Enlightened was delighted to be approached by King Edwards School in Bath to completely fit-out their new theatre studio complex at their home in Bath. The new purpose-built theatre complex includes a 50 seat flexible theatre space, a large self-contained ground floor studio workshopping space and theatre office.
We have worked closely with the school for many years regularly supplying theatrical hire equipment along with production builds for one-off events and servicing and maintenance of their theatrical technical infrastructure. The school has an extremely strong dramatic arts tradition and recently won the 2018 Independent School of the Year Award for the Performing Arts.
The brand new stand-alone purpose built studio complex was commisioned to replace their existing drama facilities based within the schools main building and was needed to accommodate their expanding dramatic arts provision and allow extra teaching space for the schools growing pupil population.
Designed by award-winning architects Mitchell Eley Gould, who have a long portfolio history in designing outstanding education architecture. The new compact Studio Theatre sits snugly within the main King Edwards Secondary School site, occupying the footprint of a previously underused and dilapidated school maintenance workshop. The design cleverly makes the most of the sites incline with the glass-fronted main entrance lobby midway between the first floors double height Theatre space and the lower ground floor studio workshopping space. The buildings window orientation commands unrestricted views across the river Avon and Kensington Meadows beyond, maximising the compact venues sense of space and light.
The theatre studio space needed to be as flexible as possible to ensure maximum versatility as it is used by pupils for a wide range of performing arts purposes ranging from everyday teaching to workshopping, rehearsing and live performance and is continuously in use, the studio theatre required configuration to be easily adaptable to accommodate these daily changing requirements.
To best facilitate this requirement we specified and installed a system of a rising mobile staging of mainstage cameo seating that can be quickly assembled to form a tiered audience area for which we specified 50 interlocking seats. This solution was ideal for the school as space is at a premium in the new compact studio theatre and when not in use it packs into a smaller space than retractable seating and can be installed at a fraction of the cost. The seating can also be independently utilised by pupils during teaching instruction. Additionally when not in use as seating tiers the deck can be retasked as staging for a myriad of school events as it is effortlessly reconfigurable.
In the main first-floor studio theatre space, we designed the lighting rig to further maximise the studio theatres flexibility. Located centrally the rig is primarily set up to light a performance area in front of the control mezzanine with three horizontal bars over the main performance area and a further back bar toward this control position, these are tied into two sidebars that create a rigid internally wired lighting rig that due to its central position and desk dedicated fixture points can be easily reconfigured either directly via the desk or if required by simple fixture replacement and desk retasking to accommodate a performance area at either end of the studio theatre space. The rigs bars were specified in powder coated matte black to reduce its visibility in the all-black theatre aiding performance blackouts and light designs dramatic impact.
We specified fixtures from ETC’s brilliant ColorSource family including 12 ColorSource PAR Deep Blue and 4 ColorSource Spots with a variety of Lens Tubes to make them super versatile along with 8 Chauvet Ovation fresnels to round out their rig. The Ovation fresnels are excellent theatre workhorses providing great fill, front and backlight along with beautiful even blending. Both the ColorSource PAR’s and Spots were specified in the Deep Blue version of the fixtures which produce even deeper colour and more vivid reds and blues and deliver a superior colour rendition.
All of the fixtures specified utilise the latest in LED technology and provide unparalleled power, depth and smooth internal dimming, making them not only considerably more economical than traditional theatre fixtures but affording the additional benefit of not requiring external dimming. We installed one 24 channel Zero88 Chilli Bypasses 2410i and on e1210I on the control mezzanine to provide up to 36 channels of thru power or switchable dimming should traditional fixtures be added to the rig, providing the theatre with the option to easily integrate future fixtures of all types as required ensuring the new installation remains flexible as they grow into the space.
Control was provided by the singularly brilliant Zero88 FLX series S48 Lighting Console specifically designed to be simple and intuitive to use whilst providing exceptional hands-on control of up to 96 independent fixtures. Eminently programmable and configurable the FLX S48 makes inputting pre-programmed lighting states effortlessly simple with easy to use colour palette and picker, automatic moving light effects can be easily selected and saved. Developed to work in a wide range of applications, with specific considerations for education, houses of worship, fringe theatre amongst others the FLX S48 made this the ideal console for the school's multi-purpose studio theatre space.
The school have a strong musical output encompassing both modern and classical, solo and ensemble performances and it was with this in mind that we chose the audio element to the studio theatre install. For the main first floor theatre, we chose the award-winning Martin Audio CDD10 speaker range with compatible Martin Audio Subwoofer, Speaker Management System and Amplifier, to provide a beautifully warm and clear audio solution that is as happy reproducing bell-clear classical Lieder as modern rock reverb and electronic bass. For control and mixing, we specified the Soundcraft EPM12 for both the main first-floor theatre and rack-mounted into a convenient rolling portable flight case for the ground floor studio.
The Soundcraft mixer is ideally suited to the venues needs as it combines durably rugged, touring build quality and professional audio performance with clean and user-friendly controls that afford complete individual channel control and mastering without any unnecessary facilities that are superfluous to the venue's requirements. The easy to master design and superior audio performance means that students can immediately use the equipment creatively with hands-on production of audio reinforcement and live mixing of professional performance quality audio.
Audio specification for the ground floor studio space needed to be fully portable so that the school could utilise the equipment elsewhere when needed for events either on or off-site. For sheer quality and versatility within the school's price bracket, we specified four Yamaha DXR12 speakers which we could wholeheartedly recommend for both their performance and durability as we carry them in our busy hire inventory and have employed them consistently on a myriad of diverse productions where they never fail to deliver exemplary performance.
To further maximise the versatility of the venue and ensure that its use could continue to grow and effortlessly incorporate future innovation we proposed and installed network cables for digital sound and HDMI distribution, easily accessible audio tie lines and flexible hanging points over the stage. We were further able to provide equipment within their budget as after liaising with the school IT department we found that they didn’t need separate video distribution originally specified in the initial quote as they already had a system ready for the theatre department to use. This allowed our proposal to provide the Panasonic AC30 digital camera they wanted to record their studio work.
The school wanted to continue the theatrical theme within the entrance foyer using theatrical lighting fixtures to illuminate the glass-fronted entrance area and staircases. We installed a 3-metre length of trio truss in black and supplied five additional ETC ColorSource Deep Blue PAR’s and two ETC Source 4 Junior Zoom 25-50 with Dimmer for which we supplied both full colour and black and white custom glass gobo’s of the school crest to be projected onto the foyers double height walls. To provide control of the foyer lighting we installed an ETC Echo system with programmable wall mounted four button scene recall, the system also allows the school to directly control and programme the foyer’s lighting scenes from a dedicated ETC Echo app.
We also supplied and installed a 55 inch Phillips Q-Line display screen, mounted on the facing wall directly opposite the main entrance. The display can be clearly seen and read from outside the building's entrance and can be utilised to display show times, cast and crew, along with theatre/school notices.
The project was a joy to work on. It is always an incredible privilege and pleasure to technically fit-out theatres that have such an immediate and profound impact on their user's experience, particularly in educational venues where the passion we share in theatrical technical creativity is inspired and fostered.
Jeremy Walker: Head of Installations at Enlightened: “This was a unique project from initial enquiry right through to project execution. We had a great team that fine-tuned every aspect of the design to meet the client's needs. The level of trust from the client and excitement at each stage was incredibly rewarding. It was really important to us that the installation not only delivered amazing creative facilities but would allow the school the flexibility to incorporate future technical innovations easily, ensuring the new space stays as exciting as it is today”.
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