University theatre programs and neighboring theatrical companies all too often have a unique relationship with the sharing of valuable resources. Such is the case with the University of Houston Theatre Program and the world-renowned Alley Theatre.
The Alley was undergoing renovation and needed a space to continue their production season. When University of Houston Faculty Member and Alley Theatre Associate Director/Design Kevin Rigdon suggested the shared use of the university’s two theatre spaces this lead to the university being able to upgrade their lighting system with PL Series LED luminaires from Philips Selecon.
“When I first looked at the PL Series what caught my eye was the quality of light,” began Rigdon. “I wanted to find a light that would contribute something new to our lighting designs and I found that in the PL Series luminaires.”
A veteran in the theatrical industry, Rigdon has also worked as the lighting designer for the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago and scenic designer for the Peter Hall Company in London, but currently it was his unique position as both faculty at the University of Houston and Associate Director/Design of the Alley Theatre that made this PL Series theatrical partnership possible.
Rigdon explains further, “We had an interesting opportunity as the Alley Theatre is undergoing a $47 million renovation and so I was able to bring them over to the university where they will be able to perform during the construction process. As a part of the arrangement, we were able to do a fairly substantial upgrade to the university Black Box Theatre so we took the 1970’s era theatre and brought it to the 21st Century concentrating on the lighting system.”
With the Alley Theatre performing in the 500-seat proscenium space, the University School of Theatre & Dance would primarily be using the smaller Black Box Theatre space which is a traditional 50x50 foot space that had the conventional dimming systems located inside the cramped lighting booth.
Rigdon continued, “We started by taking out all the conventional dimming and placing the existing circuitry into a Strand Lighting Contact Relay Panel which really opened up the space. With the lighting instruments we wanted to cut down on our turn-over times between productions and create a space that had a repertory plot so the use of LED fixtures became appealing. As we started to look at all the fixtures available a lot of manufacturers were releasing their new LED theatrical fixtures and for me I was really looking for a new lighting ingredient and the PL Series LED fixtures really fit the need.”
As Rigdon and Authorized Philips Entertainment Dealer Stagelight started talking about the new lighting system, Alumnus and President of Stagelight, Jerome Dunn knew the space well and so he did a shoot-out between the PL Series and others on the market to help Rigdon find the perfect equipment that would work well for the range of university productions.
“Jerome Dunn from Stagelight is an alumnus of the University of Houston so we have always had a great relationship with them and they have always been great supporters of our program. Stagelight is a partner who has always provided our students with the opportunity to work with the latest and greatest theatrical equipment to help with their education which includes seven productions a year split between the Dance and Theatre programs.”
As the PLprofile1, PLfresnel1, and PLcyc1 LED luminaires were installed, Rigdon and the students immediately began to see the differences provided with LED lighting technology in a real-word theatrical environment.
“What we found most interesting about the PLcyc luminaires was that we now only needed one circuit to light the cyc and their ability to create virtually any color was beautiful. Another of the characteristics of the PL Series that really sold me was the dimming. I have looked at a lot of LED fixtures that put out beautiful light but once you faded them they failed. The PL Series does not do that. In our production of ‘Blood Wedding’ we had a mix of tungsten halogen fixtures and PL Series using the PLprofile1, PLfresnel1, and PLcyc1 luminaires and they all faded so consistently you couldn’t tell the difference.”
Not content to only have the latest LED technology available for his use on the university productions, Rigdon also wanted to take the opportunity to make the students’ experience complete through the implementation of LED technology education.
“We had Bobby Harrell come out and teach an LED workshop with the students which was what really introduced them to the PL Series and it opened their eyes to what LED fixtures do well. As a teaching tool, understanding RGBW additive mixing is a much simpler concept than subtractive mixing. What I have seen from the PL Series is that you get light that behaves as I have always known light to behave. As part of this renovation we are creating a LED lighting lab where the students can replicate how the lights are performing inside the theatre spaces, and this is a huge change in how we can teach stage lighting.”
With the full renovation now behind them and when the Alley Theatre returns to their original home, the University of Houston School of Theatre & Dance will continue to reap the benefits of their new technology provided by Philips Selecon PL Series LED luminaires.
Rigdon concluded, “The whole PL Series line is wonderful. It always goes back to the quality of light and the quality of light in our spaces is stunning. The light itself has a clarity that’s gorgeous and there is a luminosity to it that is clean and sharp. For a theatre with an 18’ tall grid like our Black Box, these are perfect. They are the right size, the right output, and the field of light and zoom range are beautiful.”
Philips Strand Lighting and Philips Selecon offer the world's most comprehensive and competitive range of luminaires, dimming equipment, control systems and software to answer the creative needs of lighting designers working in theatre, television, film, themed environments and sophisticated architectural applications. www.strandlighting.com. www.seleconlight.com