Clear-Com Sets The Stage For Wireless Communication At Guthrie Theatre

With a theatre boasting 12 stories, three performance stages, and a staff of 900 supporting a packed schedule of shows, it’s imperative to have reliable internal communication for highly-coordinated production teams. At Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theatre, CellCom10®, a digital wireless system by Clear-Com®, a brand of The Vitec Group, is the heart of the intercom network, enabling flexible and crystal-clear communications.

Constructed in Minneapolis, MN in the 1960s, the Guthrie Theatre was the precursor to Broadway-style theatres built later in major cities across the country. In June 2006, a newly refurbished theatre opened including the 1,100-seat Wurtele Thrust Stage and the 700-seat McGuire Proscenium Stage. The need for mobile communication among its large staff became a main consideration. The CellCom10 digital wireless system working in tandem with a Clear-Com Party-line system was the answer.

Since then, the Clear-Com system has continued to provide untethered intercom communication throughout the theatre’s two major stages, situated back to back on the second floor, as well as the dressing and prop rooms they share located beneath them. Wireless beltpacks are discreet, easy to operate with the Party-line intercom system on each stage, and are able to quickly move from one stage’s intercom system to the other. Furthermore, Clear-Com’s CellCom system offers reliable antenna-to-antenna relay that allows beltpack users to move around the facility without signal loss.

“We divided 10 beltpacks evenly between the Wurtele Thrust Stage and the McGuire Proscenium Stage,” says Paul Espby, senior sound technician for the Guthrie Theatre. “During any production we may shift more beltpacks to a single theatre to fully equip the crew. The software program makes the system easy to configure and re-configure as the need arises.”

Each of the two stages is outfitted with a wired intercom backbone of a Clear-Com RCS-2000 Party-line programmable source assignment panel and an MS-812A 12-channel intercom master station. Each of these is interfaced with a CellCom10 receiver with four active antennas. This allows users to move throughout either stage, the audience seating area as well as dressing and prop rooms, keeping in constant wireless communication. In a few seconds, beltpacks can be switched for communication with the other stage’s intercom system, a process called “changing pages.”

In addition to the stage crew, a stage manager wears a beltpack that allows him or her to roam throughout the stage and dressing room areas of the complex. The 12-channel Party-line system gives the Guthrie the ability to communicate within and among workgroups on a production, while maintaining the priority as the stage manager calls cues during the performance.

The Guthrie houses a third theatre, the 200-seat Dowling Studio, located several floors above the other two stages. The “black-box” flexible space is used for development and rehearsal, and is equipped with a separate MS-440 four-channel intercom main station interfaced with a CellCom10 system with four beltpacks. The Clear-Com Party-line intercom system working in tandem with the CellCom10 wireless intercom system has given the multi-stage performance complex the communications flexibility it needs to carry on its ambitious schedule.

Clear-Com’s newly released 1.5.7 version of CellCom10, offers new features and functionality including vibration alerts, which notify users when the headset has been removed from the ear. New remote battery monitoring and remote microphone kill offer greater control from the basestation. Improved configuration software allows for individual labeling of the user’s beltpacks and the creation of communication routes along with conference groups, which is especially helpful for on-the-fly applications such as performance venues like Guthrie Theatre.

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