by Betsy Wallman
As a 13-year-old performing arts center, upgrades and additions to Trueblood Performing Arts Center (PAC) are always on our wish list. During this past year, Emmett Woods, our theater manager, chose a new light board from Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC). It replaced our 30-year-old light board, giving us more reliability, flexibility and control than was possible with the old equipment. This upgrade allowed for the addition of new fixtures that run off a digital protocol; three new LED lights were purchased, two pairs and one spotlight. These are what the audience will notice in almost every show. They use a fraction of the power of conventional lights and can be changed to almost any color, not only from the light board but even from a phone.
Tom Pratt, TPAC’s lighting assistant, has a background and interest in lighting, and he spent hours working with this new equipment. The lighting console is a computer system that programs and controls the lights for our shows. But even with his experience, Pratt found this console much more complicated with more options than any he had worked with in the past. Fortunately, ETC offers training at their factory headquarters in Middleton, Wis., so Pratt traveled there last fall.
A global leader in theatrical lighting and rigging technology, ETC employs more than 1,000 people across 10 countries. In 2015, they celebrated 40 years in business. Upon entering ETC’s facility, Pratt was standing in an atrium that looked like a stage set with façades of buildings ringing a courtyard-like space. One building looked very familiar, since it is a replica of the diner from Edward Hopper’s famous painting, “Nighthawks.” These façades hide the offices located behind them. While there, Pratt was given a complete tour of the factory and work areas. He received three hours of one-on-one training, and other perks like lunch and an ETC t-shirt. They also informed Pratt that they offer grants and that the Trueblood’s upgrade needs seemed a good fit. He was encouraged to apply. The only downside was the deadline was two weeks away.
Working with Woods and board president Bruce McClaren, Pratt wrote a grant request for LED lighting fixtures that would replace our incandescent strip lights in the backstage area. This new lighting would add crisp and uniform spotlights for lighting from the catwalk at the front of the house. In January, we received the wonderful news that ETC approved our grant, and the Trueblood received 10 ETC ColorSource LED PAR fixtures and six ETC ColorSource LED SPOT fixtures. The total value of this equipment is more than $15,000 and, needless to say, without this grant we would not have been able to make these upgrades.
Already with the new lighting console, Pratt has been able to create mood and more dramatic lighting. With the addition of these fixtures, Pratt will be able to produce bold lighting schemes without a labor-intensive setup for each show. These lights also reduce our power consumption, give more uniform color across the stage, and increase control of the lights. These improvements truly take us to a new level as a performing arts center. We are very grateful to ETC and the huge impact they are making with these grants.
Betsy Wallman, managing director since 2013, is in charge of programming, marketing and community outreach for the Trueblood Performing Arts Center on Washington Island.
Peninsula Arts and Humanities Alliance, Inc., which contributes Culture Club throughout the summer season, is a coalition of nonprofit organizations whose purpose is to enhance, promote and advocate the arts, humanities and natural sciences in Door County.