Building Target Margin Theatre

Earlier this year we started working with New York’s Target Margin Theater on converting a two story warehouse into a new studio theatre, rehearsal spaces, and office space.  Two acoustically isolated rehearsal rooms were built at the beginning of the summer.  When bids for the resilient stage floor were twice as high as expected the team decided that TMT could build it themselves.

TMT hired a technical director to oversee a crew of volunteers installing the resilient floor we designed and building portable seating risers.  The project required:

  • 50+ volunteers over 5 days
  • 125+ sheets of plywood
  • 50+ sheets of masonite
  • 2,000 rubber pads
  • 75+ 2x4s
  • 15 gallons of black paint
  • 3 gallons of wood glue

Target Margin now has a great floor and a set of risers.  Here’s a gallery of photos showing the progress.

Next steps will include a disconnect for stage dimmers, a pipe grid, and a new mechanical system.

The Myth of the Irrelevant Theatre Consultant

Kevin Willmorth has a long and interesting article on his blog in which he argues for the recognition of professional lighting designers, and what a professional lighting designer is and is not.  The post echoes Chapter 1 of Designing With Light, and many of the things I’ve written in the book’s blog, including promoting the lighting design profession, the value of professional lighting design, the need for projects to use a professional lighting designer (here, here and here), and  those other than professional lighting designers making design decisions, among other topics.  I don’t have much to add to Kevin’s post, except to say that it’s well worth reading.

Most of the arguments I’ve made about architectural lighting design apply equally to professional theatre consultants at all levels. At the professional theatre level (commercial theatre, regional theatre, or opera house, for example) no client or architect would begin a project without a professional theatre consultant on the team. However, the farther one gets from these projects, such as community or school theatres, the more likely we are to find owners and/or architects who think they an save money by not engaging a theatre consultant, or an architect who uses sales reps and manufacturers in lieu of a professional theatre consultant. We’ve seen this manifest itself in several ways, all of which are short sighted for a number of reasons, as we’ve outlined here.  The most common arguments are below.

The TD, production designer, or other in-house person can do it

“Theatre consultants won’t listen to us, so we’ll do it ourselves.” I’ve heard this argument many times, and some theatre consultants may have a tendency to think that they know best. There is also a very strong ethic of self-reliance in the theatre. In many, many cases what the design and production team dream up has to be built from scratch, so there’s a great deal of knowledge and a can-do attitude in most theatre organizations. It’s easy to see how that self-reliance would be applied to a theatre construction or renovation project. However, there are two reasons to avoid that path.

The first reason is simple scheduling. A theatre’s staff already has a job designing and producing the season, and designing or renovating a theatre is a full time job. Studio T+L values the input and collaboration of a theatre’s staff, in fact they are essential to a successful project, but the staff needs to focus on productions while we focus on the theatre building.

The second reason is that most people in the theatre don’t have a thorough understanding of architecture, mechanical systems, construction techniques, etc., any more than architects and engineers have a clear understanding of theatre production and operations. Theatre systems must be integrated into the larger building, which requires detailed knowledge in order to effectively communicate and collaborate with the building design team. The alternative is likely to be miscommunication, lost time, and wasted money.

The architect can do it

“The architect has photos of theatres they’ve designed in their portfolio, and they say they can do it.” Theatres are highly specialized buildings, second only to hospitals and laboratories in their complexity, and must meet the unique requirements of the theatre companies or artists that use them. Architects are experts in overall building design and the key contact between owner and design team. However, architects don’t design every building element themselves. They hire a team of specialists that includes engineers, interior designers, landscape designers, and others. The space planning and production systems design of a performing arts venue are best met by knowledgable specialists such as theatre consultants.

This hold true even for smaller projects. In our opinion, there’s no such thing as “just” a community, school, or black box theatre. Theatre as a process, “making theatre”, happens within an understood framework, but the specifics vary widely. A theatre building that is organized along generic or outdated principles will work against the production and the production process. People who have no experience making theatre don’t understand the difference.

My local vendor can do it

As with a technical director, a local equipment supplier has another job. He or she also has other priorities.  An equipment supplier has a financial interest in selling certain manufacturers or products.  A professional theatre consultant has no such conflicts of interest, and focuses on selecting the right system for each project. In addition, a supplier may be able to assist with a one-for-one exchange of old equipment for new, but is certainly not able to invest the time and effort needed throughout the design and construction process.

But the fees

Yes, theatre consultants insist on being paid for their work. However, consider the cost of not having a professional theatre consultant. The theatre will be in use, as designed, for decades. How much is lost if the space planning interferes with backstage operations or the production process instead of supporting them? What is the cost of production systems that are too complicated, or insufficient for the production’s complexities? Whose audience will return again and again if there are poor sightlines or badly arranged audience amenities?

So, call us. If you don’t call us, call someone. But don’t embark on a theatre design or renovation without the expertise needed to do it properly and see it through to completion.

ESTA and USITT Announce New World Rigging Symposium

ESTA and USITT announce the New World Rigging Symposium, on March 13-14, 2018 in conjunction with the USITT Conference and Stage Expo 2018 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The Symposium will provide an opportunity for riggers and those interested in the live entertainment rigging industry to network, discuss current issues and new technologies, and help shape the future of the industry. 

Sessions will give participants opportunities to further their technical knowledge, keep up to date with codes and standards, and learn what it’s like to work as a rigger in other segments of the entertainment industry. Attendees will also hear from experts in related fields such as structural engineering and risk management. The Symposium will carry ETCP education renewal credits for re-certification. 

Symposium attendees will receive free show floor passes to the USITT Stage Expo opening on March 15th as well as a discount on the conference registration. 

You can email riggingsymposium@esta.org to be notified when registration opens.

