Zellerbach Playhouse at the University of California, Berkeley, recently underwent a $1.1 million lighting systems renovation—a long-awaited project that equips the school’s technical theatre program with the latest tools of the trade, including state-of-the-art controls, dimming, distribution, and fixtures by ETC.
The renovation was needed in part to keep pace with UC Berkeley’s philosophy of exposing students to equipment they’ll use in their professional careers. “We need to train students to work with the tools and technologies they will encounter when they leave the university,” says lighting design lecturer David K. H. Elliot. “As technical theatre continues to innovate and incorporate new and upgraded technologies, the training of people to design with, operate, and maintain that equipment becomes increasingly important, even urgent.”
Part of that training now includes ETC’s newest lighting control consoles, Eos® and Ion®. A student just beginning to study lighting design can feel comfortable working with Eos and Ion, while advanced students can experiment with the powerful features the desks offer. Two ETC Net3™ Remote Video Interfaces also let students view and program data remotely from anywhere in the theater.
Zellerbach’s lighting rig now sports more than 200 ETC Source Four® conventional fixtures of varying degrees, as well as many automated lights, including six Source Four Revolutions®. Eos and Ion control all these fixtures, allowing UC Berkeley students to experiment more in their designs. Says Mattson: “With Eos and Ion, we have much more control over performances, using moving lights that we could only begin to work with previously.”
One of the challenges of the Zellerbach renovation was to allow use of more lighting fixtures in more flexible ways without increasing the existing power service or adding to the electrical load. To accomplish this, ETC designed raceways that held six-circuit Socapex outlets, single-pin and network connections, outlets for worklights and 50-amp connections, and three-phase 30-amp motor power connections. ETC’s Dimmer Doubling™ also reduced the number of circuits required and helped keep the project within budget. “We can mount and plug in lights in much greater quantities and more locations than ever before, without any need for ridiculous cable runs, rented dimmer racks or other nonsense,” explains Mattson. “With the networking infrastructure we can plug a node in most anywhere and provide for DMX connectivity.”
The lighting system has gotten a real workout since the renovation. The hall is in use constantly, with scores of theater and dance productions and rehearsals put on by department. “We opened our 2007/2008 season last fall with a production of Continuous City, a workshop/residencywith the Builders Association. In March, we mounted a production of Euripides' The Bacchae. The first, clearly a product of the 21st century, continued the innovative merging of live performance and high theatrical technology that we increasingly see in productions. The latter, a play from the beginnings of the western theatrical tradition 25 centuries ago, explores human themes as old as people. Between the two lies nearly all of recorded theatrical history. We needed a lighting system that could cover all that,” says Elliott. That kind of variety will characterize the future roster as well: upcoming productions in the venue will include a residency by the Joe Goode Performance Group, Robert Lepage’s The Andersen Project, and department productions of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, and Feydeau’s Sauce for the Goose.