BLOOMINGTON, MN – Even those with only a passing interest in the performing arts are familiar with The Nutcracker. A holiday tradition with many families, the show accounts for some 40 percent of ticket sales for ballet companies in the US. Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, with its sprightly melody punctuated by occasional staccato cords, is instantly recognizable to almost everyone, as is the stoic little nutcracker character at the heart of the ballet’s storyline.
Yet for all its familiarity, The Nutcracker, because it is so rich in imagery and imagination, never fails to surprise and enthrall. With each retelling, the fantastical story of a diminutive heroine’s incredible journey offers audiences new pleasures. The adventurous spirit of this Christmas classic is alive and well in the Continental Ballet Company’s 2016 production of the show at the Bloomington Center for the Arts’ Schneider Theater. Lending an added and very evocative dimension to the production is a vibrant lighting design by Joseph Bingham, using a collection of CHAUVET Professional Rogue R2 Washes supplied by Monkey Wrench Productions.
For Bingham, using the Rogue fixtures in The Nutcracker marked the start of what promises to be a new “discovery adventure” of his own – at least as far as lighting is concerned. In addition to being a lighting designer, he is a technical consultant to the city of Bloomington, Minnesota. It was on his recommendation that the city purchased the Rogue R2 Wash fixtures for the Bloomington Center for the Arts.
The Nutcracker is the first show at the center’s 366-seat, proscenium-style Schneider theater to use the new Rogue R2 Washes. “These fixtures will make a very big and very positive difference to a variety of productions at the Bloomington Center for the Arts,” said Bingham. “Our plan is to integrate the Rogue fixtures even more into this show and others in 2017.”
In the case of The Nutcracker, the Rogue R2 Washes have helped Bingham convey a visual sense of the heroine’s journey by creating varying patterns and colors of light on the theater’s 42’ wide by 26’ deep stage. He positioned the washes on a center stage electric, as well as on electrics located 7’ and 14’ from the center (five fixtures per electric).
“This show is all about the magical journey taken by its heroine,” said Bingham. “I want to help the audience travel with her on that journey visually. By enabling me to add effects and quick color changes to an already robust design, the Rogues enhanced the transformative experience for the audience. From a practical standpoint, the zoom feature of the Rogues allowed me to eliminate specials from the plot or add specials where I hadn’t been able to before because of instrument and circuit limitations.”
Drawing on the Rogue R2 Wash’s smooth color mixing, wide zoom range and other performance features, Bingham uses lighting to support the underlying vision of the show’s Artistic Director, Riet Velthuisen. For example, he may use the fixtures to create a green color wash for Godfather Drosselmeyer’s entrance; have multi-colored beams of varying sizes for Mother Ginger; or pan blue light at random intervals for the Waltz of the Snow Flakes – always supporting the tenor of the show.
Looking beyond The Nutcracker, Bingham offers this vision of the Rogues’ role at the venue: “Multiple tenants of the Bloomington Center for the Arts will be able to use the washes in their designs. The city event technicians also won’t have to worry about color changing gel for events or doing a lot of significant rehabbing now that they can create color and focus palettes and pre-sets for the washes.”
This view is echoed by Jim Urie, the manager of Bloomington Center for the Arts, who in addition to praising the added design possibilities that the new Rogues will create, predicts that the LED fixtures will result in considerable energy savings over the 575-watt incandescent units they replaced.
Like The Nutcracker itself, it seems that the Rogue fixtures at the Bloomington Center for the Arts will continue to find new ways to captivate the imagination.