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Six Recent Theater/Performing Arts Center Projects

Thomas S. Friedman • InstallationsNovember 2019 • November 13, 2019

The newly reopened Roxian Theatre in McKees Rocks, PA underwent a $9 million renovation. Photo: David Heath

While stadium shows are less common these days, venues in the 500 to 3,000 capacity range seem to be doing well, especially as music artists who once appeared only in arenas are now turning to smaller, more intimate venues. Meanwhile, the upgrading and facility enhancement of theater and performing arts spaces, whether in converted environments, new construction and refurbishment of existing venues, continues at a steady pace, often taking full advantage of new technologies — such as immersive multichannel systems — to heighten the fan experience.

With that in mind, we present some recent installation projects. Each takes a different approach, proving there are numerous solutions to any audio challenge — large or small — for any performing space, either new or historic.

Accommodating 1,400 music fans, Roxian’s new L-Acoustics loudspeaker system is already helping draw popular touring acts to play the venue. Photo: David Heath

 

Roxian Theatre, McKees Rocks, PA

Once a rough-and-tumble cog in Pittsburgh’s steel and coal industries, McKees Rocks has become a pleasant suburb with an interesting past and a bright future thanks to several major downtown renewal projects. The jewel of these is the renaissance of the long-shuttered, 1,400-seat Roxian Theatre, which reopened in May with a slate of headliners, such as Snarky Puppy, Bruce Hornsby, Bad Religion, The Psychedelic Furs and Avril Lavigne. One aspect that helps attract acts of this caliber is the Roxian’s new L-Acoustics Kara(i) sound system, designed and installed by Hollowood Music & Sound.

The 90-year-old former vaudeville house had closed in 2003 and remained vacant until local entrepreneur John Pergal worked with several partners to buy the property as part of the neighborhood’s reawakening.

U.K.-based funk/soul band The New Mastersounds performed at the theater’s ceremonial grand opening event held on May 10.

Brad Hollowood, who supervises installations at this 54-year-old company, noted some sonic challenges. “The theater has a large balcony, and the intent was to host a wide range of music genres, so the sound system had to be able to cover all those bases,” he says, adding that his installation department has also done projects at Heinz Hall and for the Pittsburgh Symphony. “We used L-Acoustics Soundvision software to get a very precise acoustical model of what the sound would do in this space, and when we plugged Kara into those specifications, it came back a perfect match.”

The Kara(i) enclosures also offered the compact form factor needed to maintain clear sightlines from the balcony, and its weight-to-performance ratio made it a good candidate for the vintage venue’s ceiling. “Kara’s size and weight were ideal for this project,” says Hollowood. “Plus, it’s a clean-looking system, which is certainly important for an historic venue like this.”

Hollowood Music & Sound installation techs Nathan Shapert and Dylan Engles received training on Soundvision when the company become an L-Acoustics Certified Provider for installs and worked closely with L-Acoustics product manager Scott Sugden and application engineer Jesse Stevens to refine the system design.

For the Roxian Theatre’s official grand opening on May 15, Grammy Award-winning jazz-fusion act Snarky Puppy packed the house.

The venue’s new sound system has two dozen Kara(i) enclosures, flown 12 per side, with each backed by three SB18i subs, all powered by seven LA8 amplified controllers. Additionally, four KS28 subs are positioned under the stage, powered by one LA12X. Six short-throw X8 speakers, driven by a single LA4X, are used as front fills, while eight more X8 fill in under the balcony, powered by another LA4X. On stage, 11 X12 serve as monitor wedges powered by another LA4X, and three SB18m are used as stage side fill subs and for the drum fill.

Venue owner Pergal is pleased with the Kara(i)’s performance. “The vocal clarity is amazing, and the bass is really tight,” he says. “I’ve personally played through many line arrays, and I go out to lots of different venues all the time to hear music, and this system sounds as good or better than any I’ve listened to — including the monitors, which most club owners will never hear! The whole idea of restoring the Roxian was about live music. I want it to be a great experience for everyone who comes here, and with our L-Acoustics system, it absolutely is.”

