From "Light Humor" To The Holy Grail: Cory Pattak Lights Spamalot

During the pandemic, Cory Pattak had time to contribute his skills to write, record, and sound edit the ongoing Light Humor series with 4Wall as well as his in: 1 podcast. Since then, Pattak has returned to his actual career as an in-demand lighting designer. His latest big musical, Monty Python’s Spamalot, opened at the St. James Theatre on Broadway on November 16. Pattak talked to Live Design about his work on the musical.

Live Design: How did you get involved with this production?

Cory Pattak: I'm the resident lighting designer for the Broadway Center Stage series at the Kennedy Centre, so I do all those shows. Spamalot began at the Kennedy Center last May as the third show of the season and it was such a success down there that there was quickly talk of bringing it to Broadway. There has always been a desire to transfer something to Broadway, and on this one all the elements came together.

LD: How much did this project change in between Kennedy Center and Broadway?

CP: Timing! What you should know about the Kennedy Center series is that we do them incredibly fast. We'll do act one in one day, act two the next, then the dress rehearsal on the third afternoon and have an audience that night. So, it’s really, really fast from a lighting standpoint, and it's all in-house gear at the Kennedy Center, but thankfully they’ve got a good stock of equipment at my disposal. Once we knew we were moving the idea was to keep it generally the same, but to find ways to upgrade it. We replaced some scenery and added some new drops.

I was also able to expand the lighting. For instance, at the Kennedy Center we didn’t have any ladders for sidelights, so we used stock dance towers. When we transferred, I added a bunch of moving lights and upgraded some others, but the bones of the design are the same. We started from the same show file but we had a lot more time.

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Cory Pattak/Spamalot

 

 

 

 

 

LD: Where did you find inspiration?

CP: I had seen the original (three Tony Award-winning production) back in the day but didn’t draw from that. Working this fast you have to go with your gut. There is a big video component on this, as there is with most of the Broadway Center Stage shows, so some of it was seeing what Paul (scenic and projection designer Paul Tate dePoo) did and riffing on that, and he in turn riffed on my colors. We tried to be as bold and silly as the text is as it is an unapologetic big musical comedy. Spamalot is not a subtle show, it is big and blunt and so the lighting supports that. There are lighting moments to highlight absurd things, and lighting jokes such changing the lighting abruptly to access a joke on stage or actually doing gags with the lighting, where someone will be intentionally out of their light. We change the dynamic of the stage from something quite mundane to something very showbiz razzmatazz to assist with the humor.

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Cory Pattak/Spamalot

 

 

 

 

 

LD: Can you talk us through some of your fixture choices?

CP:  The fixtures in DC are all Martin, including Mac Encores, Vipers, and Auras and some Quantum Spots. When I'm building a show from scratch, I really try to spec only LED-based lamps as there are enough high-quality ones now and I just don't want to deal with different brightness of lamps or lamps dying. I worked with PRG, our lighting supplier, and they had a bunch of the Vari-Lite VL2600 Profiles which I had not used previously, but I am using them on another show this fall, The Great Gatsby, which is also a PRG show. I like how fast the zoom and iris are because I knew we'd be doing lighting gags where I wanted the iris to be able to, for example, snap closed. All the Vipers were switched to VL2600s.

PRG also suggested CHAUVET / Ovation Reve E-3 and they were great, really bright and I was able to get saturateds out of them and also paler colors. I would use them again in a heartbeat.

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Cory Pattack/Spamalot

 

 

 

LD: How do you stay up to date on what’s out there?

CP: I don't go to the trade shows as much as I would like but I talk to shop reps a lot. I did a big shootout at PRG, looking at maybe 12 different fixtures, and spent all afternoon comparing features and I’ve gone to 4Wall and other showcases which I find incredibly useful. I'll talk to different reps, that’s how I fell in love with Diablo, because of James Suit at ACT Entertainment, which is an Ayrton supplier. I'll read the literature and Live Design and Light & Sound America to see what's coming down the pipe. The biggest thing is just to talk to other designers about what they are using.

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Cory Pattak/Spamalot

 

 

 

LD: What was the biggest challenge on this production?

CP: Time. At the Kennedy Center we produced the show very quickly while I was sick and could barely talk, on Broadway we had more time but we were still moving incredibly quickly with new people, new lights, and new scenery. We did it but it requires an iron stomach!

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Cory Pattak/Spamalot

 

 

 

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Cory Pattak/Spamalot

 

 

 

Gear List

MOVING LIGHTS
48 VARI*LITE / VL2600 Profile
7 AYRTON / Diablo
6 ELATION / Proteus Maximus 5 1
35 MARTIN / MAC Aura XB
3 GLP / X4 S Wash

LED LIGHTING FIXTURES
88 CHAUVET / Ovation Reve E-3 
6 CHROMA-Q / ColorForce-72 [Series 2

CONVENTIONAL LIGHTING FIXTURES 
75 ETC / Source Four ERS 750w 
6 ETC / Source Four PAR 750w 

CONTROL
1 ETC / GIO 
1 ETC / RPU 3 @24k

FOLLOW SPOTS
2 LYCIAN 1295 Follow spots @ 3k 
1 Spare ballast for LYCIAN 1295 

ATMOSPHERICS
3 MDG Atmosphere ATMe
4 JEM / AF-1 Fan 3 1
4 LOOK SOLUTIONS / Viper NT Fogger
3 LOOK SOLUTIONS / Cryo Fogger LP 
1 LOOK SOLUTIONS / Tiny FX Fogger
3 Big Shot Confetti Cannon - Double Barrel

WORKLIGHTS + CUE LIGHTS
11 Altman Q-Lite LED Warm White 
11 ChromaQ ColorForce 12 [Series 2] 
13 ETC ColorSource PAR (or similar)
3 Prospero DMX Cuelight Control System 2 1
5 DFD (Fleenor) 15a Relay Panels 5
2 City Theatrical 6-way Switchbox 2