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Dinner Theatre

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by lighttechie5948, Sep 24, 2008.

  1. lighttechie5948

    lighttechie5948 Active Member

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    Hi Everyone,

    I am looking into one gig now that is dinner theatre on Long Island. It is a horror comedy show. It performs in venues like Elks lodges, mostly in ballroom setting, you know-standard dinner theatre.

    I want to prepare 3 different package ideas to give the producer an idea of how much buget we need.

    Any one have any ideas of things to put into the three different package ideas. Or can you list the basic nessesities, just in case I forgot something.


    Thanks,
    Joe
     
  2. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    *sigh* I've spent 2 years of my life at this point helping a restauranteur follow his passion of doing dinner theater. Needless to say, its been an adventure.

    Not knowing dimensions of the room, of course, this is all just suggestions:

    Cheep Solution: 4 fixtures (ideally ERS, I convinced my group to do Source4 Jrs, you can get some really hideous spill on the ceiling with PARs or fresnels), 2 trees one on each side of the stage, at something resembling 45˚ out or so, to try and find that beautiful balance between side face light and some sort of side light to get definition on people. The problem with this is the shadows on the set can be horrible. Buy the tallest trees you can find, you'll want to get the fixtures as high as possible (which, depending on the ballroom, may not be that high.

    Dimming: those shoe box dimmers work great. I'd suggest trying to put a dimmer on a tree, since you increase your odds of getting different circuits on different sides of the ballroom. Make sure your not going to have issues with power, of course. (I play the game of making them show me their panels, then start flipping breakers and figure out what is where, usually no one cares, but I do it anyway).

    Control: if you get those NSI dimming/control systems, their usually great. I assume you'll be running it, so a single scene or 2 scene preset console is usually enough. If your training someone else to run your show, NSI has some nice single scene consoles with preset looks that you can program in. But that might be above and beyond what you need. Get a bunch of mic cable for your data and have fun.

    Moderate Solution: Add some side light on another 2 trees. As I said, the shadows can be REALLY bad with just the frontlight solution, especially if the ceiling isn't that high and it ends up being fairly flat lighting. REALLY BAD SHADOWS. (Just want to make sure that point gets across.)

    Expensive Solution: Depending on the show, truss, top light, high side, really make it look nice. Buy a nicer console.... and so on.

    My shows I did on a budget, built to tour easily if they wanted to. Recently they acquired a small space so we wired a small system in there, hiding things in the ceiling and really creating a system.

    Let me know if you need any other advice. As I said, I've been dealing with this group for the past 2 years, and designed several iterations of their system.
     
  3. lighttechie5948

    lighttechie5948 Active Member

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    Thanks so much for your help.

    Here's an idea I had in mind, what's your opinion, and do you think it's too much for a dinner theatre budget.

    Front of House:
    2 Light Trees with Crossbars (one HL and one HR)
    On Each I would put either 5 pars, fresnels, or lekos (depending upon $, of course) I would have Warm and Cool F/L.

    On Stage:
    1 Light Tree on each side of the Stage, I would put Color Changers and shin sidelight on them.

    Control/Dimming:
    Shoebox dimmers of course.

    As for the board, if I'm running it then a two scene preset would work.
    However, I don't know if that would be the case.

    What options do I have if I have a Board Op?
     
  4. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    I'm not sure I would define what you're describing as "standard dinner theatre." Shows such as Tony & Tina's Wedding, The Sopranos' Last Supper, and audience-participation murder mysteries fall into the genre of "environmental theatre with food" I would think.

    But I'm confused: Is there, or is there not audience participation and actor improvisation? Do they actors stay on the end stage at all times? In any case, audience expectations for this type of thing are low. Maybe I have it wrong, but "performs in venues like Elks lodges, mostly in ballroom setting" has me baffled.
     
  5. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    I don't know the show, but I gotta say that on a budget a warm and a cool face light system seems a little excessive. The last several shows I've done (dinner theater and real theater) I've only used (needed) one facelight system. On a budget, a no color facelight system usually works well enough (dim it, its warm, brighten it, its cooler).
    (5 fixtures for 2 washes? How are you dividing that up?)
    (Also, make sure each tree is less then 15 amps. 5x500w=20.8 amps=breaker blows. Your going to have a hard time trying to find dedicated circuits, and your going to need a lot of cable if you need two in one place.)

