Starlite Productions of Cherry Hill, NJ helped design the latest act for the Philadelphia Theatre Company’s new 25 million dollar home, the Suzanne Roberts Theatre.
The state-of-the-art theatre, designed by the award-winning and internationally recognized architecture firm Kieran Timberlake Associates, LLP, is Philadelphia’s first brand new theatre in nearly six years, since the neighboring Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts opened in 2001.
Starlite provided all the performance lighting instruments and accessories for the venue, including 336 ETC Source Four Ellipsoidal fixtures of various focal lengths; 24 Wybron Coloram IT scrollers and an Eclipse dowser; 14 Strand Fresnelites; four three inch Fresnels; eight Altman nine-cell Ground Cycs; and 17 2-K Nooklites from Mole Richardson. In all, the fixtures were fitted with 784 lamps of various types from Ushio America. This extensive package was complete with accessories—City Theatrical, Inc. manufactured the majority of the additional pieces—consisting of color frames, color extenders, pattern holders, top hats, donuts, barn doors, and irises. Additionally, over 8,600 feet of stage cables, 5,100 feet of multi-cable, two-fers, break-ins, breakouts and distribution boxes completed the package.
According to lighting sales representative and project coordinator, Joseph Masciangelo, prior to equipment delivery, Starlite’s staff installed connectors, safety cables and lamps as well as bench focused each fixture to ensure efficiency. Starlite’s lighting designer/production coordinator John Andraka supervised onsite testing of equipment and delivery.
According to project designer John Tissot of Theatre Project Consultants, Inc., his first time experience working with Starlite was a rewarding one with an accommodating, efficient, and responsive team even if site conditions might not have been the best. “The shop organized and packaged the equipment well for delivery and review,” he says. Although Starlite’s delivery coincided with the premiere show’s lighting hang and the entire stage was packed with gear, organization made everything easier. “The process went very smoothly and resulted in a surprisingly short punch list—especially given the large amount of equipment involved,” Tissot says.
Although this project initially began over two years ago, it’s been a long time in the making for the once small, yet impressive, Tony Award-winning Theatre Company. Starlite’s determination in attaining this job ultimately became influential to both groups. As one of Starlite’s more regular rental customers, when Masciangelo heard of the project, he acted immediately to receive bid pre-approval along with other local theatrical dealers from Theatre Projects. “It’s always a pleasure to continue to work with your local day to day customers on their new and exciting projects,” Masciangelo says.
Officially opened at the end of October, the new 365 seat proscenium theatre consists of a fully isolated stage house (60’ H x 70’ W x 40’ D), an auditorium, a 2,000-square-foot stage with trap room and a 68-foot fly loft as well as meeting, rehearsal, and rental areas for small local art groups. The entire venue is housed on the lower level of the Symphony House, a $126 million condominium tower.
According to Tissot, the Company initially yearned to expand their artistic mission, which includes handling four to five productions within their seven month season, while also increasing the amount of usable and much needed additional space. “The Company sought building-wide improvements in both public and performer amenities, and looked to enhance the overall audience experience,” he says. Since PTC focuses on developing novel scripts and musicals, a key design goal was not only creating a certain sense of intimacy between performers and the audience, but also maintaining a “production-friendly” venue.
With a shortage of suitable places in the city for growing theatre and dance companies, PTC wanted to become self-sufficient in-house by having their own technical performance gear available at their disposal when needed. “The design focus included achieving maximum flexibility in the theatre’s physical conformations, and finding equipment choices that offered the best efficiencies during load-in and production periods,” Tissot says. “Under short rehearsal periods, production efficiency is paramount to allow the maximum rehearsal time for a show to grow to its full potential through artistic experimentation and evolution.”
Although this new development within the Company’s history is still in its infantile stages, Tissot thinks the architects, owner, and entire design team’s decisions will reflect favorably. Indeed, what was once a budding theatre company is now an artists’ powerhouse for the city. And Starlite focused the lights on their dreams for yet another performance within their history. “We were very excited to be supplying this equipment,” Masciangelo says. “Our close proximity to Philadelphia and our longstanding relationship with the Philadelphia Theatre Company made this an excellent opportunity to partner with the local theatre community in a big way.”