If you haven’t been to a high school theatrical production lately, you’re in for a treat. No longer the realm of worn out PAR Cans and 30-year-old spotlights, high school performing arts departments are increasingly the domain of more sophisticated equipment.
Witness Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, MD, whose performing arts department strives to push the envelope, including in the area of lighting effects. For the school’s recent concert production of Les Miserables at the Gertrude Bish Auditorium, over 200 students from five different choirs and the Churchill Symphonic Orchestra came together for a one-night-only concert experience for the community.
Churchill produces an annual rock-n-roll revival show and is no stranger to automated lighting technology. Last year’s show incorporated over 60 luminaires, most of those Martin fixtures. For Les Miserables, lighting designer Scott Selman chose eight MAC 700 profile spots and two Jem ZR 24/7 hazers supplied by Main Light Industries.
Selman works as the media services technician at Churchill High School and is executive producer at Act Two Performing Arts, a youth focused non-profit theatre company. He says he chose the MAC 700 for its blend of features between the MAC 550 and MAC 2000. Their color temperature and overall lumen output helped solidify his decision.
“I needed a fixture first that was quiet. This is a concert with a symphonic orchestra and the score didn’t call for fixture noise,” says Selman. “I am a big fan of having lots of specials on hand. Their speed was a big plus, and the 700s gave me the ability to quickly jump between looks. The best thing about the fixture was the color mixing and zoom capabilities. I couldn’t handle MAC 2000s for this project and the 700 was a perfect compromise. In fact, I think I like it better, especially the stock template selection. I really like beam effects through haze and there are some wonderful breakup patterns included. I also found the color temperature of the lamp to be very pleasing. I have had balance issues with other sources in the past, and these 700W lamps seem to burn just right.”
When asked about specific features of the MAC 700, Selman first mentions the color mixing system. “I found it to be very smooth and precise,” he says. “Unlike other fixtures I have used, the color field seemed to be very even, not fading off at the edges. Next would be the very nice zoom and focus adjustment. For the Les Mis concert, I used many live movements for effect and the beam change over time was very responsive. Lastly, the overall brightness of the fixture was probably its greatest asset. I love saturated colors and these pushed through without a hitch. Even with dark purples or dark reds, there was still plenty of light.”
Selman says he already has eight MAC 700s booked for another show in November and will be using 12 for a production in January, which will also feature four MAC 550s and 10 MAC 300s as well as FiberSource QFX150 powering a fiber-optic drop.