Pitzer College in Claremont, CA, launched a new initiative to “go greener” with the opening of a brand new “green” residential hall (Gold LEED-certified sustainable dorms) that included a grand opening celebration featuring lighting design by alumnus/trustee Marc Broidy and senior theatre major Vanessa “Nessa” Rundle. Robert Redford, Pitzer College president Laura Skandera Trombley, and Ed Begley, Jr. were among those who attended the evening's activities.

Earlier in the year, at an annual Board of Trustees retreat, the college president mentioned that she wanted to have a celebration including fireworks for the new facility. That's when Broidy volunteered to get involved, he says, “simply to support the college in gaining profile, recognition, and additional media attention for our incredible accomplishments. Secondarily, the ability to paint the new campus facilities with light seemed to be both an exciting and interesting design idea/challenge.”

The use of fireworks was quickly abandoned in consideration of the environmental consequences, and the team turned, instead, to using an event with highly produced lighting, including fixtures from Vari-Lite and Martin Professional run on a Flying Pig Systems Wholehog 3. Broidy notes that the easiest aspect of the production was the flexibility of having a fully automated rig. “I would have nearly limitless ability to adapt to the multiple needs of the event — stage, architectural, and live light show — underscored by music,” he says. Broidy adds that he had a good deal of help from Tim Jones, sub-contracted by CalStage, who managed a series of obstacles on site.

And Rundle, the student acting as assistant LD, was able to learn a few things in the real-world environment outside the classroom. “As a design student, it is not common to be able to work with such advanced technology, using an entire plot of intelligent lighting or a light board with so many different capabilities,” she says. “Because of the nature of the light show, it was great to be able to utilize the perspective of an alum/trustee and a current student while working together to create a show that not only illustrated the success and efficiency of the dorms, but also their beauty.”

“We were pleased to be able to power the event with a CAT generator that ran purely on biodiesel,” adds Broidy. “As an alum, I was thrilled to see the college continue to garner profile and attention as a leader in socially responsible education, be recognized as a Top 50 school in US News and World Report, and be able to attract the support of leading green-oriented entertainment figures as well as the interest of the Sundance Channel. As such, I felt it important that the production values mirror the scope/talent of the evening. Additionally, I was thrilled to be able to involve a fellow theatre major as my assistant designer.”

The challenges, however, were two-fold. Based in New York, Broidy had to implement and manage the production from 3,000 miles away. In addition, a four-hour long window of rainy weather — during load-in and 60 hours before the event — and the failure of one of the lifts used to hoist the stage truss, caused a few kinks. “These factors deprived me from one night's programming time with the rig and thus resulted in no time for a run-through of the lighting elements under darkness,” says Broidy.

On the up side, those challenges also created another learning opportunity for Rundle. “It was really helpful for me to see someone programming on a Wholehog 3 and working around different problems that arose, most specifically the rain,” she says. “I have worked in an outdoor space before. However, when one is working within a two to three day span, every hour lost to rain changes the format of the day and demonstrates the importance of efficiency of time. Also, working in an outdoor space with architectural structures, as opposed to actors and scenery, is a very different process and pushed me to think of lighting in a more three dimensional, textural sense.”

Broidy adds that he understands how valuable it is to be able to learn on-the-job and gain practical experience while working with other designers. “As a theatre major at the Five-College program housed at Pomona College, I was able to seek out and create experiences that were atypical for the traditional liberal arts educational environment,” he says. “As a senior, I was fortunate to be able to spend my final semester interning at the design firm of what is now known as Visual Terrain in Hollywood. I learned invaluable skills in the real world art and craft from such legendary designers as Jim Moody and Jeff Ravitz that certainly make me a better designer.”

Broidy also notes that, as a result of his internship, he was the first designer in the Five-College Theatre program to employ intelligent fixtures on his plot for his senior thesis. “In 1995, that was a noteworthy opportunity!”