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ETC products at home on Tony Award-nominated Fun Home

ETC products at home on Tony Award-nominated Fun Home

USA – With strong reviews, word-of-mouth recommendations and 12 Tony Award nominations, the musical Fun Home appears to be right at home on Broadway. Based on an autobiographical graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, it is an unusual show – incredibly delicate, rather than big and flashy musical – according to lighting designer Ben Stanton, who found himself with a low-tech show in need of high-tech lighting.

Stanton uses shifting pockets of light follow the action from scene to scene, defining rooms of different shapes and sizes as furniture appears and disappears through a complex series of traps. Using an ETC Eos Ti lighting desk, programmer Alex Fogel built a low resolution pixel map encompassing the whole stage, with each lighting area as a separate pixel. By applying a gradient to the intensity parameter of the area lights, he was able to smoothly drag focus around the playing area, responding quickly to changes in blocking, while maintaining the intimate look of the scene.

Because the show had been staged in a previous venue with the same creative team, he spent a lot of time making sure that things that worked downtown still landed in the round. Sometimes the new venue prompted significant changes. Previously, back wall projections were used to reinforce key moments in the show and to liven up the occasional dance number with bursts of colour, but in its new venue with no walls to speak of, many of these visual and narrative duties now fell to the lighting team. “The show is all about the deck,” adds Stanton. “The floor is the backdrop.” At times, characters are placed inside frames projected on the floor from custom gobos, referencing the hand drawn panels of a graphic novel. One jubilant dance sequence involves disco squares, while at another, bleaker moment, the lighting pulls back from the edges of the open trap doors, and chunks of the stage picture seem to go missing.

Stanton initially specified colour scrollers, and even took chances with the fans turned off. But noise was still going to be a problem. He knew that he needed colour-changing fixtures. So rental house Christie Lites offered to substitute Source Four LED Series 2 Lustr luminaires for the 200-plus scroller fixtures in the rental package. None of the lighting team had used the Series 2 luminaires before, but they were quickly won over by the high light output, minimal power needs, and of course the lack of fan noise.

“Alex went through colour by colour with Lustrs and gels [on Eos Ti] and was able to match perfectly any colour I’d have wanted,” Stanton says, adding that he was particularly impressed with the LED luminaires’ ability to mix deeper colours: “Some of the blues are insane.”

The ability to cue area lights using colour, as well as intensity, turned out to be a big asset to the production. The Source Four LED Series 2 Lustr luminaires, he says: “Take us from a simple, subtle look to the most vibrant colour you’ll ever see.”

photo: Joan Marcus, courtesy of O&M Co

23rd June 2015

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