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Elation Artiste Picasso for ‘The Best Man’ at Walnut Street Theatre
‘The Best Man’ at the historic Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia squeezed in a handful of preview performances before shutting down to wait out the Covid-19 pandemic. Set at the national convention in Philadelphia, and altogether a fitting production for an election year, lighting designer Jimmy Lawlor lights a set that takes us into the back rooms and onto the convention floor where two candidates vie for their party’s nomination.
Lawlor sought a quiet yet versatile luminaire for the production, one he could use to light scenes both stark and soft. “From the outset, we knew we wanted the audience to experience the kinetic energy of a presidential convention,” he explains. “As such, I knew I wanted a lighting fixture that could move and change colors. Since this is a play, and the Front of House positions in the theatre are limited, I needed fixtures that were super quiet, but also could look like concert lighting when I needed them to, or blend into the rest of the rig for the hotel room scenes. The Artiste Picasso checked all the right boxes.”
The LD explains how the Picassos serve as the main driver of the convention lighting as the audience comes into the space, at each intermission and at the end of the play. “We wanted the convention to feel more boisterous each time we visited it,” he says, “so the Picassos were called on to run increasingly complex effects. I started with a simple red/white/blue color chase while having the four FOH fixtures pointed into the house for an audience wash. Each time we return to the convention, I added a new effect: pan/tilt, zoom, etc.”
Located on FOH box booms, vertical FOH slots, the FOH truss, and overhead on the 2nd Electric, the Picassos were used through most of the show. Lighting vendor for ‘The Best Man’ is 4Wall Entertainment, who supported the production out of their Washington DC facility. Lawlor lauds Walnut Street Theatre’s Siobhan Ruane and Lindsay Cook (PM and APM, respectively), as well as his IATSE Local 8 department head, Matthew Sanatore. He adds, “My right hand on this was Ryan Stofa, my ALD, who stepped in when my wife gave birth to our baby on the 4th day of tech.”
(Photos: Roman Tararowicz)
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