Purdue University's Division of Theatre has acquired Thematics' modelBOX, a customized and scaled Lightbox specifically tailored to architecturally mimic the University's two theatres and simulate their lighting inventory.

The new theatres are part of a $48 million performing arts complex. The Nancy T. Hansen Theatre is a 300-seat proscenium space providing an intimate actor/audience relationship with an audience chamber only 12 rows deep. The Carole and Gordon Mallett Theatre is a flexible performance space with seating capacity from 100 to 150, depending on stage configuration: arena, thrust, or end-stage arrangements.

The Lightbox was tailored for the University before its theatres were actually built. “Purdue sent us drawings of the theatres and a list of their unique properties: an Electronic Theatre Controls Emphasis control system with 350 channels of control and lots of dimmers,” says Thematics designer/founder Charles Kirby.

Russell Jones, chair of Purdue University Theatre, notes that the school celebrated 100 years of producing theatre with the 2006-07 season, its first full one in the new facility. “We're known for having the best ‘toys’ on the campus,” he says, adding that he sees Lightbox becoming “more and more a regular part of the design process” in the department. Jones also views Lightbox as a collaborative tool. “When a scenic designer is doing work, you're able to implement Lightbox and get a clear understanding of what the lights are doing,” he says. “All of our directors are faculty or guest artists. For them to visually communicate with designers is a huge plus.”

A further application for Lightbox is in teaching labs. “We teach a model-construction class and have students build scenic models,” explains Jones. “We have three Lightboxes that help them to develop portfolio pieces. They can put their models in Lightbox, photograph them, and then use the photo in a portfolio rather than carrying around the actual models.”

The department's first production to use Lightbox in spring 2006 was The Winter's Tale. “There were looks that the director developed in Lightbox that were absolutely transferred onstage,” recalls Jones. Lightbox also had a role in designing Living Out, playwright Lisa Loomer's look at the economic and ethnic divides of contemporary society, which ran in March and April.