VARI*LITE Series 1000 Arc luminaires take the stage at Oklahoma State University
Published Tuesday, July 5, 2011
by Philips Vari-Lite

On April 28, 2011, the Department of Theatre at Oklahoma State University opened their production of the psychedelic musical HAIR. As students performing in the production took the campus to promote the show, behind the scenes guest lighting designer Brian Gale and scenic designer Don Childs were working with the technicians in both preparing for the show and teaching a class on the fundamentals in programming moving lights, complete with VARI*LITE Series 1000 luminaires provided by Philips Vari-Lite.

“I’ve known Don through the Stagecraft Institute for about six or seven years,” began Gale. “When he took the assistant professor position last summer at Oklahoma State, he asked if I might be interested in helping him out on a show and also conducting a mini-version of the moving light programming class we had done together at the Stagecraft Institute. Knowing that Don is an accomplished designer in his own right, I jumped at the chance to work with him and the students.”

Made possible by a grant from the Arts and Sciences Lecture Series, Gale began to work on his initial designs for the show. Having designed HAIR before, Gale new the show well and so he and Childs got to work with production meetings via Skype.

“After our initial production meetings I had a good idea of how we would be laying out the lighting plot and pretty much had most of the lighting elements in place,” continued Gale. “But when I arrived, there had been some minor script changes so we had to change it a bit on the fly and the interpretation of the design had to change a little as well. But having worked in the university theatre environment before, it was nothing that we couldn’t overcome.”

Having also designed for numerous professional productions that include Don Giovani, La Boheme and The Ring Cycle for the LA Opera, Gale and his team of student technicians wasted no time getting to work revising the design to go with the revised script. Knowing that they would need moving lights that could handle a variety of responsibilities and also knowing that they would need automated luminaires to use in the programming class, Gale turned to Philips Vari-Lite Regional Sales Manager Leonard Miller and together they provided the production with what Gale believes to be the ideal moving light for university students, the VARI*LITE Series 1000 luminaires.

“With the fixtures available, I knew we could have a strong and robust conventional plot, but then we also needed moving lights because there would be a lot of specials. Unfortunately, as with many university programs, there were none available. So Don called Leo Miller and he was able to donate one VL1100AS three VL1000AS luminaires, which were perfect.”

During the show, Gale would use the Series 1000 luminaires for a number of reasons including the creation of a helicopter effect, intense strobe, shutter capabilities, fast color changes, plus gobo projections such as the much-needed “Peace” sign.

“Part of the edits to the script included creating a visual that the ‘scenes in between the scenes’ would be shown as an abandoned theatre with incandescent work lights. So when we would leave the theatre look and go into the next production number, the Series 1000 fixtures would really pop and give the show a whole new look with a great color wash. Having four of these luminaires allowed us to cover so many bases.”

But the lighting design for the production was not the only place the students were getting their hands on the VL1100 and VL1000 Arc luminaires. Coinciding with the production of HAIR, Gale and Childs were also busy conducting the moving light programming class. Since many university students will not have the opportunity to work with moving lights until after graduation, Gale feels it’s important that they be given these opportunities whenever available.

“Being a part of the Stagecraft Institute, having worked with the Theatre Department at USC, and having a wife who taught theatrical lighting design also at USC, I understand fully that the university level has many talented designers and technicians who are starving for the opportunities to work with as many different products and technologies as possible. It was great to be able to work with Don to teach the fundamentals of programming moving lights, and having the VARI*LITE fixtures on-hand during the course was a fantastic bonus.”

As this was the first time that the students at Oklahoma State had worked with the Series 1000 luminaires, Gale was thrilled to give them this opportunity. But having had a wonderful experience himself on the production and during the course, he was also excited about an opportunity of his own; to work in their theatre program again.

“I would love to work with Don and the students in this program again and to continue to help educate them on what they will be working with upon graduation. Because of the student turnover, moving lights are often hard to keep maintained in the educational system, but that’s why I believe the VARI*LITE Series 1000 fixtures are perfect for universities. They’re reliable, easy to maintain, and they have great versatility. The VARI*LITE luminaires allowed us to bring several new elements to this design, and I know Don, I and the students will remember this for a long time to come.”

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