Roxian Theatre

  • Capacity: 1,400
  • Key Components: L-Acoustics Kara(i) line array
  • Integrator: Hollowood Music & Sound

 

The TMB Auditorium

TMB Auditorium, Bangkok, Thailand

One of Thailand’s largest financial institutions, the TMB (formerly the Thai Military Bank), has recently undergone an audio transformation of its multi-purpose auditorium.

The seventh floor of TMB’s Bangkok headquarters houses the 500-seat auditorium, used for functions and meetings, interspersed with live performances. Due to the size and shape of the venue, a highly flexible and easy to use audio system was required. Allen & Heath’s Thai distributor, Sonos Libra (in conjunction with Multiline Professional) delivered a solution.

The installation comprises an Allen & Heath dLive C3500 surface, a DM0 MixRack fitted with a Dante card, four DX164-W wall-mounted expanders and an IP1 remote controller. New speakers for the wide, fan-shaped space included an LCR system comprised of nine Adamson Systems IS7 line array speakers (in three hangs of three enclosures). Spec’ed for the room by Sonos Libra head engineer Alfonso Martín, each IS7 has two 7-inch neodymium woofers flanking a 1.4” exit HF compression driver on a 100° x 12.5° waveguide that features Controlled Summation Technology to reduce low-mid lobing effects. And with each IS7 weighing just 29 pounds, the speakers provide even, front-to-back coverage without presenting rigging issues within the existing structure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The C3500 surface is located in a control room at the back of the auditorium and connects to the DM0 via Allen & Heath’s gigaACE protocol. The four DX164-W expanders connect to the DM0’s integrated DX ports and are fitted into the walls at various points around the auditorium, accommodating a variety of different room configurations.

Operations such as source selection, volume control or pre-set changes within the main performance area can be managed using the IP1 wall-mounted controller or over wireless iPad control via the dLive MixPad app. Additionally, the dLive’s Automatic Mic Mixing feature can be employed for conferencing situations involving multiple open mics.

“Allen & Heath’s dLive system suited the application perfectly, with the combination of flexibility, reliability and the multiple options for remote audio, both through Dante and through the gigaACE protocol,” notes Martin. “The dLive surface with the IP1 controller is a powerful combination, allowing as much or as little control as needed, and the great-looking remote wall panels that allow for high input counts are one of a kind in the industry.”

TMB Auditorium

  • Capacity: 500
  • Key Components: Adamson IS7 line array, Allen & Heath dLive mix system
  • Integrator: Sonos Libra and Multiline Professional

 

The Woodward Theatre is part of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Woodward Theatre, Owensville, KY

Overlooking the Ohio River in downtown Owensboro, KY, the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum was founded more than 25 years ago, but is now housed in a new building that inspires visitors with interactive exhibits and bluegrass memorabilia. BMHFM also promotes the best of contemporary bluegrass via its adjacent Woodward Theatre — a 447-seat space purpose-built for acoustic music.

Bluegrass musicians take the stage

BMHFM worked with integrator Clair Solutions to design and install the video, audio, lighting and rigging systems in the venue. “The vision for Woodward Theatre was state-of-the-art technology and comforts, but with the usability of a good old fashioned roadhouse,” explained Clair Solutions’ Michelle Caron. “They wanted touring musicians and engineers to feel right at home.” And to support video projects, Clair Solutions designed in splits and connectivity providing comprehensive audio and video feeds for both broadcast trucks and the BMHFM’s in-house production facilities.

To complement the room’s incredible acoustics, Clair Solutions used the high-fidelity, high-impact i208 line array system from its sister company, Clair Brothers. Their USLP218 subwoofers round out the low end, and musicians can get deep into the music onstage with eight Clair 1AM monitors. Lab.gruppen amplifiers power the system with a combination of integrated and stand-alone Lake DSP for loudspeaker processing and QSC Q-Sys DSP handles overall signal conditioning and routing logic. A rider-friendly DiGiCo SD9 console provides a comfortable interface for any guest engineers. All audio signals are conveyed between equipment via a Dante system with a redundant analog backup.

