Lighting & Projection

J.R. Clancy supplied a hoist and gantry system for moving LED walls at Valley Baptist ChurchCharting the advances in engineering that help theatres work smarter to make effects bigger as the tech gets smaller 

When The Phantom of the Opera first began to tour, theatres across America had to upgrade their steel so they could accommodate the hardware necessary for the chandelier effects. Now, thanks to advances in technology, that chandelier appears in community theatres and high schools—along with turntables, scenic wagons and more. The companies behind those advances in automation, hoists and dimming are still working on bringing even more great effects to venues unforeseen. We spoke with leaders at each to find out what they’re working on to help theatres work smarter, not harder, to make shows safer and more dazzling. 

Read more: Get Smart

Lighting & Projection

Chauvet Professional Colorado Batten Tour 144 bars light up the cyc while Rogue RH Hybrid fixtures add some eye candy pop in the Langston Hughes Auditorium. Whether starting out right, or getting a refresh, gear makes all the difference

Theatrical installs are a standard procedure, but sometimes they can breathe new life into a venue craving an upgrade or help a new one be state of the art right out of the gate. From modernizing an older rig to going green, many installs have had a transformative affect on their clients. Stage Directions profiled six venues to showcase the diversity of such installs and the practical applications for each.

Read more: Inventive Installs


AES 2015 placed a greater emphasis on live sound, and was rewarded

It has been a few years since Stage Directions went to the AES convention—the Audio Engineering Society’s annual fall shindig of the new and shiny in audio. The reason wasn’t that hard to figure out: The show catered to the recording industry, and offered little to live—let alone theatrical—sound. Well that changed this year, in a big way. There were a lot more live sound companies at the show, a whole day of theatre-related sound on Live Sound Expo stage—and a ton more people in the aisles. Everyone was pleasantly surprised by the large turnout at the show, and for their part the crowds had some exceptional new gear to check out. Without further ado, here are some highlights from the show.

Read more: Moving to Live


Epic Travels at LDI 2015The 2015 LDI show was big, bright, and packed to the gills with cool new gear

I should have bought an Apple Watch before LDI. I would have loved to have known just how much walking I did around the trade show floor this year, following the new gear from one corner of the convention center to the next. For the fourth straight year LDI took place in Las Vegas—although it did move back to its more traditional month of October—and it increased in size and scope too, with a 30% larger show floor this year. And it showed. While LEDs continued proliferate on the show floor, evolving and improving into new creative luminaires and effects, innovations in wireless control, power distribution and even manufacturing (leading to even more innovative products…) were all on display. Here’s what I saw in my travels.

Read more: Epic Travels


Amy Altadonna designed sound for Fissures (shown here in tech) but this past spring she got onto stage herself.  Amy Altadonna stepped out from behind the tech table and onto stage — and it only helped her sound design

I’m a sound designer. I love making noise, but I like doing it from the anonymous shadows of the tech table. I’m quick to jump up onto the stage to listen to monitors with my singers, and to step onto the apron to talk to the actors about underscoring, but I’ve only been on stage as a performer a few times, and never as an actor. 

Read more: Learning About Listening


Here are the winners of the 2015 Stage Directions High School Theatre Honors ProgramThe spotlight is on the most accomplished high school thespians across the country! We proudly present the winners of the 2015 Stage Directions High School Theatre Honors Program.

A great high school drama program encourages its students’ fearless self-expression, teaches top-notch stage craft know-how, and imparts creative and personal confidence. The recipients of this year’s Stage Directions High School Theatre Honors fully exemplify these academic and artistic values. Selected from a bounty of the very best drama departments across the country, the five schools we highlight, by region, uniquely offer their students excellence training and opportunity—and their students deliver their best efforts in return. Read on to discover more about each school’s success story.

Read more: Achieving Excellence

Answer Box

Reporters reach for their phones in Barrington Stage Company’s world premiere of His Girl Friday.Creating a MIDI “switchboard” to get multiple, period-perfect phones working correctly for His Girl Friday

​“A number of phones crowd the center table. Four of these phones communicate directly with the various newspapers; the fifth is an outside line, and extension of the switchboard in the criminal courts building.”
–Opening stage directions, His Girl Friday by John Guare

Barrington Stage Company’s ambitious production of His Girl Friday, a lively adaptation of the classic film (from John Guare), brought the whip-fast dialogue and action of the movie to life onstage—without the benefit of over-dubbing, foley artists or a special effects track. I was brought in to design sound for the play, and you can bet that the first thing caught my eye was the number of phones called for. (Yes, pun intended.) Still, “No big deal,” I thought. Phones are easy; either a nearby speaker or a Tele-Que are all that’s required. And then, on page 86, I saw this: “All the phones begin ringing crazily”—followed by more description of how a barrage of reporters scramble onstage to answer them and begin to furiously dictate news reports. 

Read more: So Many Phones, So Many Actors

Sound Design

Kerstin Anderson as Maria and the von Trapp children in the current tour of The Sound of Music, which uses DPA MicrophonesKen Travis looks for quality and reliability – in equipment and associates – when designing sound across the globe

Designing sound for one professional theatrical production is challenging enough. But Ken Travis has found himself in the middle of three shows at once: the U.S. national tour of The Sound Of Music teching in Boise, Idaho for an L.A. debut, a German production of Aladdin teching overseas in Hamburg, and a new Michael John LaChiusa musical at New York’s Public Theater called First Daughter Suite. It sounds like a surefire remedy for insomnia, but the experienced sound designer feels confident about the whole process, despite chuckling at his own workload. It all comes down to teamwork.

Read more: Sonic Assessments

Sound Design

Our next chapter of the “Miking the Pit” series gives good choices—but not the final word—in choosing micsOur next chapter of the “Miking the Pit” series gives good choices—but not the final word—in choosing mics for the musical theatre orchestra.

In Part One, we reviewed microphone basics. Part Two gave a generalized approach to miking up any instrument. In Part Three, we get down to brass tacks (and brass instruments) with a compilation of specific suggestions for the most common instruments used in the pit today. It includes suggestions for equalization, so often an essential part of obtaining the desired sound, but (due to editorial constraints) leaves out the related topics of microphone stand usage, cabling techniques and direct connection of electronic instruments. 

Read more: Critical Choices

Editor's Note

“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” —Bertolt Brecht

Today I delayed a blog post on our stage management blog. It was a post about stage terminology in different languages. How to say raise (or lower) the curtain in French, Spanish, Italian, etc. It was a useful piece, and contained good information. But the timing of it was especially bad. It was scheduled to go live on Monday, November 16—three days after terrorists killed more than 100 people and wounded hundreds more in a series of attack in Paris. 

Read more: Peace. And Acceptance. And Change.

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