The 79-year-old Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) in Ashland has chosen Meyer Sound MINA™ line array loudspeakers to anchor the first full reinforcement setup in its 1,190-seat, outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre. With a stage house and thrust stage originally built for non-amplified performances, the theatre now benefits from an architecturally pleasing audio solution that heightens vocal clarity and musicality for the audience, while making performing easier for the actors.
“The Meyer Sound system has completely changed the experience for both artists and audience,” says Bill Rauch, artistic director of OSF. “The amplification is so subtle in the Shakespeare plays that the audience often cannot tell the actors are amplified, but they appreciate hearing and understanding every word.”
The move to a full reinforcement system was prompted by several factors, including the scheduling of more musicals, concerns about comprehension of Shakespearean language, and the directors’ desire to free the actors from always facing forward to project. With the repertory theatre changing the complete set daily, it was important to OSF that the system blended into the architecture without being incorporated into the scenic design.
OSF’s audio staff worked with Meyer Sound to design a visually unobtrusive solution using split center arrays of MINA loudspeakers, with two arrays of seven covering the orchestra and two of five covering the balcony. Outer left and right clusters of two-each UPQ-1P and UPQ-2P loudspeakers per side add stereo dimension for music and effects, while four 500-HP subwoofers supply musical low end and convincing effects—such as the giant’s footsteps in Into the Woods.
“For a language-based theatre company such as ours, nothing is more important than to hear the words with clarity,” says Rauch. “During Into the Woods, the singers are able to be heard clearly over a 20-piece orchestra—a revelation on this stage.”
Douglas Faerber, head of OSF’s sound department, adds: “Our new system is working beautifully. We really love it. We’ve had feedback from audiences about how they appreciate the clarity and the even and natural coverage, and the directors have been ecstatic about what they’re hearing.”
In addition, six UPM-1XP, two UP-4XP, and seven MM-4XP self-powered loudspeakers provide under-balcony, box-fill, and front-fill coverage, respectively. System drive, optimization, and delay alignment is supplied by a Galileo® loudspeaker management system with one Galileo 616 and two Galileo 408 processors.
The audio renovation also includes a Yamaha CL5 digital mixing console and 32 channels of Sennheiser 2000 Series wireless systems with G3 beltpacks and MKE II Gold lavalier microphones.
Founded by Angus Bowmer in 1935, and recipient of a Tony Award for outstanding achievement in regional theatre, OSF presents an eight-month season of 11 plays in three theatres. Attendance at the approximately 800 yearly performances normally exceeds 400,000. The Allen Elizabethan Theatre was named in recognition of a $3 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. The new sound system was made possible by a gift from Judy Shih and Joel Axelrod of Ashland.
Prior to the 2014 season, another new Meyer Sound system was installed in OSF’s Thomas Theatre, with flexible deployment of UPJ-1P VariO™ loudspeakers along with UP-4XP and MM-4XP loudspeakers.