to that guesswork by providing actual sales figures for various products on a quarterly basis; the information will also be broken down geographically — more information that will aid companies in their planning.” She adds, “This information will help companies to obtain financing for new initiatives or in valuing businesses to be sold. And, most importantly, participants can use this information to make informed decisions about new products, marketing plans, and personnel.”
Again, she adds, “The information-gathering process is completely confidential. An independent third — party accounting firm has been hired to collect the data; no one outside of the company will see information about any company.” Most important, she says, “Only participating companies will have access to the final reports.”
Rubinstein notes that the deadline for participating in this year's round of market research is March 15. “This is an historic initiative,” she says, “which promises many important benefits for our industry.” To take part in the program, or to find out more about it, contact her at ESTA, at (212) 244-1505, or via email at email@example.com
Wiseman to Head Sales Worldwide for High End
John Wiseman has been promoted to vice president of worldwide sales for automated lighting manufacturer High End Systems, Inc.
Wiseman recently served as VP of special projects with specific responsibility for sales efforts in Europe and Asia. The promotion gives Wiseman total sales responsibility worldwide.
CEO Frank Gordon said, “This gives High End greater synergy to influence sales on a global basis. It definitely makes sense to centralize our sales management and John is certainly the individual to do it.”
Stated Wiseman, “This begins another chapter in my career with High End Systems. It has been an exciting journey. With the incredible group of individuals on the sales team and the unity of the new sales structure, I am confident that this further positions High End for continued success in our industry.”
Wiseman is an industry veteran and has served High End Systems in several capacities since joining the company five years ago. He was also instrumental in establishing High End's West Coast sales and demo facility in Van Nuys, CA.
Reporting to Wiseman is Sean Hoey, America's sales manager; David Catterall, European sales manager; JR Chai, Pacific Rim account manager; and Karen Bowler, worldwide sales operations manager.
Wiseman will continue to operate out of Van Nuys, supported by Reina Evans.
Strand's New London Office
Strand Lighting has a new London base, a split-level mews studio in the Fulham/Chelsea area, which will serve as a Strand Academy Training Center and also provide an office base for the company's southern-based project managers and sales representatives.
Ivan Myles, general manager of UK trading, says, “The reason for setting up this office is to enable us to reinitiate our training program, to be closer to our customer base, and to give better customer support. As well as being more convenient for the international project manager, it is strategically placed to allow us to meet our domestic architectural, consultant-, and production-based customers.”
The new office will house AutoCAD facilities, and operate a complete sales and administrative coordination function that will be directly linked to the factory in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland.
Among the senior personnel based at the London office will be Vic Gibbs, Bill Richards, and Lucien McQueen, as well as Myles. Strand has also appointed James Vaughan as sales administrator.
The new address is: Strand Lighting Ltd., P.O. Box 29986, London SW6 7FW; phone: +44 (0) 20 7751 9620; fax: +44 (0) 20 7751 9622; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Westsun Opens Vegas “Super Hub”
Westsun International Inc. has announced the creation of its first regional “super hub,” a sales and equipment depot in Las Vegas.
Says CFO and acting CEO Rob Davidson, “This is a natural step in our development strategy, one that will allow us to provide our customers with even greater access to our comprehensive equipment pool. It will also shorten lead times, thereby further improving our service to all of our clients.”
The new facility will be led by VP West Coast operations Dick Wright and will operate under the Westsun Las Vegas banner. The expansion is scheduled to be complete by May 1; the new facility is expected to house an equipment pool in excess of $15 million. Wright will work with Scott Jevons of Westsun Los Angeles during the transition period.
The satellite sales facility will operate under the existing Los Angeles banner, with Jevons as sales manager.
Consortium Acquires Matthews Studio Assets
An investment consortium lead by Raleigh Investments has purchased the assets of Hollywood Rental Co., Olesen, ESS, HDI, and Matthews Studio Sales as part of the Chapter 11 divestiture plan of Matthews Studio Equipment Group. The acquiring group includes Raleigh Investments, JA&A Capital, CDM Interactive, Inc., and Anil Sharma.
“Hollywood Rental and Olesen have long been nation's premier production equipment services suppliers, and our purchase of their assets will allow us to refocus the brands on their core business of supporting the film, television, and theatrical production industries,” says Anil Sharma, President of Hollywood Rentals Production Services. “Ninety percent of the prior companies' staff have been retained, a strong new management team is in place, and we are well positioned to support production on a global basis.“
Hollywood Rentals Production Services' corporate offices are in Burbank, CA, and it also maintains offices in Charlotte, NC, and Orlando, FL.
Raleigh Investment is an affiliate of Raleigh Enterprises, a diversified, entrepreneurial company that has operated in Southern California for more than 45 years. The company owns and operates Raleigh Film and Television Studios, which consists of two major studios, Raleigh Studios Hollywood and Raleigh Studios Manhattan Beach. JA&A Capital is an affiliate of Jules and Associates, Inc., a nationwide equipment leasing company located in Los Angeles. CDMI is an investment and consulting firm with a focus on business transactions that result in growth through acquisitions, sales or mergers of companies.