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New York Musical Theatre Festival

The Good Fight 1

Vista S3 and WYSIWYG join LD Glen Hunter for The Good
Fight in New York.

The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) is one of the
most prestigious theatre schools in the country, and was recently selected to
tour The Good Fight at the 2007 New York Musical Theatre Festival. Written
by Nick Enright (best known for “The Boy from Oz”), with music composed by
David King, The Good Fight is set in Australia during the first World War. It’s
based on themes such as mateship and centers around the tale of a
legendary boxer, Les Darcy, and his rise from blacksmith to the world’s most
famous boxer. Performed for the first time in the United States, the New
York Musical Theater Festival showcases new musicals from Australia,
Canada, South Korea the United Kingdom and the United States.

Lighting Designer Glen Hunter is a 3rd year lighting design student at WAAPA
and chose the Jands Vista and Cast Software’s WYSIWYG as his weapons of
choice for the tour. Glen commented: “One of the great challenges of the
show was that we opened the day following a 30 hour flight to New York,
which gave us a day to load in the set, lighting, plot, tech run and then open
that evening. I made a decision early on to completely pre-plot the show in
Perth with the Vista and WYSIWYG”.

When it came to choosing the console, Glen had no doubt that the Vista was
the desk he needed, having previously used it in major WAAPA productions
for West Side Story and Sweet Charity. “If you’re studying lighting, WAAPA
would have to be one of the best equipped schools in the Southern
Hemisphere. Due to the efforts of staff like Joseph Mercurio and Brian Anslow
we’ve been very fortunate to have the Vista since it was first released, backed
up with the power of a WYSIWYG visualization studio”, Glen said.
For The Good Fight, Glen chose to take a 1024 channel Vista S3 lighting
control system, which provides full control of a lighting rig when connected
to a laptop or desktop PC running the Vista software. “The Vista is one of the
most advanced desks on the market today, and importantly the S3 is
extremely portable”, he said.
The Good Fight 3
As well as portable, Glen found the whole process of setting the desk up
faster: “Until you use the Vista, you have no idea how much faster patching,
and updating a patch can be. I practically got rid of my cheat sheets because
you can create graphical views in the Vista which look pretty much how you
like – either like the physical rig or in color groups, like on a cheat sheet. The
flexibility is infinite”.

“Each week before the show I would receive an updated plan of the generic rig
in the venue from the festival LD, then I would update my configuration in
WYSIWYG. Before the first rehearsals began, I built all the looks, palettes,
positions and around 200 cues in the Vista over a period of about 1 week”,
Glen said. “I was able to see exactly how each of the cues would look in
WYSIWYG, refine them and then show them to my Director to more clearly
convey my vision for each scene”.

Another aspect of the production process was that Glen was really impressed
by the speed and flexibility of WYSIWYG. “I was able to create the entire venue
and rig in under a day, and connecting it to the Vista was a breeze. WYSIWYG
has some great tools for getting a controllable rig up and running really
quickly, such as the Quick Tools feature”, Glen said.

I was very nervous about the Wybron scrollers as I had never used them and
had no way of testing my plot with real scrollers before leaving Perth – other
scrollers I have worked with can be notoriously unreliable. The fact that I
could build looks and control them in WYSIWYG gave me a lot of comfort!
When I got to New York everything worked perfectly. If I get the chance I will
use the Wybron scrollers again as they work beautifully and produce great
colors”, Glen said.

During blocking and dress rehearsals with the performers, Glen had Vista and
WYSIWYG set up on the plotting desk next to the Production Manager, Daniel
Jongen. “Dan would call the cues during rehearsal, I would practice playing
them through and I could see the results immediately in WYSIWYG. The
beauty of the system was that I could immediately identify any blocking
changes with the performers and update the positions and cues on the fly.
Extra cues could be added very easily. In particular, timing changes could be
made instantly and I could play back the results in WYSIWYG”, Glen said.
At the end of the 2-week rehearsal period the show had been fully plotted,
and all that remained was to head for New York and load in the show. The
Vista’s generic fixture model proved to be vital. “One of the big challenges
was that there were other shows using the venue, and as such we had a
generic rig with a mix of around 100 ETC Source 4 generics and Wybron CXI
color scrollers. Early in the design process we expected to be using City
Theatrical AutoYokes with Wybron CXI scrollers. You can imagine my
surprise when we arrived in the venue, hours before opening, and discovered
they had been replaced with Vari-Lite VL1000’s! The Vista allowed me to
change the fixtures in under 1 minute without having to re-plot the show.
The venue techs were really blown away, they had never seen anything like it”,
Glen said.

Another challenge was that none of the lights in the generic rig could be refocussed as the rig being used by other shows. “Despite my best efforts to
faithfully reproduce the venue and the rig in WYSIWYG, there were some looks
that just didn’t work as planned. The afternoon before the show opened we
needed to add or change around 60 cues to get the best out of the rig. The
Vista made this a breeze – for the movers we simply re-plotted the positions
and updated the color and intensity palettes. For the generics I would rework
a look and then simply copy and merge the new look into all the other cues
that needed updating. The Vista’s visual timeline made it extremely simple for
me to check that I had updated all the instruments correctly and that the
attributes were tracking correctly.”

Glen knew from previous experience that when you’re a million miles from
home you can never have too many backups. “Once again, the Vista came to
the rescue. I set my Production Manager’s Macintosh Powerbook Pro up with
a copy of the Vista software and the show, next to my own desk, with a spare
1024 channel USB-DMX dongle. That way, if there were any problems, all I
had to do was plug the DMX into the Mac. During testing of the backup in
Perth, I was genuinely impressed by how easy it was to set up the software on
either a PC and Mac and get it up and running”.

Glen’s conclusion: “I’ve really gotten to know the Vista well over the past 3
years and its hard to imagine using another desk for theatre shows where
you have a lot of moving lights. I’ve only just started to scratch the surface
with WYSIWYG and I’m truly impressed by how this software made the process
of touring a lighting design so easy”.

About WAAPA
The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) has an
impressive range of production, rehearsal, teaching and performance
facilities available to support students in their pursuit of excellence.
WAAPA provides production and design students with the most
performances and the greatest diversity of any arts training institute in
Australia.

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