Painting the colors of a realistic Texas sky for the premiere of Giant, a new musical produced by the Dallas Theatre Center at The Wyly Theatre, was part of the challenge for lighting designer Ken Posner. Directed by three-time Tony winner Michael Grief, with sets by Allen Moyer, this new musical tells the story of a Texas ranch family over a span of 40 years. “The set is very beautiful and lyrical, evoking a vast Texas landscape,” notes Posner, whose lighting sets the cues for various times of day and shift of locations, using a naturalistic feel to convey the realism of the musical and its settings. A few large set pieces, such as a water tower, appear as Texas icons.
“There is a sky drop upstage, with a band platform downstage of the drop and upstage of the actors, with a scrim painted like the Texas sky,” Posner points out, noting that a generous donation of automated luminaires from Philips Vari-Lite solved his budget concerns and added extra flexibility to the lighting. “Vari-Lite has always been supportive to the arts community in Dallas,” adds Posner.
In this case, a package of VLX Wash, VL3500 Wash, VL2500 Wash, and VL1000 ERS luminaires was added to the house plot of ETC Source Four ellipsoidals and PARs, as well as striplights (and additional gear provided by PRG), giving Posner extra tools to create specific looks, such as enhancing the cloud patterns on the scrim with the VL3500s. Posner was also introduced to the VLX Wash lights for the first time and used them to light the backdrop, mixing them with LED strips and traditional striplights to create the constantly changing sky. “The color palette is driven by the emotion of the music,” Posner explains. “It is soft at times and emotionally saturated at others.”
Posner worked closely with associate lighting designer Nick Solyom and the in-house crew, including master electrician Justin Treece, assistant electrician/moving lights programmer Aaron Johansen, and followspot operators Meike Schmidt and David Gibson. Giant is heading to New York’s Public Theatre next season, creating a new set of challenges for the designers as they bring a vast Texas landscape into the Newman Theatre.