Noel Coward’s Romantic Farce “Private Lives” debuts at Chicago Shakespeare “In the Round”
Noel Coward’s romantic farce, “Private Lives”, came alive at the Chicago Shakespeare Courtyard Theater recently in a temporarily reconfigured
Neal Patel, the production’s designer, highlighted the new stage configuration by introducing one of Chicago Scenic’s 20-foot turntables which slowly rotated during the play at a speed of one rotation per 30 minutes.
The turntable was placed on a football-shaped section of stage that was raised and lowered 15 feet by hydraulic lifts. The stage section was lowered into a “trap room” to facilitate quick set changes. Once those changes were complete, the hydraulic lifts moved the section of stage back up to stage level.
The hydraulic lifts and turntable were all controlled by Chicago Scenic’s Mini 8, a proprietary motion control system designed especially for smaller productions. The Mini 8 is an analog system which can run between eight and 64 axes of motion. It has all the functionality of Chicago Scenic’s larger, digital CS Control and can run and control a wide variety of mechanical systems, from turntables and winches to pneumatic and hydraulic systems. Its user-friendly interface vastly reduces staff training time.
This is the second Chicago Shakespeare production that has employed the Mini 8 system; the Mini 8 debuted with “Richard III” in Fall 2009.
Lyric Opera Premieres Avant Garde “Faust”
When The Lyric Opera of Chicago presented Hector Berlioz’s “The Damnation of Faust”, a Lyric premiere in February, Chicago Scenic provided the scenic elements and automation for the production.
Working with Set Designer George Souglides, Chicago Scenic’s biggest contribution to the set – in size anyway – was three white walls that frame the stage. Each wall was 27 feet tall and ten feet wide and they literally form a big white box that frames the Lyric’s massive stage, explains Chicago Scenic Senior Project Manager Ken Zommer.
Chicago Scenic also created a lift or center stage platform that raised six feet above stage level. When two other platforms that Chicago Scenic built are wheeled onto the stage, the three pieces together create a seamless raised platform that is 50 feet wide and provides a dramatic staging device.
The lift platform was controlled by Chicago Scenic’s proprietary “Mini 8” Control system which provides concise positioning and consistent reliability – crucial characteristics for a system that must be error-free during the opera’s many performances.
In addition, Zommer and crew produced nine light beams, each 40-50 feet long and suspended above the stage at two points. Each beam was illuminated internally with LED strip lights, enabling color changes throughout the production. The suspension angles of the beams also changed throughout the production, Zommer explained. “Sometimes they were hung horizontally; sometimes they were hung at a vertical angle, creating a different look from scene to scene.” The set also featured a 30-foot deep, 50-foot wide raked or slanted deck that
Chicago Scenic built.