Two weeks ago marked the closing of the Oberlin Conservatory production of Carmen. Although the show was brilliantly crafted, its crew felt relieved that no one had to sing in the dark.
"The shows I see in Hall are wonderfully lit. If someone didn't know what went on behind the scenes, they wouldn't understand what was going on," said Bruce Richards, associate dean of the College.
The lighting used in Hall Auditorium is unreliable. Worse off are the dimmers which have been around since the early 1970's. Apparently this has been a problem for some time now, but lately things have gotten worse.
Senior Julie Keenan worked on the lighting for Arcadia. "During Arcadia there was humming coming from the dimmer room that was so loud you could barely hear people talking on stage. That's when you know there's a problem."
Nothing disastrous happened during Arcadia or Carmen. Lighting technicians didn't have to resort to emergency back-up plans and nothing malfunctioned, exploded or fell.
But there was fear that something could have happened. "They're not dangerous, but at the same time it would be pretty embarrassing if the lights went out during one of the sold-out Carmen shows," Keenan said.
The light system was given some repairs for its board and dimmer difficulties. Managing Director of Theater Mike Grube was given money last year to fix the board but didn't utilize the opportunity because, "Without revamping everything, what's the point?"
The board giving lighting technicians such a problem now is the third one that has been set up to faulty dimmers. Other repairs involved replacement dimmers that can only be obtained from one dealer because they are so old. Last year, $3,000 was spent fixing no more than six of 54 dimmers. More keep blowing out and there are only a few spares left.
The age of Hall's lighting system have serious repercussions for the aspiring lighting technicians who are learning on such outdated equipment.
"It's gonna be pretty hard for lighting technicians to get a good job working with the old equipment that we have," Keenan said.
According to Keenan, Oberlin has previously produced some very prestigious lighting technicians, some of whom are currently working on Broadway. There was great concern over whether or not current Oberlin students are getting such an advantage working with out of date equipment. Keenan noted that senior Jacob Hauser, a student theater representative, is surveying what kinds of equipment other colleges and universities have in the lighting department.
Funding of these projects would be very costly to the College. It would take $50,000 to $100,000 to fix the board and dimmers. Grube and others are hoping to obtain this money to fix the system for the next school year. "There's no actual O.K., but I think everyone is going to respond positively to it," Grube said.
"We are scheduled to buy a new lighting board," said College President Nancy Dye. "It is budgeted for this year, but all our technical systems in Hall need upgrades."
Next year's budgeting process starts this weekend with the Trustees meeting, but it is still uncertain as to when and how much money will be allocated to the theater department's capital improvements.
With the fast moving pace of technology, Richards said, "It would be unrealistic for Oberlin to have the newest technological equipment."
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 11, December 5, 1997
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