LED Lights and Theatre

Most of my experience in doing lighting design for theatre was drawing a sketch of what I needed and handing it to a talented technician who actually knew what to do to make it happen.

The systems I worked with were good but old school. You know, strip lights, parcans, colored gels, fresnels, and ellipsoidals. All that stuff did the trick and I was, in conjunction with those talented technicians, able to create some pretty cool lighting landscapes for shows over the years.

I got my first taste of LEDs a few years back in a small venue. I was not impressed. These were obviously cheap LED lights. Some of the lighting nodules stopped working after a while. We had a terrible system for controlling them, and I kept thinking: give me a parcan any day over a LED. At least I can blast the stage with reliable light!

I have now switched my opinion about LED lights in theatre because of the brand new auditorium I’m now working in which installed the Source 4 LED. Wow! And double wow!

Our auditorium is equipped with 20 of the Source 4 Lustre units – 10 of them having the ellipsoidal zoom lens and 10 of the them having the Fresnel adapter. We also have 20 of the Source 4 LED Par lights and four of the magic dot.

Forty-four lights for theatre is not a lot. Probably will need another 20 at some point, BUT what these lights can do is impressive. I’ve been spending all of my free time learning the ETC Element console for controlling these bad boys. It’s a little overwhelming but also really fun.

Here’s what sticks out to me about the Source 4 LED. Brightness. These babies are bright and the zoom lens creates crisp outlines. The Fresnel lens creates beautiful soft light, which when coupled with the barn door attachment, can be directed in a myriad of ways.

Next. COLOR. Oh my goodness. The color that comes out of these LEDs is unparalleled. I wowed my students the other day but doing a color wash of the stage from a deep blue  to a vibrant green to a hot red to every combination in between. All with a click of a mouse. No more changing gels!

This is impressive stuff, and I feel fortunate to be able to work with this system into the future.

Source 4 LEDs give theatre so many new options never before available to lighting designers. Imagination is the limit, so I hope my imagination will take-off and do something really special in this venue.

I know I’m going to enjoy the ride.

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A Lot of Learning on the Horizon

The school where I teach drama is on the verge of having a brand-new, state-of-the-art auditorium. I like to call it a theatre, myself.

It’s completely outfitted with Source 4 LED lights which are awesome and so incredibly versatile. It’s got a ETC Element lighting console and a complete professional Bose sound system coming next week. It’s got 10 rigging bars with high capacity motors and a powered curtain. It’s going to be a sweet facility and it will be my domain day in and day out. I can’t wait!

But what hit me, yesterday, as I was being trained on the ETC Element, is that I have a TON of learning to do, and I have to learn fast because the very first show in our theatre is opening on April 24. Now that I know I’ll have the auditorium, it changes everything about the show. Ahhh!

Where to begin? Scrims. I need to make some scrims. Gobos. I need some gobos!

Oh yeah, I need to learn the equipment.

And lighting plan? How’s this? My first rough draft.

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Don’t try and decipher it. I can barely understand it, but it’s my first real lighting plan, so that’s exciting!

In the past, I’ve had the privilege of working with professional technicians trained in lighting for theatre. Not any more. I gotta learn, and some of the AV guys at the school gotta learn. Lighting for drama is a BEAST, and we have to tame it!

Anxiety level: high!

Excitement level: even higher!

Here’s a mock-up of the poster for my April show. I can’t wait. No, yes, I can because I have so much work to do until I get there. But it will be a fun ride.

Time to replan the backdrop for the show. Anyone going to be in Jeddah in April?

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Finally – Christmas Drama Collection Coming in 2019

I love writing Christmas plays, and I’ve written thirty of them over the last few years — including a couple Christmas mini-musicals.

Now, finally, I’m going to be pushing hard over the next few months to get them out into the marketplace.

Tales of Wonder is a three-part series of full-length Christmas shows which premiered at the Penang Performing Arts Centre from December 2015 through December 2017.

The collection is a mix of secular and sacred, silly and serious. I had so much fun producing two of these shows. There’s something about the Christmas season which lends itself extremely well to the dramatic arts. There’s no greater time to focus in on family-drama with societal implications.

I love this collection and I’m super excited to finally getting this project off the ground. These shows (or individual sketches) are great for a variety of settings such as community theater, schools (both public and private), and churches.

I’ll keep everyone updated on the project’s progress. Hope to have them out by spring so folks thinking about Christmas shows will have plenty of time to prepare for something truly special.

Oh, and I even have a first-draft mock-up of the book’s cover.  Let me know what you think!

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Successfully Built Dictator 2.0

Last night ended another show. We had two successful showings of HOW TO BUILD A DICTATOR 2.0. It was loads of fun and had two great, responsive audiences.

