Lighting and Projection Design:
...Ear, and I, and Silence.

Named for a line from an Emily Dickinson poem, ...Ear, and I, and Silence was a piece concieved to explore the experience of poetry. The writer/director team presented ever-evolving script with the production concept, "It's like falling into god."

Design Concept
Poetry is an art form which, upon first glance, can appear cryptic and confusing. Through study of the text, it is possibly for readers to experience an intellectual and emotional epiphany whereby they "get inside" the piece.

The lighting design will follow the journey of the narrator from external reader of poetry to a more internalized participant. Specific moments of clarity, understanding, and emotional experiences will be hilited. The design will also help to convey the meaning of the poems, as well as the relationship between the narrator and the ensemble.

Specifically, a gradual shift from a cold, confusing theme to a warm, soft, and embrasing light will be used. Projection will be used to display the text of the poem, supplimenting the spoken words and, through through variances of rhythm and layout, help to communicate important ideas within each piece.

Design Elements

The scenographer, director, and I concieved two fabric panels which would serve as projection surfaces. The ensemble, which acted as representatives of the narrator's internal thought processes and as her guides, would enter from behind these panels: literally arising out of the words of the poem. As they entered, the ensemble was visible in silhouette, as the fabric and text billowed in front of them. They passed behind and in front of these panels, manipulating them, sending ripples through the text and allowing the words to spill across their skin. This lent a dream-like quality to their existance and solidified their relationship to the words. Sharply shuttered downlight, hung with color scrollers, allowed the billowing fabric to pick up different colors as it moved.

As the ensemble takes the stage, the narrator is isolated in a cool sidelight. The interaction between narrator, ensemble, and poem is impersonal. Much of the stage is lit in breakup pattern. In moments where a new facet of a poem or a new way of experiencing is understood, an individual is touched for a momemnt with warmer, clearer light. This was accomplished primarily with the use of automated lighting for specials. Color washes and specials were also used for actor sculpting, with shifts in angle, intensity, and color being used in transitional moments. I believe there's tremendous visual power in the transitional moments, and hundreds of subtle and not-so-sublte cues were written to bring focus to important thoughts.

Later in the piece, the Narrator begins to realize that, beyond being simply a bystander, she as a reader is an active participant in poetry. Her own thoughts, expectations, and emotional makeup affect her understanding of and relationship with the words of the poem, giving it life. The ensemble comes togeher around them, and they form a sculpture - a living, breathing work of art - around her. Images of the ensemble (projected from a DMX scanner-equipped 35mm slide project) slowly play across their skin, a visual reminder that there are multiple layers to all art forms, and that the observer is one of the most important of those layers.

In the final scene, the Narrator, ensemble, and poems have come together. It is described as if the narrator has fallen into the words. As she describes this experience, the audience gradually becomes aware of the text around them. Pani scenic projectors were used to project thousands of words into the audience. They could move their hands through the text in space, much as the ensemble had when they first entered. The effect was descibed by audience members as being both powerful and beautiful.

Tech Notes:
Video Projectors: The video projectors were hung from custom-built ball/socket mounting plates. Fabricated from a trailer hitch, these plates allowed the projectors to easily be pointed in any direction. (Ball/Socket mounts concieved by Virginia Tech's ATD, David Wedin.) The projectors were dropped 12' from the grid on pipe. Driving the video signal was Showmagic AV128, a show control package running on my rackmount production computer. These projectors were used to play back video segments of the text of the poems. Segments were created in Adobe After Effects. A MIDI link connected the Showmagic system to the Hog.

The scanner-equipped 35mm projector was difficult to get working correctly. First, the Ellipsan is a VERY noisy piece of equipment. I mounted the projector and the scanner inside an insulated box with a plexiglass front. A desktop makeup mirror was used as an adjustable alignment tool between the two. The Ellipscan does not have 16 bit motion, so we were at first dealing with very jerky movement. This lead to my first usage of the "time" function of automated lights. The slides in the projector were controlled offstage by a Kodac dissolve unit. A second, unused projector was necessary to "trick" the unit into dimming the lamp of the onstage unit -- it only likes to dissolve between two projectors.

Equipment Used
2 Altman 360Q 6x9
36 Altman 360Q 6x12
40 Altman 360Q 6x16
12 Altman 360Q 6x22
13 Altman 1kL 20 degree
20 Par64 MFL
8 Par16

2 High End Systems Studio Spot
2 High End Systems Studio Color
2 High End Systems Studio Beam
6 Wybron Coloram II Scroller

1 35mm slide projector w/ controller
1 Ellipscan DMX mirror
2 2500 lumen video projector

ETC Obsession - conventional instrument control, main
Jands/HES Hog 500 - automated lighting control, MIDI fired
Showmagic AV128 - video playback, MIDI fired