Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lighting and Projection Design are Key Elements in Broadway Musical "Spiderman"

Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark is not so much a Broadway play as it is a rock musical/aerial circus show. The music (by Bono and The Edge), sets, costumes, lighting, projections (by Kyle Cooper), and spectacular flying sequences are the focus of the show. It is an extraordinary technical achievement.

Lighting Designer Don Holder (left) and Projection Coordinator Howard Werner (right) talked about the trials and tribulations of designing the most technically challenging musical ever produced on Broadway at a Broadway Lighting Master Class in May, 2011 just weeks before the production was about to open.

The $75 million production requires 5 stage managers, over 50 ground plans, an $18,000 a week lighting budget, 1800 lighting set-ups, a one-of-a-kind 5-platform fly system using kevlar ropes, manually programmed moveable lights facile enough for every flying area in the whole theatre, and the only theater in New York City with balconies far enough away to provide sufficient space for the flying. Con-Edison had to run extra sends off the street to support the extra power needed. Adding to the expense was the need to develop all of this in the actual theatre rather than off-site which is the usual practice.

Despite all of the technical requirements Holder and Werner focussed on the basics: What is the defining idea of each scene? What is the big gesture of each segment? They focussed on the "world of the play", the "frame of the piece" which included lighting the flying sequences (requiring calculating the x, y, and z axis), creating lighting fixture positions clear of the flying ropes, lighting the entire theatre not just the stage, and still lighting the stage which included the proscenium, a goal-post back drop, side ladders, the skyscape backgrounds, and the pop-up cityscape sets which include moving 40 ft. tall, 10 ft. wide, 4 inch thick legs, as well as internally lit light boxes with translucent backs,

After four years of development and six months in previews the show is scheduled to open in June, 2011. Click on the heading above to get a taste.

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