“This fantastic venue is a music centric cultural center, so we are all about music with a mission. Nothing highlights the deep legacy of bluegrass more than live music, and it energizes everything we do, says BMHFM executive director Chris Joslin. “The production capability we have enables us to deliver in the performance space, but also enables us to take the great performances far beyond the four walls of our theater through live streams and television. In addition, every great performance and program is archived for the future. That kind of preservation work is at the very heart of our mission.”

Woodward Theatre

  • Capacity: 447
  • Key Components: Clair Brothers i208 line array; DiGiCo SD9
  • Integrator: Clair Solutions

 

The installation uses 1,700 speakers to form an immersive environment. Photo by Ewen Seagel

Hangzhou Suntiandy Theater, Hangzhou, China

Cirque du Soleil’s X: The Land of Fantasy is the company’s new resident show in China. U.S.-based design firm Auerbach Pollock Friedlander provided theater and AV consulting for the Hangzhou Suntiandy Theater, marking the seventh time the firm has collaborated with Cirque du Soleil for a custom, one of a kind venue.

Created in collaboration with CUC Architects, the purpose-built theater was designed for an immersive experience for 1,500 spectators that blurs the line between performance, spectacle and special effects. The audience area (about the size of a soccer field) is comprised of two separate seating areas that can revolve 360 degrees and move some 90 feet, giving rise to two different experiences in one show package.

Via a combination of 3-D props, moving set walls, video mapping and trap doors, acrobats seem to disappear and return unexpectedly and perform gravity-defying acrobatic acts designed to disorient the senses. Video projection presents virtual scenery and visual effects throughout the auditorium, using 56 high-power laser projectors, special mapping cameras and tracking devices tied to high-tech, media server computers. The sound system uses nearly 1,700 loudspeakers under digital control, allowing voices, music and effects to be discretely mixed to any combination of loudspeakers, from those rigged above, to those built into scenic elements, to individual loudspeakers built into each of the seats, thus enveloping the audience within an unparalleled visual and sonic environment.

Cirque du Soleil X: The Land of Fantasy opened Aug. 9 in Hangzhou, China. Photo by Ewen Seagel

Ableton Live playback software feeds audio to an extensive Meyer Sound D-Mitri Matrix rig, including a DCM-4 matrix, DCP-72 processor, D-Mitri Wild Tracks playback system and D-Mitri Cue Console with faders, transport module and routing gear. The loudspeaker complement is extensive — to say the least — with the immersive mains system comprised of 24 Meyer Sound UPJ-1XP, 35 UPQ-X, six CAL-32 and ten CAL-64 steerable arrays. Some 30 Meyer HMS-12 are employed as surrounds, and to heighten the experience, 34 Meyer 900-LFC and four X-800 subwoofers add LF punch. Front fill is handled by six d&b audiotechnik 4S-SC and a whopping 1,450 Scosche miniature speakers are used as close-in nearfields for each seat. Wireless mics are Shure UR Series, with Sennheiser SR-300/EK300 IEM hardware.

After a successful August 9, 2019 opening, X: The Land of Fantasy promises to bring more tourism to Hangzhou, which is already a popular destination for visitors due to its proximity to West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Hangzhou Suntiandy Theater

  • Capacity: 1,500
  • Key Components: Meyer Sound D-mitri Matrix; Mains: (24) Meyer UPJ-1XP, (35) UPQ-X; Subs: (34) Meyer 900-LFC, (4) Meyer X-800; 1,450 Scosche seating speakers
  • Designer: Auerbach Pollock Friedlander

 

The Bose Professional Panaray columns blend into the proscenium.

Daniels Theater, Worcester, MA

The Daniels Theater, on the Clark University campus, recently upgraded with a Panaray MSA12X sound system from Bose Professional. Composed of three Bose Panaray MSA12X self-powered beam-steering line arrays on either side of the stage inside the 658-seat venue, the system addressed two challenges integrators face when putting modern sound into a building that dates back to 1887. These include achieving complete sound coverage without disturbing the venue’s interior aesthetic, and doing so with minimal disruption to the building’s aging physical structure. Sold and supported by Woburn, MA-based Professional Audio Associates and installed/commissioned by Integrated Multimedia Solutions (IMS, of Bedford, MA), the new system addresses those challenges.