    Color changes, very fancy, are they worth the money? I'm not saying their not, just asking the question.

    Shins, well, you say its a horror comedy show, so if the script asked for it, you could possibly have fun with some crazy saturate color in some shins and do weird-out-of-this-world lighting. Basic illumination doesn't need it, but it could be a fun effect. Is that what your going for?

    Color changers increases complexity of course, pushes you towards a DMX system and would make you want a computer console (or at least a memory-assist console) as opposed to a simple 2 scene preset. You wouldn't want someone to have the fader just a bit off and have the color be wrong.

    How much do you trust your board op? I recently had to teach the producers friend, an older guy with no tech experience how to run 4 wireless mics, a CD player, and the lighting console (8 dimmer channels) for a Broadway Review show. In that case, a simple 'push the **** go button here' console would have been GREAT and made his life easier, but it wouldn't be worth the money. With a 2 scene preset, I was able to create cue sheets for him and he is able to run the show easily enough. With color scrollers, its more important that the sliders get placed almost exactly right, which adds a trust aspect. Only you can judge.
    Look into the SmartFade, I have yet to really play with it, but I've heard very good things.


    Derek, I assumed hes doing what I did, we basically created a proscenium in the middle of the ball room and did a show with no audience participation. Am I right in that assumption?
     
  6. lighttechie5948

    lighttechie5948 Active Member

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    I really don't know too much about the show at this point. I know I'm meeting the producer next week, I just want to have several pricing ideas ready for him. Are most dinner theatre LD's paid per design, per week, per show, or per hour?
     
  7. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    Don't know about 'most'. I got paid by week that the show ran, making more money if I was the person there and actually running it.

    I think I would ask for a design fee, plus some sort of royalties. If their show is popular and runs well, why shouldn't you make a little extra something?
     
  8. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    I think the typical dimmer you are talking about can only handle four 575w fixtures. I like the idea of four Source Four Jr. Zooms. That gives you maximum flexibility and maximum output for your wattage limits, in any position, throw a little frost in there to soften the light if needed. Jr.'s are also nice because they are lighter and therefore less likely to tip the tree over.

    I'm going to make a radical suggestion that may ruffle a few feathers around here. But if you've got a lot of money, how about two trees of Source Four ParNels with color scrollers as side light. They have been bashed a lot by some. But the reality is, they put out a lot of light, it's soft light, and it's got a fabulous little zoom knob on there that lets you tweak to fit the size of the stage and location. I know a guy who uses these in his rep plot for a road house as high sides. It's a great look and a lot of color. This requires you to buy a better console, and don't forget the cost of the DMX cable because it'll throw a dent in your budget.
     
  9. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    Most of those little shoe box dimmers are 4x600. Problem is that the ball room outlets may be breakered at 15 amps instead of 20 amps, so to be on the safe side I'd try and keep power draw down.


    That ruffles feathers?!!? We're softer here then I thought I guess! I like the PARnells, the problem is that they are a little on the dim side (when compared with a Source4 PAR). I do love the quality of light though. I still think scrollers may be over the top for what your doing, but not knowing the show its hard to say. Two systems of side light color may get you the most bang for your buck.
     
  10. mbandgeek

    mbandgeek Active Member

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    My lighting mentor and I did a show over the summer and we had 4 S4s on top of 10' high trees. They were not in any danger of tipping over. There came a couple of valuable lessons in this experience, I would not reccomend anything less then crank stands for a semi-permanent installation. By semi-permanent, i mean more then a month.

    On second thought. Go with Crank Stands, period. 2 reasons, they can handle the weight better, and if you are setting up the show on your own, you won't kill yourself. On the 4- S4 example above, it took three of us to get those stands in the air. It wasn't fun at all.

    +1 for the S4 juniors.
     
  11. zac850

    zac850 Well-Known Member

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    One warning about trees: Older patrons may be tempted to use them as a support to help them stand up, sit down, or move around the room. Few things make me run faster then watching an 80 year old man try his hardest to tip over my tree that has 2 Source4 Jrs and a dimmer pack on a 10 foot moment arm!
     

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