Friday, June 25, 2010

CSU brings outdoor theatre -- and the starry sky -- indoors

Outdoor summer theatre is a real treat in the Rocky Mountain West. You can bring a picnic and dine on the lawn. The evenings are cool, relatively bugless and the stars at night shine big and bright.

Most of the time, anyway. The last two summers, Wyomingarts and fellow Cheyenne theatre goers have been soaked with afternoon rains and bombarded by High Plains lightning during Wyoming Shakespare Company productions at the Botanic Gardens. It also happened two summers ago during a "Midsummer Night's Dream" performance by the local amateur group in City Park.

The Colorado State University theater program in Fort Collins has found a unique solution to this soggy ordeal. This article was in yesterday's edition of the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Audiences won't be outside at CSU's Shakespeare at Sunset performances but they'll still find themselves under a blanket of stars.

Colorado State University's theater program consulted with lighting designers from Cirque du Soleil's Las Vegas Beatles show, "Love," to bring the night sky indoors for its annual summer productions.

Last season, the shows were moved indoors at the last minute due to a series of rain showers (It was so bad that the stage crew was up to its ankles in water and electrical cables, said Walt Jones, co-director of CSU's Department of Theatre and Dance). Because of the Colorado's unpredictable weather, event organizers decided to keep this season's productions of "Romeo & Juliet" and "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" inside, but said they wanted to keep the production's outdoor feel (the stars) without the outdoor feel (the rain, the mosquitoes).

After consulting a former student, Chris Kortum, who now does lighting design for Cirque, Jones and CSU Professor of Lighting, Sound and Projection Price Johnston used glass gobos (a device often used in the theater to make patterns of light and shadow) to create stars, a pin light to create a twinkle effect and a projection of the sky to create star movement. The addition of clouds and a moon are next on the list but likely won't be in place until next season, Jones said. Down the road, the crew also is looking at trying to obtain a planetarium globe, which would project a more realistic skyscape.

"We'll keep experimenting until we nail it," Jones said.

In addition to the stars inside, audiences are encouraged to arrive early and have a picnic outside on the UCA grounds amid the CSU Flower Trial Garden, which is now in full bloom. Picnickers can even park their coolers inside while they see the show, Jones said, adding it gives audiences the best of both worlds.

The star-filled "sky" will fit in well with the season opener, a production of "Romeo & Juliet," which takes place in a futuristic setting.

Just don't expect swords to be replaced with lightsabers.
Read the entire article at