Set against a magnificent red rock canyon backdrop in the Utah desert, Tuacahn Amphitheater in the state’s southwest corner is one of the most picturesque settings you’ll find anywhere for outdoor theatre. Lighting designer Cory Pattak has lit a production of Beauty and the Beast amid the spectacular surroundings and used the venue’s new IP65-rated Proteus Maximus moving heads as workhorse front light fixtures.
Cory, in his fourth year lighting large-scale musicals at the amphitheater, was instrumental in the venue purchasing the 50,000-lumen LED luminaires, which were supplied by Felix Lighting. “Ever since the Proteus Maximus was announced, we had been interested in whether it might be a good fit for Tuacahn,” the designer states. The outdoor amphitheater seats 2000, with an uncovered stage that is 80’ wide by nearly 50’ deep, all backed by the red rocks of Snow Canyon. “We are often battling rain, high winds, 100+ temperatures and all other kinds of environmental challenges for shows that run from May to October. We have a FOH position that is covered, but it gets very hot in there and still can be affected by dust, wind and rain. We’ve had some movers in there that are great lights, but not IP rated, and we were constantly dealing with lamps overheating and internal mechanics issues. This year we had the opportunity to replace them with eight Proteus Maximus and I jumped at the opportunity to get some into the rig.”
Beauty and the Beast, the first show at Tuacahn to use the new Maximus luminaires, opened on May 7th and runs through October 23rd. Cory typically uses the fixtures to light the set with color and texture, or as front-light on performers, but he also uses them on the backdrop rock wall to project various patterns like bubbles, clouds and stars.
“The lights are extremely versatile and really do everything,” he stated, before describing their various uses in the show. “During the Act 1 Finale, I use all eight of them to create a moon and clouds skyscape high up about the Beast’s Lair.” In the classic ballroom dance during the number Beauty and the Beast, the team chose to have the characters dance out onto a “balcony” allowing them to place the bulk of the dance inside a star field. Cory combines stars from other fixtures on the set and floor with the Maximus doing a star pattern on the mountain in conjunction with additional front projection, video screens, and laser stars. “We are able to create a seemingly endless star-field that usually is greeted with an audible gasp from the audience. It’s great that I can use the same light to do a 40’ saturated wide scenic wash, or a single person pale front light special, or a field of stars hundreds of feet away, and they work excellent in all instances.”
Cory says he rarely uses the Proteus’s without some kind of gobo in it. “Even if it’s very soft, because I prefer the more amorphous edge and the fall off is more desirable when it’s a bit textured.” In one of his favorite looks, at the end of Be Our Guest on the final verse, he uses half of the Proteus fixtures to create a champagne bubble pattern on the red rock backdrop. “It’s the first time in the show we project a pattern onto the rocks and it really knocks you back the first time they turn on,” he says. “Suddenly the playing space, which only was as high as the overhead trusses, now expands hundreds of feet higher up the mountain and it brings the added punch needed to support the end of a show stopper like Be Our Guest. On the last note, all the bubbles are rotating covering an area of the mountain that must be thousands of feet wide, with pyro firing on stage, and fireworks launching into the air – it’s a pretty spectacular ending to the number.”
The designer remarks that the majority of the moving heads in the rig use an additive color mixing system and although they produce nice saturates, he says the whites and pastels leave a little to be desired. He knew having the white LED source of the Maximus and a subtractive mixing system would be a great balance and could produce the colors he felt were missing. “My expectations were high before actually turning them on,” he says, “but the fixtures even exceeded what we were all expecting. They are extraordinarily bright as well, handling the over 100’ throw to the stage with no problem.”
Even more exciting, he says, was the ability to achieve a level of brightness on the backdrop rock they had never seen before. “Everyone at Tuacahn, all the way up to the Artistic Director was gobsmacked at the light output we were getting, even after shooting hundreds and hundreds of feet. Also, since the first 30 minutes of the shows happen while the sun is still setting, the bright output was great to combat that ambient light.” Cory sums up by stating, “I’ve researched a lot of outdoor-rated moving lights and the Proteus Maximus is the brightest and best light I’ve encountered so far.”
The Tuacahn Amphitheater lighting rig, as a repertory plot, needed to be as versatile as possible and will be in use all summer long. Other shows planned for this summer include Annie, School of Rock, and The Count of Monte Christo. Cory thanks Production Electrician Logan Gerring for spearheading the project to acquire the Maximus fixtures and Roger Pullis at Felix Lighting for “getting us the lights in a very short time period and providing excellent support.”