Jim Cormier, manager of Campus Media Services, emphasized the need to retain the theater’s historical architectural sensibilities. However, he added, “it was also very important that coverage be as complete as it can be. The building has a balcony and seating under the balcony, and the old three-speaker sound system that had been in there for over 20 years couldn’t cut it.”

The Professional Audio Associates team put their heads together with Dan Whelton and Bob Morin of Integrated Multimedia Solutions to find the best solution for this project, and both came to the same conclusion: the Bose MSA12X. The speaker is small and unobtrusive, thus solving the aesthetics concern. Its digital beam steering allows precise control of coverage and being Dante-enabled, an end user can connect to the mixer with a single strand of Cat-6 cable without running a lot of cables.

IMS installed the MSA12X line arrays in a triple stack on either side of the stage. “Other sound systems would have needed delay speakers to cover the balcony in addition to speakers to cover the main seating area on the floor,” notes Morin. “The MSA12X’s Dante capability greatly simplified the cable run with just a single Cat-6 from the amps and DSP backstage to each of the speakers’ locations and its beam-steering technology let us could cover both the balcony and the floor seating with no problem. So with a single system, we could overcome the challenges of installing a new sound system in a very old space.”

Cormier says the Bose system did its job and then some. “I can stand in any part of the room, on the floor or in the balcony, and I cannot find a dead spot,” he says. “For the first time ever, we have full coverage for every seat.” Morin adds the MSA12X loudspeakers sound great. “The school was very pleased with the outcome, and it makes the space even more attractive as a venue they can rent to outside users.”

Daniels Theater

  • Capacity: 658
  • Key Components: Bose Professional Panaray MSA12X
  • Integrators: Professional Audio Associates and Integrated Multimedia Solutions

 

The Wakefield’s ornate plaster was a concern during the installation.

Theatre Royal Wakefield, Wakefield, U.K.

Built in 1894, Theatre Royal Wakefield is an historic, highly ornate, traditional proscenium arch theater in the heart of Yorkshire’s cathedral city of Wakefield. The time had come to replace the theater’s old and failing P.A. with a modern system that would provide even coverage across all the seats. Theatre Royal Wakefield’s technical manager Di Clough turned to Sound and Light Concepts Ltd. (of nearby Huddersfield), to supply and install an EM Acoustics HALO-C compact line array system.

“We were looking for a high quality system with excellent intelligibility and sufficient reserve power to meet the wide range and styles of performance we have here,” explains Clough. “Budget was also a consideration, of course. However, budget aside, of all the systems we heard over several months, HALO-C was by far our favorite, with an impressive throw to the rear seating.”

However, there were several other considerations on the final spec, according to Sound and Light Concepts owner Tony Bottomley. “Being an old style theater with ornate plaster work, finding a suitable place to install the speakers was a major challenge, especially as there were three levels to deal with,” explains Bottomley.

“The old system had a box for each level mounted on a floor-to-ceiling boom running up the front of each proscenium arch,” Bottomley adds. “Fortunately, a pair of HALO-Cs at each level was small enough and light enough to directly replace the old boxes. This gave us a very discreet installation. The HALO-C’s accurate and controlled vertical dispersion let us direct the sound into each of the levels while minimizing unwanted reflections onto the circle and upper circle fronts. This gave full seat coverage on each level, so we could do away with under-circle fill speakers and avoid time alignment/quality issues. Finally, we added a third box to each stack, just to give a little more headroom. The system was completed with a pair of EMS-118 subs at the base of the vertical booms.”

Clough and her team are delighted with the results. “Many incoming shows have chosen to use the new P.A. rather than loading in their own, and many have commented on its excellent performance,” she explains. “We’re very impressed with the system,” adds sound designer John Trenouth. “The new system is clean and effortless with loud transients, and the ability to remotely control EM’s DQ Series amplifiers from FOH made initial setup so easy.”

A 3-box EM Acoustics HALO-C line array hang on stage right.

Theatre Royal Wakefield

  • Capacity: 499
  • Key Components: EM Acoustics HALO-C line array
  • Integrator: Sound and Light Concepts, Ltd.

 

 

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