The premise of the show is a political rally where people show up to nominate THE ONE for world leader. I can’t get into the gist of the show without giving away the punchline, but it’s a tremendously fun evening which includes a full party with food and drinks, with the venerable Wael Sedky gracing us on the strings. Yours truly even had an on-stage role which I clearly loved. I got to scare two boys with my loud voice. They were talking, so they deserved it.

This is experimental, black box, interactive theatre at its best.

Now I’ll give myself a month break and get ready for our next show in April.  Here are a few shots of the evening.

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How to Build a Dictator 2.0

Two years ago I debuted an experimental theatre piece of mine entitled “How to Build a Dictator.” It was directed by my talented former student and theatre wizard Ysabel Loh and it was part of the Penang Performing Arts Centre Black Box Experiments series. It was tremendously fun to put on. We had a great audience and they reacted wonderfully to this unique audience-interactive show.

Now, I’m introducing “How to Build a Dictator 2.0” I start production on it this weekend with a completely revamped script I just finished writing. It’s 25% longer with even more insane stuff happening which will completely confuse (and hopefully amuse) the audience. I held auditions for it last Sunday and I have a dozen great actors ready to roll on this, though they have NO idea what they are actually getting themselves into. And that’s the beauty of it.

I haven’t had a show since April, so it feels good to get working on one. I’ll be sure to post many updates as we go along and get closer to the show dates of early December. But for now, I’ll leave with our mock-up poster – courtesy of Ysabel Loh who designed this for the first dictator show. I feel like the design is set in stone. This is the branding for this show. So here we go. Let the fun begin. dictatorPOSTER.jpg

Would the Bard Approve?

In my drama class this week, I emphasized one of the most basic points related to the dramatic arts – plays are meant to be performed.

You may think I’m stating the obvious. But the obvious sometimes gets lost in the well-meaning jungle of academic minutia.

Ask yourself, how many plays did you have to read in an English class at some point in your life?

In college, I had the Riverside Shakespeare – the massive volume of all the bard’s plays and poetic works wrapped with hundreds of pages of commentary. It was overwhelming on both the brain and my muscles. And I went to college in the days before backpacks. At least I don’t remember backpacks. I remember carrying books under my arms with my knuckles dragging on the ground from the weight of Lady Macbeth’s scheming. All of those plays I read by myself in my dorm room. Is it any wonder I had trouble paying attention to them.

This is what I have concluded: Plays. Stage. Perfection.

Plays. Classroom. Less than perfection.

How much better is Shakespeare when seeing it live? How about a bizzilion times!

Case in point. This summer I had the opportunity to see “As You Like It” in a small outdoor park venue. The lively performance used the hillside and trees as part of the  stage – a terrific natural setting which added to the imagination of the piece. The actions and language brought the play to life in vivid ways, and hundreds of people sprawling out on lawn chairs and lounging on the natural green grass amphitheater enjoyed a terrific evening of entertainment away from the television or sports or cell phones.

The pages were alive, as they should be.

I’m sure the bard would have approved of the spectacle in Allen Park, though I have to wonder what he would have thought to see his works studied like ancient manuscripts in a static classroom.

Plays are meant to be brought to life.  They are meant to be performed. They are meant to be read aloud. The voice, the emphasis, the cadence, the rhythm, the sound of the varied pitches, the laughter, the growls, the crying, the joy, the humanness.

Lets get the plays out of the classrooms and onto the stage.

But if they must be in the classroom, I hope an impromptu stage emerges with students reading and acting out the words on the page which were never meant to stay there.

 

THE BIRTH OF TECHNICOLOR in Brooklyn

I had the privilege of watching the world premiere of my play THE BIRTH OF TECHNICOLOR at the Gallery Players’ Theatre Black Box New Play Festival 2018.

Here I am, excited standing outside the theater.

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The play was adeptly directed by David Thomas Cronin and beautifully acted by two talented actors: Elizabeth Pickering Hopland (who played the character Black & White) and Danielle Ferretti (who played Technicolor). Here we are basking in the aftermath of opening night.

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You’ll notice Elizabeth was too quick with taking off her make-up since she didn’t know the nosy writer would be there requesting a photo after curtain call.  So I grabbed a promotional photo from dress rehearsal so you can see what she looked like.

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Yes, fabulous. Both of them. And they shined on-stage with terrific chemistry and point-on timing. It is always such a treat for a playwright to see a new work come to life. This is a quirky and funny play which honors the throwback golden era of cinema with loads of references to many of the great black and white films of all time.

This was the very first time I have ever gotten to see one of my plays in America. I’ve spent so much time overseas and produced many different shows in some unique venues, but it was special to finally be able to be there in the Big Apple at Brooklyn’s “premiere off-Broadway theater” to see a great show.

I tip my hat to all involved including Sue and Dominic who produced the show.

Hopefully, there will be many shows to come.