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Chautauqua Lake musical, The Wizard of Oz, features high-tech set design

March 6, 2014
Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Chautauqua Lake Central School is trying something new for this year's production of The Wizard of Oz, to be performed on March 7 and 8 in the district auditorium. The majority of scenery and special effects for the secondary school musical will be achieved through digital "projection mapping," which allows multiple images and media to be projected simultaneously from a single projector. While this is not a new concept in the world of theater, it is new to Chautauqua Lake.

Musical director Jennifer Davis reached out to Rory Dale, who designed a 2004 production of The Wizard of Oz in Memphis, Tennessee. He introduced her to a computer program called QLab, which allows users to design and operate high-tech multimedia performances from a Mac OS X computer. For Dale's 2004 production, single images from a DVD were projected 60 feet from the stage with a special wide-angle lens. Dale's scenic design featured three layers of surfaces on which the projections were displayed, providing depth and dimension.

Davis contacted Eric Hadley, Technical Director and Operations Manager at Rockefeller Arts Center, SUNY Fredonia. He recommended that CLCS construct four "hard legs" similar to tall, narrow, rigid "curtains" to be hung on the stage. Crews built framed luan flats, painted white and covered in muslin. Two are 4 feet wide by 16 feet tall, and two are 6 by 16 feet. These, together with the large "cyclorama" curtain at the rear of the stage, provide five projection surfaces.

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Submitted Photo
Chautauqua Lake secondary school students rehearse for their annual musical, The Wizard of Oz, to be presented on Friday and Saturday, March 7 and 8, at 7 p.m. in the district auditorium. A grid projected on the panels behind them helps designer Michael Forster, a SUNY Fredonia theater student, “map” where the computerized images will appear, a process called projection mapping. For technical assistance, musical director Jennifer Davis called on staff and students in the SUNY Fredonia Department of Theatre and Dance, as well as Rory Dale, designer of a 2004 projection in Memphis, Tennessee, and Chautauqua Lake director of technology Derek Svenson. Tickets are available at the door, with discounted prices for senior citizens and students; the performance is free for children age 4 and under.

Although Chautauqua Lake has a projector installed in its auditorium, the "throw" - the distance from the projector to the stage - and the dimensions of the resulting image were deemed inadequate for this purpose. Chautauqua Lake's Director of Technology, Derek Svenson, researched the possibilities of an additional lens, separate "short throw" projectors, or even using two projectors. He was instrumental in determining and acquiring the correct lens capable of projecting the full width and height required. A new lens was ordered for the existing projector; it was tested in mid-February and determined it could do the job.

Davis reached out again to the staff at the SUNY Fredonia Department of Theatre and Dance for help using QLab and the whole concept of projection mapping. Todd Proffitt, who teaches lighting and sound design and computer technologies and is lighting designer for the department, introduced Davis to SUNY Fredonia student Michael Forster, who is experienced with QLab and projection mapping. Forster and Davis discussed the concept for the show and the QLab program, and Forster has programmed the production. Consulting through email and sharing files through Dropbox allowed extensive collaboration and planning before Forster visited Chautauqua Lake in person in late February.

The Wizard of Oz features a cast of 45 secondary school students, a crew of seven and a live orchestra. Performances are at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, March 7 and 8. Tickets for adults are $7; for students and senior citizens, $5; free for children age 4 and under. All senior citizens and those who hold tickets for the Friday or Saturday performance may attend the free preview on Thursday, March 6 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the door on all three evenings.

The well-known story is by L. Frank Baum, with music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg and background music by Herbert Stothart. Dance and vocal arrangements are by Peter Howard and orchestration by Larry Wilcox. The version staged at Chautauqua Lake was adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company, London, and is based upon the classical motion picture owned by Turner Entertainment Co. and distributed in all media by Warner Bros. The Wizard of Oz is presented through special arrangement with Tams-Witmark.

Chautauqua Lake Central School is located at 100 N. Erie St. (Rte. 394) in Mayville, one half mile north of the junction with Rte. 430.



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