One of Tasmania’s leading lighting designers, Gareth Kays, used an ultra-compact Quartz console from British manufacturer Avolites to programme the magical lighting and special effects on the Australian island state’s production of blockbuster Broadway musical Wicked. The show ran at Hobart’s Theatre Royal from 27 January to 11 February.
Featuring spectacular staging and a 17-piece orchestra, the musical was put on by local production company The Show Company. Kays was brought in to design and programme the entire lighting package. The owner of GK Productions, Tasmania’s premier performance technology consultancy, Kays controlled the show using an ultra-compact Avolites Quartz console running the latest Titan V10 software.
“There were a number of reasons that the Quartz console appealed to me,” explains Kays, who had invested in the console in 2016 from Australian distributor TLC Global. “Firstly, it doesn’t need to run on a laptop, which avoids Windows doing unwanted updates. It was super compact, but still had the full capabilities of Titan, and it was a lot quicker and neater than my existing set-up – which had a mountain of interconnecting cables. One of the great advantages of the Quartz is that it is available at a realistic price point for a fully featured professional console.”
For the Wicked production, Kays added an additional touch screen and the Avolites Titan Mobile Wing during the design and programming stages of the show.
“Adding the Titan Mobile Wing and touch-screen gave me more ‘real estate’ during the programming of the show,” he explains. “However the Quartz’s well designed, full-functionality meant that I could disconnect these when I moved to my operating position. I then used my remaining faders for a few ‘on the fly’ specials, some basic FOH washes for curtain calls and an array of fog machines located around the stage.”
Kays was faced with the challenge of limited programming time, he started plotting on a Monday afternoon, with the musical opening on the Friday. During this time there were five runs of the show, which further cut into an already limited time frame. He consequently had to adopt a highly efficient approach using pallets and programmed the entire show on a single cue list. The rig was spread across eight universes of data, conveyed via Art-Net.
Kays relied heavily on Titan V10s latest ‘Shape Tracking’ feature in cue lists – which allows designers advanced intuitive programming capabilities. The feature means that when creating a cue list that includes shapes, the shapes automatically track and follow the normal tracking rules. The ‘Playback View’ shows where they are blocked and tracked – meaning a designer has the option to block the shapes, preventing it from tracking to the next cue.
“It makes transitions in and out of shapes a breeze,” Kays says. “Titan is the best it’s ever been.”
Kays was first introduced to Avolites consoles 15 years ago, when he started working with Sapphire 2000s and Pearl 2000s. In his opinion, a key benefit of the Avolites Titan software is that it has retained the same intuitive, easy-to-use, interface over the years – while accruing increasingly powerful features.
Wicked is described by The New York Times as “the defining musical of the decade”, and is one of Broadway’s longest running and best-loved musicals. It tells the story of the Witches of Oz – Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba the infamous Wicked Witch of the West. Based on a 1995 novel of the same name by New Yorker Gregory Maguire, it serves as a prequel to the classic children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. It reveals the astounding happenings in the Emerald City before Dorothy and Toto were dropped there by a tornado.