The inaugural production at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, built in Brooklyn as the new home for Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA), could hardly have been more ambitious: director Julie Taymor's innovative staging of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" featuring extensive video projections designed by Sven Ortel, lighting by Don Holder, sets by Es Devlin, costumes by Constance Hoffman, and sound by Matt Tierney.
Director Julie Taymor and scenic designer Es Devlin devised a deep thrust configuration that enabled the audience to get close to the stage and the performers. The audience wrapped around the thrust on three levels. During the show, expansive pieces of white fabric served as multi-functional, moving projection surfaces. The fabric towers unfold, like the story morphing and billowing with twists and turns, all covered with mapped projections by Ortel. The enchanted atmosphere was created in close collaboration with lighting designer Don Holder.
Ortel calls "A Midsummer Night's Dream" "one of the most challenging projects I've ever done from an installation point of view. I contacted Josh Weisberg at WorldStage very early on. When they came on board, that gave us a lot of confidence, no matter what bold, challenging ideas Julie or I came up with."
WorldStage's Lars Pedersen notes that, "the rectangular shape of the black-box theatre itself, the shapes of the projection surfaces and the fact that the fabric moves posed significant challenges for us. The projector configuration was unusual to the extreme with many of the projectors having to be placed in close proximity to the audience seating.
WorldStage Inc. provided seven Christie video projectors, which were mounted in the grid, low to the floor and on the back tiers of the theatre. "The projectors had to be positioned where they wouldn't be in the way of the performers and still fulfill the function of covering certain surfaces," notes Ortel. Two Christie Roadster S+20K projectors provided top floor projection; an M Series DS+10KM near front projection; an M Series HD-14K-M video projector far front projection; one M Series DS+10KM back projection (flown) and four more M Series units to handle canopy projection. The content handling system centered on the d3 Technologies d3 media server to meet the complex needs of the multiple, moving projection surfaces, which help create the enchanted atmosphere.
Because of the amorphous form of the projection surfaces, and that the fabric would reside in various stage positions the d3 server platform was chosen. “In order to create the requisite d3 mesh objects we employed a very sophisticated laser instrument to measure and record the vital information of the shapes and positions of the fabric within the 3D space of the venue. We then used a brand new feature in d3 called Mesh Animation. This feature allowed us to seamlessly transition imagery and mapping information from one fabric shape and position to another in real time."
A Midsummer Night's Dream" received "spectacular reviews. said Jeffrey Horowitz, TFANA’s artistic director. "The imagery and production are fresh - Shakespeare wrote images, and this all comes from what he wrote. But it's not duplicative of Shakespeare, it's additive. You can sense its aliveness."
"It's unbelievable what WorldStage did for us," Horowitz concludes. "A theatre only opens once. This production was the fireworks we hoped it would be, and WorldStage was a big part of the gunpowder!"
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
By William Shakespeare
Direction: Julie Taymor
Scenic Designer: Es Devlin
Costume Designer: Constance Hoffman
Lighting Designer: Donald Holder
Sound Designer: Matt Tierney
Projection Designer: Sven Ortel
Associate Projection Designer: Lianne Arnold
Assistant Projection Designer: Hanna S. Kim
Projection Programmer: Florian Mosleh
Master Electrician: Patrick Dugan
Light Board Programmer: Bridget Chervenka
Associate Scenic Designers: Bronia Houseman, Chris Morris, Chiara Stephenson
Assistant Scenic Designers: Eleri Lloyd, Machiko Weston
Associate Costume Designer: Beth Goldenberg
Assistant Costume Designer: Lux Haac
Associate Lighting Designer: Vivien Leone
Assistant Lighting Designer: Eunjung Choi
Assistant Sound Designer: Leo A. Martin IV