When Alex Timbers decided to turn the theater into a disco for Here Lies Love, with galleries around the dance floor, he relied on David Korins to reimagine the space—and for Peter Nigrini to fill it with video that helps tell the story and clarify the themes.
It’s been a decade since Here Lies Love, the immersive disco pop musical that tells the story of the rise and fall of Imelda Marcos and the People Power Revolution of the Philippines, opened at the Public Theatre. And there have been big changes.
Audiences experience this show in different ways, some in conventional seats and some dancing at the disco. In part one of this story, Nigrini talks about how he helped provide a consistent experience for them.
That’s only one of the challenges of mounting such a large production.
As the show has gotten larger, it’s required more equipment, and that equipment has to be organized for a three-dimensional space. In a proscenium theater, as the Broadway Theatre was before the team transformed it, there are conventional places for lighting instruments, sound equipment, and projectors. Now LD Justin Townsend, sound designers M.L. Dogg and Cody Spencer, and Nigrini had to find places for their equipment, all the while leaving space for people, some in costumes by Clint Ramos, others in clothes they wore to the theater, move in blocked and unblocked ways. “Back at the Public, we had the same problem. We rehung projectors a dozen times. We were constantly moving things to get all the systems to play nicely with each other,” Nigrini recalls.
On Broadway, the show is ten times bigger and heavier. “What changed was aggressive 3-D modeling of the entire theater, all the lighting, sound, and projection systems, where every pixel of light is going to pass through this 3-D space,” says Nigrini. “We were all collaborating. Of course, we still didn’t get it 100% right, but maybe 90 %.” Fortunately, 3-D modeling developed since the days of the Public production; today, that level of preparation was possible. “We also storyboarded the entire production in 3-D, allowing us to view any moment from any seat. It’s a great tool that allows us to be more efficient.”
“As the scale of a projection system gets larger, it has a greater and greater impact on lighting,” says Nigrini. That means that if an LD is trying to make sure we see a character as she’s entering, a projection designer has to find a way to help direct the gaze of the audience at that moment. “It’s critical that I, as a projection designer, constantly think like a lighting designer. If I’m not, the lighting designer becomes increasingly powerless to do a good job. This is something that’s always true [but] increases as the scale gets larger and more and more of the visual field is filled with projection.”
Nigrini sees technical rehearsals as a conversation on stage. “I might make a color choice. I leave it on state, and then the LD likes it or doesn’t, follows my lead or makes a counterproposal, pulling the scene in a different direction. Through all of this, we don’t have to speak much. We’re both looking at the complete picture and having the conversation on the stage.”
Scale is everything. If a show with three projections now has 28, that will make a difference. “How do you render and distribute content on this scale?” Negini muses.
For all the technical challenges presented by the ambition and scale of Here Lies Love, Nigrini feels the design and the production must do more. It must all serve to shed light on something deeper, something human that can be found in it, the U.S-Philippines relationship. Says Nigrini, “part of the show’s charm and joy is that it is a contradiction. It’s exuberant, maximalist, and joyous, but at its core, it’s a parable about dictatorship and populism.”
- (1) d3 gx2c
- (3) d3 vx4
- (52) Samsung QH/QB Series Digital Signage Displays
- Imagine Communications Platinum MX Routing System with integrated multiviewing and optical transmission.
- Barnfind BTF1 Series matrix frames
- Associate Projection Designer Robert Figueira
- Assistant Projection Designer Zoey Crow
- Lead Animator C. Andrew Bauer
- Dan Vatsky
- Kate Ducey
- Lacey Erb
- Lisa Renkel
- Ryan Belock
- Johnny Moreno
- David Bengali
- Projection Programmer Ido Levran
- Production Video Asher Robinson
- Deck Video/LX Adam Bishop