Flexible LED lighting rig keeps up with fast-paced spoof on a certain famous wizard school
“Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic,” is a hilarious off-Broadway show playing at New World Stages beneath an all-LED Elation lighting rig. The play portrays a certain famous wizard school from the perspective of the slightly nerdy and not-so-famous house called Puffs. Described as ‘a play for anyone who has never been destined to save the world,’ Puffs are the outsiders of the magic school who disheartenedly observe as a certain boy wizard repeatedly saves the day. Written by Matt Cox and produced by Tilted Windmills Theatricals, the play is directed by Kristin McCarthy Parker with lighting design by Herrick Goldman.
The third iteration of the show opened at New World Stages in Manhattan last summer, where it’s still running. “Puffs” came to New World Stages from the Elektra Theater but was originally staged at the Peoples Improv Theater, a basement locale that gave the play a “downtown sensibility” according to Goldman. He and set designer Madeleine Bundy sought to keep that feel at New World Stages while upping the production value, a parity the LD describes as “a balance between the old and new stage.” At New World Stages, Goldman has an automated rig of Elation LED luminaires to work with, a setup of Satura Profile™ LED moving heads, SixPar 300™ LED Par lights, Colour 5 Profile™ LED ellipsoidal spots, Colour Chorus 24™ LED battens and Fuze Wash Z350™ PAR moving heads, along with some conventional fixtures.
LED work out
The play demands your full attention as scenes shift rapidly with characters constantly moving in and out of four doors on stage. “There are dozens of moods throughout the play,” Goldman explains, “with lots of action, lots of movement and special effects. The lighting has to keep up and the automated gear allows us to do that. It’s a busy show and the equipment works hard.”
The up-tempo nature of the show plays well to the strengths of an automated light. Ten Satura Profile moving heads with its 440W cool-white LED engine, CMY color mixing, internal framing, zoom, added colors and variety of textures and graphics do a lot of the heavy lifting, according to the LD. “The Satura Profiles drive all the isolation looks on the small stage,” Goldman explains. “We use them to zoom in and establish location but as one scene happens on one side of the stage a different scene will then play out on the other side. The fixture has to adjust to the change of scene, which it does well.”
Color plays an important role in the play and a variety of shades are used throughout. The Colour 5 Profile ellipsoidal spot with its 180W five-color LED engine and the SixPar 300 units with its six-color LED engine are used for face light, front light and also a UV look. Goldman says the SixPar units are “like a Swiss army knife,” adding that he uses them for “everything from warm face color to crazy rock ‘n’ roll looks.” Mounted above each of the four doors is a Colour Chorus 24 RGBA batten, which the designer uses subtly to paint the doors in saturated shades. Borders were made for each batten to better hide them from the audience and indeed they are impossible to see.
Goldman says the Fuze Wash Z350 PAR moving head has been a pleasant surprise. “It’s a beautiful soft light and I like its homogenized beam. With the non-pixel look face, it’s like looking into an old Fresnel or PAR light. It’s pretty from the audience’s viewpoint. We use them to backlight during the whole show and when we zoom them out wide, they cover the entire stage but still have a lot of intensity.” The RGBW color mixing fixtures operate with top hats to better control the light spread.
“Puffs” has been playing at New World Stages for nearly 10 months and because the rig is laden with LED lights, Goldman says that maintenance has been limited. David Carpenter of Tilted Windmills Theatricals, producers of the show, has also been pleased with the rig, commenting, “One of the joys of the Puffs journey has been adding new members to our family at every stage. When we transferred to New World Stages, we had the challenge of how to provide the level of magic that we needed to give our audiences an amazing experience. Elation stepped up to the plate and has been a fantastic partner to work with by providing solutions to our problems at the budget that we had to work with. It’s been a great experience and I can’t wait to work with them again.”
The new look at a familiar adventure from the perspective of the underdog has clearly found a receptive audience and the play routinely sells out. It’s even scheduled to open in Australia at the end of May. “The play is much more than a comedy,” Goldman concludes. “It’s really a play about friendship, about support and being there for one another and is surprisingly touching. It is also ridiculously funny.”
Lighting Designer: Herrick Goldman
Assistant Lighting Designer: Susan Nicholson
Assistant Lighting Designer: Abby May
Associate Lighting Designer: Lois Catanzaro Gordon
Lighting Programmer: Matt Guminski
12 x SixPar 300™
10 x Satura Profile™
6 x Color 5 Profile™
5 x Fuze Wash Z350™
4 x Color Chorus 24™
Photos: Hunter Canning