Washington, DC- The Washington Ballet and Lighting Designer Clifton Taylor recently utilized equipment from 4Wall DC to light Sleepy Hollow, the third in a series of full length productions by the company based on works of American literature.
Encompassing a large swath of times and places, the production offered Taylor and The Washington Ballet Lighting Supervisor Rob Fabrizio with a number of settings and scenarios to illuminate.
“The ballet opens before the Salem Witch Trials of the early 1690s, and ends with an epilogue set in the early years of the 19th century,” said Taylor. “Along the way, we enact the burning of accused ‘witches’, a revolutionary war battle, the bucolic setting of Sleepy Hollow, a play within the ballet of the story of Rip Van Winkle, and of course the famous chase of the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane.”
The set changed as rapidly as it would seem: from theatrically presented beheadings to stops in bedrooms, school rooms, graveyards, and within snowstorms. Programmer Annemarie Mountjoy was kept extremely busy with over 300 called lighting cues. To enhance the production even further, Projectionist Clint Allen designed programming for both a full cyc size rear projection, as well as a full front projection.
In addition to the scale and ambition, Taylor cited the time crunch as an added challenge. Load in for Sleepy Hollow took place at its historic venue, The Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater, on a Monday morning- with the first audience scheduled to see the show on Wednesday night. A Tuesday morning Focus began late due to a snowstorm the previous night. Taylor praised the crew at the Kennedy Center, as well as the equipment from 4Wall DC, for assisting with the production’s success on this tight schedule.
“The crew at the Kennedy Center really couldn’t be better or more professional. Work like this is balanced on such a sharp knife edge of possibility, and everything has to work exactly when it is supposed to work, or it gets cut. That includes the lighting equipment, and I’m very appreciative that the gear and service that 4Wall provided allowed us to work at this level and speed!”
The lighting equipment Taylor spoke of was a diverse gear list including, amongst others, Vari-Lite VL3500 Spots, Chroma-Q Color Force LED Battens, and Color One 100 LED Pars.
Taylor found the VL3500 to be a versatile, useful tool with great zoom range and reliable shutter control. Ten of the units performed heavy lifting during the show.
The Color Force 72 Battens, focused directly into the house, were used to create a special effects ground row, used primarily for dramatic impact when the inevitable beheadings take place. Lifting the cyclorama just before the beheadings happened exposed the fixtures just before the decapitations were to take place.
“Because they are LEDs, we had the ability to make each of the four beheadings in the show different in their effect sequence and color,” said Taylor.
The Color One 100 pars, another Chroma-Q LED product, were used in the set piece for the uplight fire effects during the burning of the accused ‘witches’. Taylor spoke highly of the fixtures that were just recently added to 4Wall DC’s rental stock.
“These were wonderful for the purpose of the fire effects: easy to deal with in our limited time, with a small form factor which allowed us to build them into the scenery. Here, the LED was an advantage, as the silk which made the fire could sit right on top of the lights.”
Another LED addition was a large quantity of ETC Source Four LED Series 2 Lustr fixtures, which the Designer added despite some concern on the influence of the new technology on both current and future designs.
“Many are not involved in re-creating older works, but I often am. The ballet and dance companies around the world are the best repository to see original lighting designs from the past, and these complex works of art were created with a technology (incandescent) not easily replaced by light emitting diodes. I don’t want to lose these great works of art that have been given to us by real pioneers of theatrical design, and I think we should all be talking about this issue in greater depth before we rush into the latest shiny toys. So I bring these lights into a dance plot with more than a little trepidation because not everyone who is now or will be in the future maintaining these lighting designs will have considered these problems or have the tools to solve them.”
Those thoughts aside, Taylor recognizes the technology of LED is here to stay, comparing the eventual displacement of incandescent with LED to that of gas light being replaced by incandescent. He was extremely pleased with the performance of the Series 2 Lustr luminaires, which he described as an especially beautiful light.
“On a new production, they offer so much flexibility in color choices and also color transitions. In ‘Sleepy Hollow’, I used them in two positions: the first was the high shin position, which I often like to use for deeper color ideas. I also used them in a high boom position, which is so important to any large scale ballet, as it allows one to get sidelight over the heads of the corps de ballet and onto the middle of the stage where the principals are dancing.”
The high boom position of the fixtures also allowed Taylor to use them to color the venue’s light grey floor in each scene, a task that has called for scrollers or CXI systems in his past productions.
“The fixtures were a perfect and more versatile substitute. They’re a wonderful tool and I will want them going forward on a lot of shows!”
The designer appreciated the investment in fixtures like the Lustr that shops such as 4Wall make.
“I really appreciate the investment that a shop makes when acquiring all of this technology. I’m very conscious of budgets and making sure that when I ask for something, that I really need it and that it’s the best tool that I can afford to do the job.”
For more information on Clifton Taylor, visit www.designcurve.com
For more information on The Washington Ballet, visit www.washingtonballet.org
For more information on 4Wall Entertainment Lighting, visit www.4wall.com