IES Lighting Terms and Definitions Now Online

ANSI/IES RP-16 Nomenclature and Definitions for Illuminating Engineering has long been one of the two major documents defining terms related to lighting design (the other is CIE ILV: International Lighting Vocabulary).  RP-16-10 (the 2010 version of the Recommended Practice) is now available online as a searchable database.  From the first page you can click on terms to see the definition and you can also search by keyword.  If you don’t already own RP-16 bookmark this now!

IES Disagrees With AMA on Night Time Outdoor Lighting

Last year the AMA issued Policy H-135.927 Human and Environmental Effects of Light Emitting Diode (LED) Community Lighting, which recommended, among other things, that LED outdoor lighting should have a CCT of 3000 K or below.  The AMA made this recommendation thinking that lower correlated color temperatures contain less blue light, which can disrupt circadian rhythms.

Today the IES issued a Position Statement disputing that recommendation, noting that CCT

is inadequate for the purpose of evaluating possible health outcomes; and that the recommendations target only one component of light exposure (spectral composition) of what are well known and established multi-variable inputs to light dosing that affect sleep disruption, including the quantity of light at the retina of the eye and the duration of exposure to that light. A more widely accepted input to the circadian system associated with higher risk for sleep disruption and associated health concerns is increased melanopic content, which is significantly different than CCT. LED light sources can vary widely in their melanopic content for any given CCT; 3000 K LED light sources could have higher relative melanopic content than 2800 K incandescent lighting or 4000 K LED light sources, for example.

Follow the link to read the entire Position Statement.  Blue light hazard, light’s impact on circadian rhythms and overall health, and related topics are a hot area of research.  We’re learning more all the time, but we don’t yet know enough to apply circadian lighting to every situation.  Outdoor and street lighting are among the areas where research is not yet conclusive.

A New Report on LED Color Shift

Like other lighting technologies, the color or chromaticity of light emitted by an LED can shift over time.  To address the challenge of developing accurate lifetime claims, DOE, together with the Next Generation Lighting Industry Alliance, formed an industry working group, the LED Systems Reliability Consortium (LSRC).  A new LSRC report, LED Luminaire Reliability: Impact of Color Shift, focuses on chromaticity. The purpose of the new report is not to define limits for specific applications, but rather to enable a better understanding of how and why color shifts, and how that impacts reliability.  Download it and take a look.

Tony Awards Tonight

Tony Awards 2017

This photo is from this morning’s rehearsal of the Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall.  The show airs tonight on CBS and is hosted by Kevin Spacey.  Our own Ed McCarthy is the lighting director.  It’s going to be a fun show.  Watch it!

Lenore Doxsee, In Memoriam

I’m sad to share the news that Lenore Doxsee, one of my oldest and dearest friends and a Studio T+L associate, passed away on Friday, May 19. It’s hard to say if Lenore was more of a theatre artist or a theatre teacher because she excelled at both, loved both, and wouldn’t give up either. In her last few weeks, she designed scenery and lighting for a 5-hour play in New York, and gave many additional hours of her time supporting and then critiquing her student’s final projects.

Lenore was a passionate, committed theatre artist who never lost sight of her own vision, even as she collaborated with a disparate group of directors and choreographers. She was the Associate Artistic Director and Resident Lighting Designer for Target Margin Theater. Their most recent production, Mourning Becomes Electra with scenery and lighting design by Lenore, closed the day after her death. A prolific designer, she worked on productions in many New York theaters, ranging from New York City Opera to La Mama, HERE Arts Center, Dance Theater Workshop, and The Kitchen. Regionally Lenore designed productions for Lyric Opera of Chicago, Glimmerglass Opera, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Boston Early Music Festival, Pittsburgh Opera, Spoleto Festival USA, and many others. Her designs for dance included collaborations with choreographers Jennifer Monson, Miguel Gutierrez, and Morgan Thorson.  Lenore received two Bessie Awards for her work with Miguel Gutierrez and an Obie Award for Target Margin’s production of Mamba’s Daughters.

Lenore was Head of Lighting Design Training in the Production & Design Studio in the Department of Drama at NYU. Inspired by one of her mentors, Arden Fingerhut, Lenore was deeply committed to her students and their art. If any one of them was in technical rehearsal, odds were that Lenore was there, too, night after night observing, suggesting, critiquing. She always seemed to understand what her students needed to hear or learn, and guided them through their education and beyond with care and compassion.

At Studio T+L, Lenore collaborated on space planning, dimming and control systems, stage fixture inventories, and more for Elmwood Playhouse, Bristol Memorial Theatre Feasibility Study, and Levoy Theatre, among others.

As a friend, Lenore taught me that no dish can have too much garlic or olive oil, that Indian food is delicious, and that seeing bad theatre is better than seeing no theatre. We laughed through a preview of Dance of the Vampires, had dinner parties on her Brooklyn rooftop, and listened to favorite bands at downtown bars. For at least 15 years we’ve had “family dinner” on Sunday nights at a local bar with her husband, Paul Bartlett, and a rotating cast of friends. Lenore’s intellect, wit, and modesty were loved by everyone who knew her. She will be deeply missed, especially on Sunday nights.

On A Site Survey

Yesterday we surveyed a site in D.C. for a possible new Vapiano restaurant.  The NYC flagship renovation begins soon, and a new location opens in Chicago later this year, all with lighting design by Studio T+L.

Hugh Hardy Passes Away

One of America’s greatest and most prolific theatre architects, Hugh Hardy, passed away on Thursday at the age of 84.  We had the great privilege of being the lighting designers for Hugh and his team on the renovation of the public spaces of the New Victory Theatre on 42nd Street, which will open later this year.  His wit, generosity, and knowledge were always evident and always appreciated.  Here is his obituary in the New York Times.